Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wow, What a Year!

Some of our wonderful crew helping out during Strawberry Days
By Farmer Richard

     We’ve had a roller coaster of challenging weather, but have had mostly successful crops despite the bumps along the road. Good management and good crew have been the key to this year, but there’s only so much you can do when you get the unavoidable 100 year flood! The third of its kind in 8 years!...hmmm. It did help us make the final decision to not farm one of those flood prone farms next year!
     The last couple weeks have been beautiful fall weather! We finished most of our harvest and had plenty of time to plant our 2017 garlic crop. We put a nice layer of mulch on it and are praying for a good crop for next year. We’ve also finished planting our sunchoke and horseradish crops for next year as well as applied compost and planted a rye cover crop on all available acres. Our crew spent quite a bit of time over the last month cleaning up most of the driftwood and rocks from flooded fields. We are ready for spring! We’ve completed all of these fall tasks earlier than usual, so we have also had extra time to clear trees out of the river and cut fallen trees.
     We also have been able to work in the woods! We have 325 acres of woods that have not seen much attention for 50 years until recently. We have a forester working on a management plan for us. He has been walking all our woods, cataloging tree species, designing a network of access roads, and recommending work to be done. It is enormous! The forester has described our woods as typical for most Wisconsin woods, representing 150 years of poor management and over-grazing with livestock. The best trees were removed by a logging company 40-50 years ago and the poor, crooked trees were left to capture the sunlight and dominate. We have many of those old trees, yet many good trees as well. Despite the fact that we have had offers from logging companies to come in and log some trees, we are well aware of their intentions to only take the good ones which will still leave us with a woods full of poor, crooked trees. Their price usually sounds good, but still would never cover the taxes that we have paid and will continue to pay on the woodlands. So we have chosen to decline their offers and take on management of our woods ourselves, which will also help support local jobs and local sales.
Bottle Stopper Top in Cherry Wood
     We have a small bulldozer and a strong desire to connect with our woods. Most woods are moderate to very steep slopes, difficult to walk, hunt, ski or enjoy. So this fall, the last few weeks of mostly warm fall weather, the leaves turning color and then dropping with rain and wind, I have been blessed to spend many hours on our little 80 hp New Holland bulldozer making roads through our woods. Roads that are very challenging to make, requiring a carefully chosen path flagged with yellow ribbons, sometimes weaving a bit to avoid big trees, but having a beginning and an end point. What a fine way to get to know your woods! Admiring the towering old oaks, walnuts, hickory and cherry trees and identifying the smaller trees to make the right decision about what stays and what goes, all the time looking for burls on cherry trees that would make nice bottle stopper tops. Most of our logging energy has gone into salvaging ash trees that have recently been killed by the Emerald ash borer. Ash is a beautiful hard wood. Anyone thinking about a new floor?  Once the logs are sawed, we will have approximately 15,000 board feet of lumber! We could provide you with a beautiful ready to install floor!
     Ah, working in the woods is such a joy. The fall colors, the few remaining birds. Even with the bulldozer running, I saw a beautiful buck deer slowly working his way through the trees below me…and that rabbit that was hiding under the parked bulldozer after lunch was quite the surprise! We love our beautiful woods, and I’ve dreamed about building access roads through it for many years. For the first time we have a road that runs from one end of our farm to the other allowing us an easy-to-walk path to stroll on, enjoying the peace and beauty of our valley and woods. Andrea and I took a little Sunday stroll a few weeks ago, what a fun escape!
     We’ve taken care to immediately seed fescue and clover grass as soon as we finished a section of the road and the fall leaves provided a beautiful mulch. We aren’t doing this just for us, it’s for you too! We hope you will consider a trip to the farm and enjoy hiking or skiing the roads on our farm as well!

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