Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Contrary Farmer :: Chapter 7 Book Report

Seven chapters down and only three to go. "Groves of Trees to Live In," is the title of this chapter in Gene Logsdon's book "The Contrary Farmer." I was really pretty excited to read this chapter because the forest areas are some of the places I love most on the families farm. Much of this book is about living a lifestyle and about enjoying the "farm" and our forested areas are they place that I enjoy going to in the fall and winter just to sit and listen and enjoy... I don't even know if I can put into words the enjoyment I have when I get a chance to spend some time in the woods.

But, Mr. Logsdon didn't only speak of the poetic beauty and wonders of the woods in this chapter ... He also spends time talking about how to manage your woodlot, start a tree grove, and cutting wood (or the art of cutting wood). It was actually a pretty good chapter and I will try to give you a brief overview in case you are interested in the book or in woodlots in general.

Managing woodlots is something that I have been thinking about lately. When we got to our farm around 15 years ago we had (and still have) two distinct wooded areas. We called them, "The Wilderness," and "The South Woods". At the time they were similar in that they both were overgrown on the edges with multiflora rose but were fairly clear on the inside. But, the Wilderness seemed to have older trees than the South Woods. Now after 15 years (and no cattle) the South Woods have become overgrown the entire way through and the Wilderness is still fairly clear. I don't have any well founded ideas, but we have wondered if the South Woods was clear when we got there because the neighbors cows had been running in them because of the poor fencing. Well, that is why I have been thinking about management, because it is something we need to think about doing.

Mr. Logsdon writes about a couple different pruning "programs". You can get a state forester to come out to your woodlot and they will give you a good plan to prune you trees so that you can possibly harvest a little bit sooner for financial gain, but Mr. Logsdon himself mentioned using a "leave it alone" method. On his farm we pruned one section according to the state forester and just left on area to its own devices. He says that after 15 years he can't tell a difference! By managing your woodlot you can find an extra source of income, food, and eat. I think this section of the chapter was a good introduction to woodlot managing ideas and I'm looking forward to researching a bit more on the topic ... oh, and using pigs in the woodlots from time to time!

The second topic Mr. Logsdon really hits on in this chapter is the idea of starting a grove of trees on bare ground. I must admit this is something that has never really crossed my mind, probably because in today's culture are about the here and now and starting a woodlot is about time. But, it is interesting that he advocates just letting the area go so that it can go through it's own natural progression. Of course planting some seedlings will help seed it up, but it is possible to have the beginnings of a nice woodlot after fifteen years. The majesty and overpoweringly big tress will have to be for future generations though! I think this sums up a lot of Mr. Logsdon's idea of "Contrary Farming" ... we need to let nature work for us and for itself in it's own progression. God did design things to take care of themselves in our woods and pastures!

I would say the last major section of this chapter is all about the simple joy of the woods ... specifically cutting wood! Not everyone would see cutting and splitting wood as a relaxing, peaceful, and joyous occasion, but really it is that and so much more. Mr. Logsdon doesn't give any revolutionary how-to tips or step-by-step instructions in this section on cutting firewood, but he does give a wonderful example of how to slow down and be impressed by your work and your surroundings. In fact I might even go out and split some wood today...


Walter Jeffries said...

We do sustainable forestry but don't prune. For one thing it would be too much work. For another, thinning does an excellent job. I read about pruning a long time ago and wondered but never got it high enough on my to do list that it ever happened. :) Those lists are rather long!

Ethan Book said...


What type of thinning do you do? Do you have a plan or just go in eyeball things? I think we need to do something or we may be over run by our beautiful and pokey multiflora rose.

Anonymous said...

Ethan - I'm a huge fan of Gene Logsdon's so I'm very happy that you're enjoying his work. If you can dig up any old (70's early 80's) Organic Gardening issues you can read his columns which he contributed almost monthly. They are fairly easy to find on Ebay and I have about 60 issues which I have read cover to cover! Now that you're finishing Logsdon's book (and there are many more) I encourage you to read Wendell Berry's books as well.
-Linda Reeve, Clover Bell Farm, Vanleer, Tennessee

Ethan Book said...


I will have to check out Wendell Berry. I know that Logsdon quotes him quite a bit ... does he have more than one book out there? What would you suggest?

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