Trees often get short-sheeted in homesteading preparations.
When people move to Washington, they want to plant an apple. When they move to Georgia, they want to plant a peach.
Yet beyond planting a token tree or two, many people keep their properties as a big field of mown grass. If they’re more profit-minded, they might hay the field.
But plant a woodlot? Naw, too much trouble.
Just wait. Stick with me for a few minutes.
If you’ve driven through the States, you’ve likely seen plantations of pine grown for lumber. That’s a good start on a woodlot, but today I want you to think a little deeper and consider some species that will be useful in a survival situation and for long-term profit.
Today let’s take a look at why you should plant a woodlot.
Wood is one of the best renewable fuels for cooking, heating and burning witches.
Let’s pretend an EMP strike takes out all the electricity. Having stockpiled firewood and charcoal is good, but eventually that runs out. If you don’t live in an area with a lot of woods, local sources will dry up rapidly.
If you have your own woodlot, you have a larger measure of fuel security. If you’re growing a field, forget it.
Before the advent of home improvement stores and cheap cross-country shipping, homesteaders planted and harvested their own lumber. When it couldn’t be easily found in the local woods, it was planted.
Fenceposts, outbuildings and even tool handles were planned years in advance by forward-thinking men with a vision for the future.
If something throws us back to an 1800s standard of living, are you ready? Picking a good selection of tree species for specific applications will make life a whole lot easier.
As anyone who has read my columns knows – I’m a big fan of food forests. Heck, I named my perennial edible plant nursery Florida Food Forests. The main point of creating a food forest is to produce a large quantity of food with minimal work in the long term.
With a woodlot, food isn’t your primary focus but there’s no reason it can’t be a tertiary benefit. There are plenty of useful trees that directly produce edible nuts or fruits. Some, like black walnut, are highly valuable timber species. If you mix in trees that overlap between edibility and usability, it’s a win-win.
Here’s another thought: rather than you directly eating the produce of the trees, why not eat the wildlife attracted to a forest environment? Again – if you’re growing grass, you have a low-level ecosystem that produces next to nothing. A woodlot will attract animals by providing food and shelter.
Deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, boar, moose… meat is going to be in high demand in a crash situation. Having a nice, wild woodlot will bring it to you. Some game that isn’t attractive right now will be greatly appreciated after The Event.
What If You Already Have a Patch of Woods?
If you already have a wooded area – great. Your goal should be to maximize and maintain its production.
In my rural neighborhood, fires have been prevented for a long time. Lots have been cleared and then grown back into scraggly, unplanned woods. Some trees have grown old and fallen in storms.
If you’ve never really gone through your patch of woods and looked at it as a resource, there’s no time like the present. The first thing I like to do when I’m doing a horticultural consulting analysis is… take a walk.
As I walk, I look for useful and edible species first. If you can spot a native persimmon, discover a patch of wild onions or identify an excellent timber tree, you’re doing well. Many times people will clear patches of woods and destroy valuable resources without ever realizing what they had. Don’t do that.
As I continue to walk, I turn up the soil here and there. Is it clay? Is it sand? Are the local species acid-loving or alkaline-tolerant? Are there lots of mushrooms? Is the forest floor loaded with humus? These observations will help you know what will thrive and what won’t, as will simply identifying the trees around you.
Are there any dead trees standing that might be harboring honeybees or insect-eating birds?
Once you get an idea of what you have, you can start planning the future. You can remove sick trees and thin out areas that are too crowded. You can plant new trees into gaps. You can also clear good paths that will allow you to access the woods for easy harvesting and planting.
Having a patch of woods is a major blessing. If you don’t have one already, you now know why you should plant a woodlot.
Even if it doesn’t save your life… walking through the woods can save your sanity. We’re bound to need some of that in the days ahead.