As mentioned in the past, wildfire is one of our biggest fears at ShadowWoods. Over the past six years, we’ve cleaned, trimmed, brushed, cut, chipped and burned undergrowth, overgrowth, diseased trees and logging slash. It’s been a constant, never-ending, endeavor.
Early on, the trees and brush were literally upon the house and created huge barriers around the property - The lake couldn’t be seen from the house, let alone accessed easily. Hikes were like running an obstacle course. Lower canopy trees suffered as they competed for a skyward opening. ShadowWoods had too much “shadow” and too much “woods!”
While family members sometimes helped in the clean up effort (Thanks Mike and Gary!), the bulk of the work fell upon us. We sectioned the "Compound," the 10+ acres around the house, into smaller, more manageable areas to be tackled. This helped alleviate the overwhelming aspect of the project, as well as gave us a continuous fresh location to address. Still, the sheer magnitude of the task would see us shake our heads and wonder if we would ever attain a safe, park-like setting around the house.
This month we got some help. We’ve brought in a fantastic “tree guy.” Actually, Noah is a tree specialist and spends much of his time up in the evergreens, hanging and swinging from ropes, while meticulously grooming trees and trimming dead, fire-ready branches. He “elevates” the trees and fells the tricky, sickly ones we’ve hesitated on. His ground crew associate, Cody, guides, winches and stages branches into a hungry chipper. We jump in from time-to-time dragging debris and cutting oak and madrone into firewood.
This first phase focuses on a wide swath of forest between the house and the lake, along with a narrow band near the vegetable garden. It’s roughly 3-4 acres and has a dense lower canopy of dogwoods making the larger tree removal more challenging. It’s taken nearly three weeks to complete.
The result is remarkable: We now see a continuous western horizon, complete with blue sky, clouds and sunsets, through majestic firs and pines. Mornings are brighter as the rising sun illuminates a nearby ridge of the Plumas National Forest previously hidden from our view. Sunlight is reaching the deprived lower canopy. Fire-prone trees are gone and the remaining forest is made safer by the removal of lower branches that can “ladder” a fire into a horrific, canopy wildfire. We’ve got mountains of chips that we’ll return to the forest floor, as well as mulch our plantings and garden.
It’s been an emotional project because we pain at the removal of any growing tree. However, our concerns are softened knowing that we’ve given longer, healthier life to the remaining stand and their offspring. While we’ll never change the name of this special spot, there’s now a little less “shadow” and a more vigorous “woods.”
(Photo: Noah swinging in the trees)