Sap Roads
March 31, 2012, 1:25 pm
Filed under: March 2012

New sap road, looking west

                                                   March 31, 2012 

     We cut a new sap road for the 2013 season. The new road was laid out with several environmental concerns considered. Some of our old roads run through the woods in random fashion. Many of those roads need improvement and some best management practices employed.

      Our old roads are rutted and run through wet places. Some of the wet places are getting worse as we continue to slog through them. In a few places culverts and drainage are in order. In other places we will abandon those roads and reforest those avenues.

      There is one bad stream crossing. I will also abandon that section and build a bridge further downstream. The construction is exciting and the results will be pleasing to the eye and much more responsible to the environment.

      The new roads follow a ridge line and stay out of wet areas. We will now have to cross the creek only at the bridge. The roads also get us closer to some trees and make gathering the maple sap easier. I was careful to leave desirable saplings while removing brush and undesirable trees when cutting for the roads. I am pleased with our progress so far.

      I once worked in a woods where the landowner had slowly made improvements to his woodland paths. We used many of the paths when we were harvesting the timber. The paths were well constructed and held up well under the horse traffic. I am hoping to accomplish the same things in our woods.

      I can see that an undertaking this big, is a life’s work. I am okay with it taking the rest of mine. I can see the opportunity to teach others the value in taking the time to make the roads well. I can share what I know about woodland stewardship with family and friends.

      Our roads will not only be for gathering maple sap, but also for timber harvest, hiking, strolling or perhaps even cross-country skiing. The possibilities are endless. I am sure the little ones will look for indians as they play in the forest. I will find my solitude there, along with inner peace.

      We have one more section to lay out. It will be in the last third of the woods and will be a long loop almost forming a circle. It will go through a stand of shagbark hickories, across a small woodland pasture and through a grove of maples. This diverse trail will take many hours to complete because of the different challenges along the way. I hope to have it completed by early autumn.

      It is a good time for trail building now. The leaves are not fully open on the brush and trees. You can see quite a ways through the woods. I mark the trail with bright orange tape. I walk the whole thing and straighten out the proposed road, by moving the ribbons as needed. Soon, I will not be able to find my ribbons and it will be time to stop this job until after the leaves fall.

      The road in the last section can be done this summer. The woods there is more open. Thanks in part to the goats and sheep, I can see everything to a height of about six feet. They have eaten the brushy undergrowth, making it easy to see the ribbons any time of year. This is why, I think I can complete that section of road by autumn.

      Our old sap roads will be cleaned up and a new plan plotted for them in between the upcoming spring field work. Once the summer heat drives us to the shade, I can work a little on the old roads. That work, done in the cool of the forest, satisfies and even refreshes me. I get to think about next years maple season and see the progress as we go.

      I am thankful for our woodland holdings and the bounty it provides. The harvested syrup, building material and firewood are second only to the memories made, and the peace that is found there.



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