Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chimney swept & sealed, water checked

This morning was a bit of activity as two different activities coincided: Pall checking the quality of the groundwater and Dr. Flue coming out to clean and seal my chimney.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What a difference a few days make...

...and the difference is green. Well, okay it was not just because of one day's worth of sunshine and warmth. Still, spring seems to have burst onto the scene with an abandon this year (maybe it's like this every year and I just don't notice or remember...). What was still a rather bleak-looking far shore is now a verdant green. Even the "Major-Bank-Stability-Issues Creek" is looking kinda nice these days, too.

Now if it only weren't for all those darned garlic-mustard plants sprouting up all over the place...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring storms

There have been many storms this weekend. Short storms that blow through with some rain (not usually a lot), but a lot of wind. They last about ten to thirty minutes and are gone again, disappearing so quickly that you might wonder - if it weren't for the raindrops and the smell of wet grass and dust in the air - that it ever was there in the first place. Still, I know the storms happened -- a tree fell in the woods, and I was there to hear it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Darn those pesky kids!

The temperatures today were into the 80s, and although things cooled off at night, it was still nicely in the 60s - and just a hint of the stickiness that is yet to come. When I walked outside at about 10pm, and heard a raucous gathering on the far side of TSL. Taking up my flashlight and putting on a shirt, I headed off in the dark, around the lake. After walking around the lake, what do I find? Perhaps eight highschoolers (roughly half boys and half girls) drinking and chatting well past sundown... without a flashlight between them. (Slight scent of alcohol, though.) If it was to be a make-out session in the woods, they had either been finished with it for some time, or had not (yet!) gotten around to lip-locking. (I'll give the possibility that it was an innocent get-together to chat in the woods, but that seems a little unlikely to me...)

They were very polite, and walked them up to the gate. They also didn't park in front of the gate, meaning that they were unlikely to be ticketed. Of course, they could also be from one of the suburban subdivisions just up the road.

One question from a girl as we walked up to the gate, "How can a forest close? I mean, what's up with that?" made me smile. I don't know what sort of answer I would have given her if she had directed the question to me, but none of her friends had much of an answer for her, and she moved on to other topics. I wonder if they knew that I followed them all the way to the gate, as I kept the flashlight off and walked a slight distance apart from them. They complained that they couldn't see, but none of them strayed from the path; there was enough light to basically navigate back to the road.

I was tempted to tell them where they went wrong with their not-too-late night escapades... but decided that if I did, I would only be making my job more difficult.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cleaning the fire pit

Since the weather was so nice today -- and because I had other work that I had to do -- I decided to spend some time cleaning the campfire pit of some of the ash that had accumulated over the years (maybe decades) since it's last cleaning-out. The photos don't really do justice to the amount of ash I pulled out of the pit (five wheelbarrow-fulls) and spread out across the grounds. Although I didn't shovel out all of the ashes, I think I got at least 3/4 of what was in there. The level of ash is more than one foot lower than it was earlier, and so the danger of building a fire that will roll out of the pit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Swan in the morning

This morning I was a little rushed to get out and into town. However, as I left the porch, I looked out across the lake and saw a single swan. As I walked up to the shore, and it started to swim up towards me (a little tame, methinks). A lot of the faraway photos were over-exposed, but this one is quite nice.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Posting entries from the caretaker's book.

I will be posting transcriptions from the caretaker's book. The entries go back to December of 1985. I don't know if there is a book for actions before December of 1985, but in any case, I don't have any of them, so they can't be posted here.

Not all of the comments from the past will be posted; only those that are interesting and insightful as to what goes on as the caretaker of Saginaw Forest.

NOTE: All of the posts will be back-dated to the date on which they were written in the book, so check the posting history for the periodic updates from the past (or choose the "from the records" Label).

Filibert Roth memorial stone

Just to the west of the caretaker's cabin, shaded by the branches of the pine trees standing above it, there is an upright stone with a plaque fastened to its face. Some walkers through the forest might have stopped and pondered the significance of the upright stone with the plaque before continuing on their meander through the forest. A search online doesn't pull up many useful hits about who the man was. (Although a google search does bring up many of Prof. Roth's old publications on forestry and wood.)

Looking at the plaque closer, one sees this inscription:


The "Forestry School" is what the Univeristy of Michigan's current School of Natural Resources and Environment started as, and Filibert Roth was the first head of the school, when it was founded in 1902. The story of Filibert Roth is a little harder to uncover, unless you happen to have JSTOR access, because in 1926 Baxter Dow wrote an obituary of the man in Science magazine (volume 63, issue 1631, pages 348-349). Although I cannot reproduce the whole of the article here - due to copyright concerns - I will summarize some salient points about the man's life (along with references with from other people):

Filibert Roth was born in W├╝rttemberg, Germany on April 20, 1858, and moved to the United States in 1871 to Wisconsin (where a lot of German immigrants were settling at the time). He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1890, and got a job with the Division of Forestry (now known as the USFS) as a timber expert in 1892, only eight years after the division's formation, and was a major influence on the formation of national forest policies. As one example, Dow provides the following insight:
It was generally assumed [at the time] that at the source of every creek there was enough pine to last for all time; [Roth and his colleague Fernow] were heralded as "denudiatics." But many of their early predictions have now become demonstrated realities that their teachings are known and accepted to-day as general truths by all. (Dow 1926, 348)
In 1895, Roth published "Timber", a forestry bulletin #10 from the USDA, which would go on to have a major impact on the dissemination of scientific knowledge of American wood species. He wrote the first publication of the woods of Wisconsin in 1898 ("On the Foresty Conditions of Wisconsin").

