With fall upon us and the rapid approach of winter it’s time that I begin the annual review of my forest management plan.
What, you may ask, is a forest management plan, and what does this have to do with talking barns?
Answers. First, I ask for some leeway here to explain myself on both subjects. My reasoning is that they are so similar and, to my way of thinking, they go hand in hand.
A forest management plan is simply a tool I use to outline the objectives for proper management of my timber resources. My plan includes an inventory of timber species and ways to maximize production of the timber through proper management.
While most foresters will encourage a woodland owner to review his or her forest management plan at least every five to 10 years, I choose to spend the time each year to do a thorough review to make sure my management objectives are being met.
My science background allows me this opportunity, and this is, in all honesty, just an excuse to spend time in the woods.
Similarities. A forest management plan is not much different than a management plan that any farmer utilizes when planning crop rotation, equipment purchases and maintenance, and building maintenance.
Which brings me to the relationship of forest management plans and barns.
If a landowner wishes to maximize production and profits from his or her timber resources, then a management plan is the best option to make this happen.
If you want to get the most out of your barn and maximize your resource, a management plan is the best option to make this happen as well.
But the relationship between your barn and the timber that was used to build it goes much further than just a management plan.
Virgin timber. The trees that were used to build the frame, the structure that holds your barn together, depending on the age of your barn, are more than likely what we now call virgin timber.
Virgin timber means that the harvest of the trees in what is now your barn were the first trees harvested by European settlers as they moved to Ohio and began farming the land.
These trees as they grew in the forest grew in a unique relationship with each other. They drew nutrients from the soil – nutrients that they replenished with decaying leaf matter and decaying trees and branches.
These same trees shared the sunlight and rain as they competed for growing space in the forest and the limbs and root systems of the trees grew together they shared a form of strength one with the other.
Sharing strength. Now back to the barn, just look at how the timbers in that barn share a strength.
From the smallest of pegs to the largest of posts, each piece of wood is acting to support or drawing support from another.
Trees were harvested, hewn or milled, cut to fit together and raised to be a lasting testament of what was once a virgin forest.
Trees that may have been growing before Ohio became the 17th state of the union. Trees that may have been growing when our ancestors fought the revolutionary war.
Your barn is most likely built of trees that survived drought years, wet springs, bitter cold winters, fire and any number of untold or unrecorded events. They came from a native forest, grown before European settlement brought non-native species into the forest of today.
They grew in a time before any number of disease or insects that affect and, in some cases, destroy our forests today were introduced.
Years of change. Which brings me back to my need for a forest management plan.
I am not managing a native forest but one that has changed through the years, a forest with non-native plants, disease and pests.
With these factors to compete with, a healthy forest must be a managed forest.
The same can be said about out barns. Just as farming practices have changed over the years, so has the use of barns changed.
And because we are not farming the same way our forefathers did, we need to rethink the way we manage our barns. A healthy barn must be a managed barn.
The “trees” that now hold that barn together need a good roof to hold out the elements. Rain and snow can cause rot in the exposed wood, causing the valuable timbers to weaken and fall.
Siding that falls off and is not repaired again causes the timber to be exposed and decay begins.
Lasting testament. A good barn management plan allows for time and resources to keep this lasting testament of what may have once been a part of a virgin forest alive and structurally sound for another 200 years.
(The author is chief naturalist for Dawes Arboretum and vice chairman of Friends of Ohio Barns. He can be contacted by writing to 6500 Horns Hill Road, St. Louisville, OH 43021.)