Sunday, February 19, 2012


One of the ways you can tell the locals from the outsiders around here is by what they call a stand of trees. Woods or woodlands, forest, grove and copse are all outsider words. Timber is what most of the locals say, and see. Timber can be a resource or an obstacle, depending on the use being made of the land. Timber is always practical — function before beauty.

That does not mean that the locals fail to appreciate the woods. I bought a cord of hedge from a neighbor last year. As we began stacking it he said, "Don't you just love trees?" He generally cuts hedge and locust, sometimes helping other farmers clear pasture. One year the ricks of wood looked so beautiful he took pictures. Later that winter, straight rows of cords turned into six-foot snowdrifts. He staggers the rows now, not as pretty but more accessible in bad weather.

The original forest was mainly oak and hickory. My scrubby second-growth woods are a riot of species, some of them considered nuisances. I'm okay with that. I do love trees.

On bright winter days shagbark hickory stands against the sky like the old horned forest lord. Stag sheds his antlers in the wood, making ready for new growth.

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