Why living in the woods may not be green

Very recently I said, "When we bought our land and built our home in the woods, I thought we were choosing a more ecologically sound way to live. I was wrong." I have been asked why.

The answer is very simple: we are too far away from everything. In our early days here, we used to joke that we lived 20 miles from everything. Well, it's true, and the joke is very hollow now that I have lived what that means: many, many miles of driving.

Between the two of us, we drive at least 40,000 miles a year. I alone drive nearly 10,000 miles a year to work and back. Robert's work takes him even further afield. Then there's the sailboat 70 miles away from our home, band gigs, and friends and family many miles away. Over 30 years, that's 1.2 million miles of driving and a hell of a lot of carbon dioxide, perhaps a million pounds.

We could perhaps ameliorate that by being good stewards of our 137 acres of woods and beaver pond, but that is much harder than it seems. In 1998, a devastating ice storm damaged nearly every tree in this area. We logged our property the next year, which removed a lot of damaged trees and opened up the woods for new growth. A couple of years later we had lots of young trees, then they all disappeared. Deer. A few years ago, a forester walked through our property and wrote up a forest stewardship plan for us. He found that almost the only young trees we have now are either beech, a species in decline due to widespread fungal disease, or striped maple, a low value species. His major recommendation: "Shoot the does."

Even if we can get a variety of young trees growing in our woods again by reducing the deer population and altering our firewood harvesting practices, are those trees the ones likely to survive as the climate changes? Do we need to introduce new varieties and, if so, which ones?

It is our own actions over the years that have led us to a point where we have to ask these questions.

In closing, I can't do any better than Walt Kelly's Pogo:


  1. I hear you on the nuisance deer problem. I've been trying to grow a couple of shade trees in my yard for years now. The deer eat them every winter. This year however, I'm good so far...

    Great post Anita!

  2. Use to live in the country and know what you mean about distance, that damn drive is rough on ya, whether you're young or old.

    Nice to see you blogging, keep up the good work.

    Thanks for the comments on my bird and bridge photo -- amazing what you can get on a cold camera day!


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