Jer and I took the "long tour". Led by the farm's forester, John, we started the tour in a stand of 75-90 year old white pines. John and his logger thinned this stand 4 years ago. His explanation of why they thinned and how they chose trees to keep trees to cull was very informative.
Thinning trees for space is pretty basic. If trees are too close to each other, you will not have large healthy trees. Thinning trees also changes the amount of light reaching the forest floor, and this was perhaps the most interesting part of our stop at the pine stand. The understory, though young, had almost no red maple or beech. Instead, the forest floor was covered with white pine, red oak, and black birch saplings. These three species all have good timber value, and it was encouraging to see the next generation of trees were coming in nicely. It was also interesting to note how the forester had controlled the red maple and beech propagation. Red maple and beech are shade tolerant, meaning they out compete other species when light is limited, as it is in the understory. John took away their advantage by thinning the canopy, thus ensuring healthy pines as well as a healthy and valuable understory to take their place when the pines are harvested. John was obviously proud that the next generation of foresters would inherit the benefits of the work he put into this stand, even though these benefits are only about a foot tall today.
Along the tour, we stopped in an older stand of oaks. Our guide John explained this had been one of the first sites he had worked on at the North Farm nearly 40 years ago. He had taken he cord wood out and left the red oak saplings. Standing under 80' tall oaks, surrounded by an understory of black birch, John told us all how good it made him feel to know that he would be leaving this 80 acres better than it was when he found it. It made me think about what Jer and I (and Nate) have been working on. It was encouraging to see someone at the tail end of a similar endeavor saying he was proud at what he had accomplished as we stood surrounded by tangible evidence of his work. Trees and the forest they live in are in every sense, a generational effort. I'm hopeful someday we will be able to crane our necks skywards in a 70 year old oak stand on Lockehaven and know that we're passing it on better than it was when we found it.