This is the most important part of Sustainable Forest Production; recognizing when the value of the forest in a natural state exceeds the value of its harvest. 20 of the 25 acres of forest here at Timberline Farm are hardwood swamps and provide very valuable habitat for a wide range of species; insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals all find their niche within these areas. 15.5 acres are classified as Class 1 Provincially Significant Wetlands by the Ministry of Natural Resources and have officially been designated as conservation areas. By having these protected forest ecosystems the rest of the farm is enriched by the animal life that they attract and the plant life they contain.
By methodically cutting certain species of hardwood trees useful wood can be harvested while rejuvenating growth and enabling each tree to be harvested repeatedly over time. This method of sustainably managing forests has been practiced for thousands of years, especially in locations like the British Isles, where widespread human development of the landscape long ago raised the issue of scarcity of forest resources. Harvesting, depending on what type of forest product is desired is done at intervals ranging from 2 to 25 years. Harvesting at short intervals provides materials like bean poles and wicker, longer intervals provide building materials, and intermediate intervals provide a range of items from fence pickets to firewood. Coppicing is when the trees are cut close to the ground and regrow from their base and pollarding is when the trees are cut at a height several feet above the ground so that the fresh growth is high above the ground away from grazing animals. 'Coppice with Standards' refers to a coppiced forest where the straightest trees (the 'standards') are left to grow larger, for fifty years or more, to eventually provide high quality timbers and lumber, while the rest of the forest is still coppiced at shorter intervals around them. In the spring of 2014 approximately 300 hardwood trees, species like elm, oak, ash and maple, with 20 white pine standards were planted over a half acre to establish Timberline Farms first coppice. Every year this planting process will continue and eventually the coppiced areas will provide wood to supply a small scale charcoal production enterprise. This enterprise will provide winter heat for the farm as well as a carbon neutral fuel, charcoal, to sell while at the same time economically justifying reforestation of the farm.
Primarily the trees and forests are managed for conservation purposes, however, by salvaging wind fallen trees the forests and fence rows provide enough firewood to help heat the farm house and ample lumber for projects like repairing the barn. These are resources worth thousands of dollars a year to the farm by reducing the need for unsustainable products like furnace oil and conventional lumber. By thoughtfully planting trees across the farm the production of these resources can be increased while improving the land for both livestock and wildlife. Since 2013, 1800 trees have been planted, and the next several years will involve planting thousands more until the farms landscape has been thoroughly interspersed with tree lines and woodlots. The following variety of sustainable forest production methods are employed here at Timberline Farm; Forest Conservation, Wood Salvaging, Coppicing and Pollarding, Successional Tree Planting and Silvopasture.
Sustainable forest production is the use of systems for supplying forest products that promote the existence of forests rather than their destruction. These systems recognize the need to protect some forests from being harvested and more thoughtfully manage forests that are. At Timberline Farm, one of the fundamental goals is to integrate various methods of producing and harvesting forest products into the management of the land. Trees serve two very important sets of functions here, both environmental, and utilitarian. Environmentally, trees provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, capture nutrients from the soil, and help moderate weather by blocking wind and casting shade. From a utilitarian perspective trees provide valuable forest products like lumber, firewood, and wood chips to mulch the gardens. Trees and forests also provide Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) such as fruit, nuts, edible plants and mushrooms that grow under the canopy, even wild game.
Like this natural forest successional tree planting results in a woodland environment composed of a variety of tree species of different age and size. This sustains both the forest habitat and harvestable trees over time.
Using a chainsaw with an Alaskan milling attachment this large sugar maple tree that fell in a wind storm was turned lumber and used as floor boards in the barns hay loft.
Gathering branches from a fallen sugar maple for use as firewood. In North America people mostly split timbers from large trees for firewood, but branches which have no value as lumber burn just as well.
Fallen white ash and silver maple trees hauled from the woods, ready to be milled. The scraps will be used as firewood.
These silver birch trees sprouted on top of an old stump that has now all but rotted away. This complex growth provides lots of habitat and is characteristic of natural woodlands
The shade from tree lines is very important for the cows keeping them cool during the heat of summer.
In nature as forests grow the trees that make up the forest can change over time with one species replacing another in a process called succession, which can be applied to the management of tree plantations. Trees that grow best in direct sunlight, for example spruce, poplar and tamarack trees, are planted first. As these trees grow larger some are harvested while others are left to continue to grow. At this stage other tree species that prefer to begin their life in a more sheltered and shaded environment like sugar maples are introduced. As these secondary trees grow taller and start casting shade the first sun loving trees are harvested. When tree plantations are managed in such a manner they provide a more continuous and diversified harvest of forest products while creating a permanent forest ecosystem that provides habitat for wildlife.
A good rule in sustainable forestry is 'take the worst first.' When this rule is followed the health of a forest can be improved by allowing the healthiest trees to grow and produce seeds to spawn a new generation of trees in the forest. At Timberline Farm living healthy trees are not cut down unless they pose an immediate problem so primarily wood is salvaged from trees that die or fall down. These trees can still be harvested for the same products as a living growing tree. Even so, dead standing trees, called snags, and fallen trees still serve a purpose within the forest; they provide habitat for insects and small animals and as they decompose they enrich the soils and maintain fertility so even these trees are harvested in moderation.
This tree is an example of pollarding: The knobby growth of the trunks is a result of the repeated harvesting of the branches. The long straight branches are the regrowth which is rapid and vigorous. Coppiced trees grow in the same manner, however since they are cut right to the ground when they are harvested there are knobby stumps instead of trunks, which are referred to as stools.
This is the strategic planting of trees within livestock pastures for the dual purpose of producing harvestable timber and non-timber forests products while improving grazing conditions for livestock. By casting shade, blocking wind and providing shelter from rain, trees can make a pasture a more hospitable environment for livestock to live in. When livestock don't have to venture away from the pasture to find shelter from uncomfortable environmental conditions they graze more continuously throughout the day which results in fast and healthy growth. When the trees are harvested they provide further economic gains, and if the trees yield fruit or nuts the livestock also benefit from eating what isn't harvested by the farmer. Lastly, by diversifying the landscape, the pastures become more valuable as wildlife habitat.