Getting to Know My Wisconsin Woods

This spring I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods; so much time that I’m slowly becoming comfortable with spring ephemerals and tree species. I’ve hiked, attended a class on foraging, and eaten some wild plants for the first time. Now, we are doing some “land management.”

This entails cutting down invasive brush and clearing other plants from the understory at our cabin. There, two acres are woods minus the small, half acre parcel where our cabin sits. We’ve had the cabin property for 19 years and built the cabin 16 years ago.

Periodically, we would keep our three boys busy by having them collect sticks. The woods are extensive and this was not an easy task. They tired easily, unless a campfire was in the offing.

My husband and a few friends have cut larger trees over the years – those that might have blown down in a storm, or were deemed to be growing too close to the cabin for comfort. Those have been cut and stored outside for firewood. We have a pellet stove for most of our heating needs. But, the firewood comes in handy for campfires when smores and sitting around are in order.

But, we need to thin the forest floor. There is a lot of leaf debris, collected over many years, as well as downed sticks and new shrubs or seedlings popping up. I feel like we know more than the times before when we tackled cleaning the woods. I worked at a land trust and learned some (but, not enough) from our land manager and my requisite day in the field with him cutting and treating invasive species like buckthorn. This sounds ignorant but we did not realize that we had to treat the stems with a chemical to kill the brush. I learned that from our land manager. I also feel more confident cutting, pulling, and cleaning the woods (our woods) than I ever have before. I credit that to my time with the land trust as well. Truly, before I left the land trust, I told our land manager that I wished I was more like him. He was calm, collected, did his job well, and did not say any more than he needed to at meetings. I wish I had emulated his meeting conduct from the start. Anyway, when I left I think we had mutual respect for one another. I know I had respect for him and what I had learned about land management.

Wisconsin has woods or forests and prairies, as well as shorelines and bodies of water that need protection and management by humans. As I helped my husband cut and treat the brush around our cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I also stopped long enough to take some photos of the spring ephemerals that I never knew we had at the cabin.

Today, I saw ferns starting to unfurl, wood anemone, jack in the pulpit, and trillium. They were all in the woods not fifty feet from our cabin door. How cool is that?! How cool is it that I recognized what they were and was careful not to trample these lovely plants!

I’m looking forward to spending more time in my Wisconsin Woods.

Some trail blazing is in the offing. This, I know!

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