Taking advantage of a few sunny days to fell red alders at Leafhopper Farm. The alders are a pioneer species in forest regrowth. They come up first, grow quickly, and climax as the evergreens begin to take over the canopy. The farm is part of King County’s Forest Stewardship Program. This means, there’s a plan for the landscape that focuses on restoring groves and encouraging them into old growth. The area I am taking alders out of is part of our stream buffer with Weiss Creek to protect salmon. This buffer will be replanted next spring and in the mean time, I’m opening up the canopy to let in light for the young plants. By dropping the alders, we also create a perfect substrate for mushrooms.
Leafhopper Farm will be hosting an inoculation class this weekend to establish oyster mushrooms in the fallen logs. We’re doing this to remediate the space after it is treated with glyphosates to kill off the invasive blackberry and knot weed. The county uses this method for convenience, and to receive funding for the project, the chemical treatment is required. The mushrooms, specifically oysters, will happily eat up any chemical toxin that might leech from the injection treatment. Those mushrooms will not be eaten, but allowed to return to the soil with the neutralized substances. This is called mycoremediation.
The composting alder will add nutrients to the young plants as they establish habitat and diversity on the landscape. Trees are also planted in to ensure the return of a healthy forest with diverse established under-story to complete the canopy cover. For some it may seem counter intuitive to cut trees to make a forest, but access to the sky is at a premium, and, though the alders would eventually drop naturally- and we are leaving some up to do so- our restoration planting will ultimately fill in faster with the additional light.
The branches from fallen alders will be piled up and moved to the upper field where our young chestnut grove will enjoy the protection and nutrition of the slash. When I drop a lot of trees at once, I take the time to break down each tree as I go to prevent tangle and difficulty. Even with careful planning and organization, sometimes things can still get hung up in the process. Quite literally, one of the trees I cut did not make it all the way to the ground. Instead, it hangs precariously about 20 feet in the air against another alder and some red cedar bows. That’s not ideal, and creates a safety issue.
I left the hanging problem for a few days in hopes that a breeze would bring it down. Next week, with more sunny days, I’ll get a chance to finish the project and get down the rest of those alders. We already have more than enough logs for the inoculation party. It’s such a pleasure to do this work, knowing a new forest is on it’s way to filling this landscape with a lasting stable ecology. This is a legacy I am proud to support.