When settlers moved into the southern portion of the United States they were greeted by vast forest of Longleaf and Loblolly pine trees. These were majestic trees reaching heights of over 100 feet tall.
Human greed knows no ends. Vast tracts of virgin timber were cut down with no regard to conservation or the effects upon wildlife. By the time the 1930s arrived the Southeast Texas wild Turkey and Whitetail Deer were pretty much extinct. Because their populations had been decimated, turkey and deer had to be reintroduced to regions of Southeast Texas.
The Red-cockaded woodpecker which nest exclusively in Longleaf pine trees was almost made extinct by deforestation. The woodpecker covers less than 1% of its original territory.
What lessons did we learn from deforestation and habitat destruction? Not much. Timber companies still cut down old growth oak trees to make way for pine plantations. Thousands of acres are clear cut and replanted in fast growing hybrid pine trees. Old growth forest are gone forever, or are they?
One of my projects here on the farm is to restore a few acres for old growth oak and pine trees.
A couple of years ago a lot of the pine trees were sold off the farm. This is common practice for small land owners. The timber is cleared so fence rows can be built and land fenced in for livestock. Next spring one of my projects is to fence in around 7 acres for cattle and maybe some goats and sheep.
We need to find a balance between what we need and what nature needs. To maintain this balance with nature I am going to dedicate several acres to growing timber that will never be cut. This section of land will contain native species of pine trees and oak trees.
It is estimated that when settlers arrived in the southern part of the United States there was around 90 million acres of Longleaf pine trees.
Today, Longleaf pine holds less than 5% of its original range.
During the spring of 2014 my wife and I tried to transplant some young Longleaf pine saplings. It seems the transplanted saplings died over the summer.
Instead of trying to transplant Longleaf pine saplings, I ordered seeds from treeseeds.com. That is not a paid advertisement. I picked a random site off the internet and ordered some seeds. Shipping was fast and prices are reasonable.
Longleaf pines do have have a thick canopy like other trees. Enough light gets through so weeds and grass can grow under the tree. Because of this I am going to plant a small plantation of Longleaf pines in the cattle field. Hopefully the trees will allow enough sunlight through so the grass will grow.
Just about all of the Longleaf pines were planted out in the open and on the edge of the forest where the trees meet an open field. However, a few of the Longleaf were planted in with old growth oaks.
The Loblolly has a range that extends from Texas, to Florida, to New Jersey. After the clear cutting of the late 1800s and early 1900s the Loblolly has recovered at a much faster rate than the Longleaf. Some people call these a field pine, as saplings will spring up in cattle fields.
The Loblolly pine tree has a thicker canopy than the Longleaf. The thicker canopy prevents grass from growing under the tree. As such I planted the Loblolly seeds in with the old growth oaks where grass will not be growing anyway. The seeds were planted where there was a view of the southern sun. Hopefully there is enough light getting through the oak canopy for the tree to grow.
For several years the local squirrel population has been on the decline. Some of the older trees have been cut so squirrels can no longer go from tree to tree. I suspect the decline is because squirrels are spending too much time on the ground and falling prey to predators.
To help the local squirrel population recover, the Loblolly seeds were planted so when the tree is grown the limbs of the Loblolly and oak trees will either overlap or be close enough for the squirrels to jump from tree to tree. Thus keeping the squirrels in the trees and away from predators.
Planting the seeds
The actual planting of the seeds was easy enough. I carried the seeds along with some acorns and a small spade in a trick-or-treat bucket that walmart had reduced for quick sale after Halloween. The buckets are cheaply made, but what do you expect for $1? The buckets work good for carrying seeds, fertilizer, chicken feed,,, whatever.
After selecting a spot where sunlight could reach the tree after it sprouted:
- The spade was inserted into the ground, then Lifted up to create a cavity in the soil.
- Seed was dropped under the spade.
- The spade was removed and dirt lightly tapped down on top of the seed.
The whole process took only a few seconds to plant each seed.
This seed planting will be a multi-year project. My wife (her name is Kristy) and I planted a bunch of seeds on November 11, 2014. When summer 2015 arrives hopefully we will see some pine tree sprouts.
In the winter of 2015, almost exactly one year from now we will go back and replant the seeds that did not germinate.
I am 46 years old. Hopefully and GOD willing I will work on this restoration project for at least another 20 – 30 years. During that time I will work on conceiving my children how important it is to have a balance with nature.
The goal is to take from nature no more than we need. Take a place for cattle, take a place for a garden and a chicken yard. Then ensure nature has a place to do its thing. Make sure nature has a place to grow oak trees, make sure nature has a place for deer, squirrels, woodpeckers, pine trees and other wildlife.