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Cutting Trees the Best Gardening Way

Cutting Trees the Best Gardening Way

Ten years ago, when we first moved onto this unimproved mountain lot with our fifth-wheel trailer and big dreams, part of the acreage had been clear-cut by a logger who sold the Douglas fir as export logs.

A clear-cut is ugly. Period. Yes, it’s also way uncool environmentally, and that bothered me too. But we wrote an offer for the parcel, which we wanted because it was perfect in about 20 ways aside from being owned by a logger who was about to whack away at part of the forest.

He accepted our offer for the parcel, which we made contingent upon approval of the result of his logging. We hoped that contingency might rein him in a little, and I think it did. Trees that he would have considered “trash” or in the way of the export log trees, he left standing because they would make a home site look better.

Before he cut the trees, we made a further offer to buy the land with the trees still standing. We had the timber cruised, and the estimate was a value of just over $5000 in logs.

That’s not much, as far as a logging operation goes, and so we added the $5000 for the timber to the initial offer. We figured that as long as he got the money for the trees, what difference would it make to him, whether they were left standing or cut.

He said, no. He said he had a crew to keep busy. Tough luck.

In the end, as clear-cuts go, this wasn’t the worst. He had done the cutting in patches rather than mowing the place down entirely. From the sky, it probably looked like the lot had mange instead of being entirely bald.

Plus, his tree felling had opened up a slope that allowed a view down the canyon and a place to put solar panels for our off-grid power system. He was also generous enough to take a moment to bulldoze some of the accessible slashes into a single pile that was about 15 tall by 40 by 80 feet wide and long.

We torched that slash pile the first night it snowed on our new home, and for the next 5 years gradually cleared the rest of the slash that was here, there, and everywhere.

In all, we developed a much more realistic picture of where wood products come from, and an appreciation for the trees left standing. We replanted some areas, and that made us feel better, too.

Doug fir are natives here in the Washington Cascades and grow quickly. Ten years later, trees that were babies around our garden when we moved onto the land have gotten so tall that they throw shade on our food garden during all parts of the day.

I am in the position, therefore, of deciding whether to cut trees down, and it is not a comfortable place to be. It wouldn’t be clear-cut, certainly. But the trees in question would leave some big stumps. It’s a quandary, and I’m still thinking about what to do.