A machete, a shovel, a bottle of tordon and a hundred seedlings- black cherry, black oak, chinkapin oak, gray dogwood, witchhazel, hazelnut, hawthorn, and shortleaf pine.
Hitting up the wreckage of last fall’s tornado, killing some autumn olive and honeysuckle and multiflora rose that have invaded the understory, replanting with natives. It’s the very beginning of a long process, and when anyone asks I deploy the old chestnut about eating an elephant, one bite at a time.
Most of the trees, upright or down, are what remain of the forest which grew in my grandfather’s lifetime. He bought the land in the 40’s and logged off most of the valuable timber- white oak, walnut, and cherry- to pay the bank note and build a house. The forest I hunted and explored as a child was largely hickory and elm, birch and sycamore, the balance timber trees too small to harvest decades before. The same story has played out on farms and in woodlots throughout the west- in places where tree cover hasn’t changed, tree species composition has- with knock-on effects to wildlife.
I plant some withhazel along the gravel bar, hoping roots will keep it from moving. Cows haven’t grazed down here in nearly twenty years, haven’t wallowed in water all summer, trampling down banks, widening the stream. It’s recovering- gravel and sand building up in places, narrowing the channel. The creek is deeper, its bottom less silty and sandy. I sit on the bank and open a Coke and watch the dog wade, realizing the forest my grandfather experienced wasn’t the one I did. The forest of my descendants won’t be mine, either.