Roth and Fernow taught at Cornell from 1898 to 1901. (Fernow went on to become the Dean and Director of Cornell University's College of Forestry.) On November 15, 1901, Roth was picked by Gifford Pinchot to be the administrator of the national forest reserves, chief of Division R, and Roth served in this position until 1902. According to Steen (2004) in his book The US Forest Service, Roth struggled in his position under the direct-management style of Pinchot:
In his view, Roth struggled vainly against "land office routine, political stupidity, and wrong-headed points of view." (page 61)
Roth then returned to the University of Michigan to become the head of the nascent Department of Forestry in February 6, 1903; the first university forestry program in the Midwest.

Dow's remembrance of Professor Roth continues with discussions of the man's character as a teacher, lecturer, and department head. His mention of Roth as "Daddy", in addition to Roth's down-to-earth and friendly teaching style indicates the level of affection the man had for and by his students.

Looking on the SNRE history webpage, one discovers that Roth was the head of the Department of Forestry from 1903-1923, overseeing several academic and department social firsts:
  • 1904: First master's of forestry
  • 1906: First campfire celebration in Saginaw Forest
  • 1908: First teaching of landscape design at the University of Michigan
  • 1915: Acquisition of Eberwhite Woods
One year following the death of Roth, his Department of Forestry became the School of Forestry, and a few years after that, the University of Michigan opened Camp Filibert Roth in the Upper Peninsula. The camp eventually closed in 1988, and sold in 1996. I don't know if the stone (or only the plaque) was brought down from the Upper Peninsula, but that is as conceivable as the possibility that it always was here in Saginaw Forest, close to the place where Roth went to university and taught for 20 years.

UPDATE (2012-05-22): The University of Michigan is making historical profiles of all professors in the University's history, including Filibert Roth.

Cutting vines

I've discovered that I'm not such a big fan of vines, especially since I found that they were seriously weighing down some of the trees near the cabin. Since vines gain a majority of their physical support from the trees they grow from, they can (presumably) put more energy into leaves and growth than trees (which must put energy effort into their structural material). This means that vines can grow much faster than trees, and can cover a tree in relatively little time. Once they cover the canopy of trees, their massive leaf growth can cause a new problem of light competition for the tree upon which it grows. In addition, some vines wrap themselves around tree trunks and branches, restricting diameter growth of the tree, thus limiting the possible growth rate of the tree.

There are a couple of trees in the front of the cabin that had vines covering them. Over the course of two days, I cut and pulled down two piles of vines (as well as some dead and live branches). The final result is a tree that looks relatively denuded of growth, since a lot of the plant matter "filling in" the gaps was actually composed of vines. I hope that once the leaves of the tree start to fill in, the tree will look more healthy. (It doesn't help that there is a dead tree - on the right of the photos - that is causing problems right now... Maybe that'll be my next project.)

I learned (after the first day), that these particular vines - which get kind of woody - make pretty good wood fuel (not as good as the willow I burned last month, but pretty good, and quite abundant right now).

Monday, April 6, 2009

April Snow

I awoke this morning at 1:38am. I eventually knew that was the time when I read the clock face on my cell phone. However, the power had - at some point - gone out and come back on again. Curious. However, I didn't complain as I got up from bed, and went to get some water before going back to sleep. I awoke again at around 6:15am. No alarm; just waking up naturally. There was weak light coming through the window, and - having listened to the prognostications of the previous day - knew that, indeed, snow had fallen around the cabin. Glancing out at the still-grey morning, it was difficult to tell exactly how much snow had piled up during the night, let alone the quality. However, I did notice the degree to which the boughs of the pine dipped close to the patio door.

I debated quickly as to whether I needed to make a trip out to the privvy, and realized - as one often finds oneself doing when faced with similar situations - that such a trip was not really necessary (what with it necessitating getting dressed, putting on boots, and making a somewhat cold round trip through snow). Therefore, I booted up my computer to check the online weather forecast. As I dressed, I toyed with the idea of making coffee, but after doing a brief self-analysis, decided that - while I really did like the economy of making my own thermos of coffee to bring in - it was unnecessary, since I would neither drink the remainder of it at the house, nor desired to carry more weight than necessary. Following that decision, and after packing my camera and stretching my YaxTrax over bootsoles, I headed out of the cabin.

As always, I first looked out over Third Sister Lake. There lay an untouched blanket of snow in the foreground, and a snow-dusted forest lying on the north shore; a perfect camera shot (which would likely have been better if I possessed a perfect camera). Turning back toward the house, I appreciated for the first time the lines of the pines surrounding the house: the branches, demarkated by the snow, standing in sharp contrast from the dark verdency of the needles. Again, if I wished I had a more superior camera than what I owned as I took that second shot.

Walking up to the commercial lots on the southeast corner of the forest, I continued to see many quiet wonders of an early spring snowfall: trees bent over the pathway, water pooled in the ephemeral creek's bed, and wind playing through the skeletal treetops. Upon reaching the commercial lot, I stopped to take one more photo, facing east through the bent branches to a sodium light mounted on the side of the low-slung concrete building; its light reflected off the plowed-and-glistening asphalt, like an industrial-park sunrise.

Then I walked the four miles in to town.