Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Trip to the Woods

I went for a ride in the woods yesterday with some old friends. These people, Randy and Koral, are self-employed foresters, and they agreed to take me for a tour of their own private forest and talk to me about trees for a newspaper story. I'm an inside girl, as they well know, so it really was kind of them to indulge me.

We drove about 45 minutes south of Small Town to reach their property—they don't live out there, but they manage the forest and hang out there sometimes when they want to get away. Once we got to the barn, we got out of the nice comfy SUV and got into this, an 1983 Jeep:

The Jeep doesn't idle, apparently, and every time you stop to look at a tree or maneuver around a rut, it has to be restarted. We maneuvered around a lot of ruts. We followed what the tree people were calling a trail, but it really was more like a space without trees and overgrown with plants the height of the Jeep in places. We just barreled through with Randy's assurance that he hasn't killed anyone yet. Reassuring.

We stopped and walked around a couple of times, and they showed me different kinds of trees at different stages of growth. They talked about when it's OK to harvest trees (when they are at least 12 inches in diameter), how many to harvest per acre (8 to 15), and different ways to attract certain wildlife to a forest. If you want more deer in your woods, then thin out some of the trees so they have room to forage. If you want song birds, then leave some dead trees standing to attract the insects that birds eat. And if you want bats who will eat all those pesky mosquitoes, then keep some trees with shaggy bark because they like to sleep in the shagginess.

There is a stream that runs through the woods we were exploring, and a family of otters has moved in. We didn't get to see them, but it was nice to know they were there.

Now and then, on our trek along the "trail," we would drive under low-hanging branches and get smacked in the face. I handled that pretty well and generally followed a rule I had set for myself—don't act like an idiot, and no squealing like a girl. But when knocking away one of those low branches, a huge granddaddy long-leg fell down directly onto my lap. It couldn't have landed on one of the tree people who are accustomed to the outside—it had to choose me. I gasped but did not squeal, and I knocked it to the muddy floorboard, and I smashed the bastard with my indignant foot.

After a while, we stopped by a ravine with a waterfall (click on this picture to see it), one of their favorite spots, and we stood in the undergrowth and talked about trees and how important they are and how they act like giant filters to keep the air and water suitable for supporting life, human life included. Did you know that in the past, if people found a plant with leaves shaped like a body part, they would assume it was good for treating what might ail that body part? So, if you boil leaves shaped like a heart and drink the tea, it would help your heart. Koral showed me a plant that was named for the Latin word for kidney, although they rethought that and decided it might be a liver instead. The plant used to be used to "heal" people who had kidney, or liver, trouble but not successfully because the notion is hogwash.

I am so grateful Randy and Koral let me experience the woods for the sake of the story, despite the big bug and the green caterpillar I found crawling on the back of my neck. It was fun and good to actually be outside.

Tonight, I'll be interviewing a woman wrestler, but because I'll be talking to her over the phone, I won't be tempted to experience a smackdown.


pf said...

Nice post and pics, Robyn. I remember Randy and Koral - that "forest" is awesome, despite the nasty crawling things. A woman wrestler??? Tell me you're kidding!!

dive said...

What a fabulous day out, Robyn!
tremendous fun, and wrassling with the wildlife, too!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I could practically hear the waterfall and feel the breeze through the trees. Wow.

Magpie said...

Love your stories! I am still thinking about the luncheon with the neighbor.

MmeBenaut said...

Lovely photos Robyn even though your forests are so different from ours. The spiders are the same though and I had a chuckle at your stomping on the "bastard" with your indignant foot! We have several of those little spiders resident in the house. I swear that they are just impossible to kill!