Forest Stewardship

Forest Stewardship
May 31, 2018 Christina Mullin

Fundamentals of Forest Stewardship

Given by Steve Gabriel, a teacher and farmer of Wellspring Forest Farm. The class was at the Omega Institute, located in Rhinebeck. NY.

I recently took an informative 6 week long workshop called the Fundamentals of Forest Stewardship because I wanted to learn how to have a reciprocal and productive relationship with the forest by my home, and have a deeper understanding of the forest garden within, as well as learn the tools to preserve natural habitats for animals and insects alike.

The following are my notes. I hope that you learn something new and inspiring too!

Recommended reading:

An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Native Americans understood the natural rhythms of nature. For example, when they saw a sap-cicle, it meant that spring was coming soon. The White Pine was sacred to them, and was revered. Most of White Pine trees were cut down by colonists for lumber. Native Americans did not know about land ownership. They moved around according to the seasons.

In the 1930’s, FDR had 30 million trees planted in the Midwest, in order to stop the dust bowl from spreading. Planting a row of trees and bushes acts as a natural windbreak, privacy screen and provides habitat for birds.

The forest is a living library. When forests are even-aged, which is when trees were all planted at the same time, the genetics of these trees will be weak. 90% of woodlands are degraded because the best trees are cut for lumber, degrading the ecosystem as well. It’s opposite to nature, which manages the best, to ensure the tree will continue to thrive, where we only take the best. When a weak tree is removed, it provides an opening in the forest for healthy trees to come up. Thin the trees out as Mother Nature would by leaving the best trees in the forest. Live more in the natural rhythm of nature

Did you know that squirrels and chipmunks play an important role in the forest. They plant the acorns and hickory nuts. If they didn’t plant them, then the deer and wild turkeys will eat the seeds. The squirrels also pollinate the fungi by playing in the leaves where mushrooms grow. Before cutting down a tree, check that it’s not a “den tree” where squirrels and birds have created homes.

The Outdoors is the Invisible School

The forest is a community. There is much more death than life, necessary to the balance of the forest. There is also a lot of communication going on between the trees, especially within interspecies, which help each other. The older the tree gets, the more connections it makes, sharing its nutrients with its offspring. Old growth forests have an underground colony or community made from their root systems to fungi.

Recommended reading:

The Woodland Way by Ben Law

-A permaculture approach to sustainable woodland management-

The Redesigned Forest by Chris Maser

-As we think, so we manage a forest. Nature designed with simplicity.

Spend time in the nature or/and a forest by finding a sit spot (blog post on my site about what a sit spot is). Bring a notepad, and do a sketch of the area, the process connects you to your environment. Note down trees, bark, leaves, buds and patterns.

When I walk in the woods

I let it talk to me

I listen

I look around to everything it has to show me

Because this is the home of the trees

~Jon Joung, author of What the Robin Knows


Watch videos of Susan Simard, ecologist, talking about the forest and the mycelium underground. (2 videos are posted in Eco Cinema Summer Issue 2018)

We need to think more about reciprocity and regeneration. Before we take, we must give, and restore our ecosystem.

Did you know that birch tree seeds can live in the soil for 75 years, waiting for the right conditions in order to grow?

In temperate forests, 2/3 of the biomass created, directly feeds decomposition. Biomass is a measure of all the sunlight a forest converts into a solid material, including leaves, seeds, flowers, bark, wood, and roots.

Foraging for food in the forest

When foraging in the wild, just because a plant is edible, doesn’t mean it always tastes incredible! Always be very careful of what you pick, how you pick it and where you pick it. Be 100% sure of the identification of the plant, as many look very similar to each other, and especially with fungi. Forage ethically and responsibly, as we have a history of over harvesting; always leave some behind, to ensure that these plants will continue to be found in the future.

About Invasive Plants

Did you know that a plant considered to be an invasive species, such as the honeysuckle, is actually providing food for pollinators in habitats that have been altered or destroyed by humans. Honeysuckle nectar is critical to the survival of bees and bird species.

Considered an invasive, Garlic Mustard has roots that kill beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, depleting the soil. However they also do “rehabilitation work” on the soil and then naturally fade away when their work is done. Garlic Mustard is a delicious edible. It’s leaves can be made it pesto.

Another invasive plant, the Napweed, is used for treating Lyme disease.

Recommended reading:

The New Wild by Fred Pearce

-Why invasive species will be nature’s salvation-

Beyond the War on Invasive Species by Tao Orion

What can you Find on a Walk in the Forest

Found on a walk in the forest are edibles, tea, medicinals and craft material.

The following are plants you make come across:

-Stinging nettles: make nettle tea; drink a cup daily to reduce allergies in the spring (read my blog posts about nettle tea and soup in the Summer Issue).

-Elderberry: this is an incredible plant that is loved by wildlife and pollinators. It’s also very healthy to eat. High medicinal benefits and is high in antioxidants. It grows abundantly in moist soil and is easy to propagate. The flowers can be made into tea and the berries, into elderberry jam or wine. The plant likes to be cut back every 6 years. When harvesting the berries, after rinsing them, freeze them for 24 hours; remove from freezer and using a fork, easily remove the berries from the stem, and into a bowl.

-Nuts: Hickory nuts are delicious. Use them to make nut milk, or oil or butter.

-Pine needle tips: harvest the tips from Hemlock or White Pine, in the early spring or in the winter. Pine needle tea has important medicinal benefits (read the blog post about it in the Summer Issue).

-Birch Tree Twig: Make tea from the twigs. Harvest in the spring. The best is from the newest growth on the Black Birch. Tastes like mint. Has medicinal benefits.

-Staghorn Sumac: Important source of food in late winter for birds. Make sun tea from the berries. Taste like pink lemonade. High in vitamin C. Best time to harvest is in late August when the berries are sweet. The plant has serrated leaves, are fuzzy and the fruit is fuzzy red. Do not confuse with other sumac.

-Birch Polypore: Mushrooms that grow on birch trees. They are abundant and easy to find. They have antiviral and antibacterial qualities and can even be used as band-aids, as they heal cuts. Dry strips and rehydrate them before putting on a cut. All polypore mushrooms are safe to eat (must have 100% positive id with mushrooms, as many are poisonous and look similar to non-poisonous ones). Polypores have substantial beneficial compounds. Certain caps can be used to hone or sharpen knives.

-American Ginseng: Has superior medicinal qualities. It has been overharvested and is now hard to find. Most ginseng is grown commercially.

-Turkey Tail Mushrooms: They have high medicinal benefits. They are very good for your immune system. Can take daily, as an extract. Watch the Turkey Tail TED talk by master mycologist Paul Stamets. It’s wonderful.

Did you know that we are very similar to fungi? Both of us use enzymes to digest food and we both breath oxygen.

Best Trees to Plant that either provide food to pollinators or for us

Black Walnut: Don’t plant the trees in or near a vegetable garden or orchard with other fruit trees. The black walnut is lileopathic, which exudes a toxin from its roots to give it a competitive edge over other trees. Plant the tree near a Black Locust because Walnut trees are deficient in nitrogen and Black Locust fixes nitrogen in the soil.

Paw Paw: This tree is deer proof. It needs a 140-160 frost free days to produce fruit. It loves to be planted in flood plains and has no problem being planted near Black Walnut Trees. It can be planted in the forest, in the shade. It is flood tolerant. Fruit tastes similar to mango.

Elderberry: East to grow. It’s flood tolerant and can also be planted near Walnut Trees as it tolerant to its root toxins.

Willow trees: Food for pollinators. Fast growing. Flood tolerant. Bets planted by a river for erosion control.

Red Maple: Loved by pollinators. Makes sap in the late winter.

Black Locust: Fast growing. Bees love it. The tree is rot resistant and the wood is great for making fences and raised beds. It also fixes nitrogen in the soil.

Did you know that you can also drink sap from birch, sycamore and walnut trees? The sycamore syrup tastes like butterscotch!

By helping each other embrace options that meet our needs and promote sustainable lifestyles, we are ensuring the ability of future generations to do the same.