Where I've Been

The image above is courtesy of the good people at Dover Publications, who give away free samples of their clip art. This cigar box art depicts an idealized vision of life in my woodlot. Or at least I think it does.

FAITHFUL READERS OF THIS BLOG, if I have any left, may have noticed that I've been missing for, oh, about a month. This is a lifetime in Internet time, long enough to have your license to blog revoked. So by way of apology I thought I would explain where I've been.

About a month ago, I happily accepted a position as part-time member services coordinator for an organization called the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association. Almost immediately, the organization had the opportunity to bid on a contract that would provide funding to educate owners of small forests about something called uneven-age management. I offered to write the proposal and, to make a long story short, that's what I've been doing for the last month.

Does this have anything to do with wild gardening? Why, yes it does. As the owner of what we here in Nova Scotia call a woodlot, in other words a small patch of forest (anything up to about 2,000 hectare is considered small in these parts), I get to "garden" on a larger scale than most people do. However, the principles that apply to good management of a woodlot are the same as those that apply to good management of a garden: make a place for wildlife, plant natives, create diversity, leave a lot of dead wood, try to do the same things nature would do.

Uneven-age management is a case in point. In this approach to woodlot management, you never cut all the trees at once. This makes uneven-age management the leading alternative to clearcutting, in which large numbers of trees are cut at the same time. Most people who have studied the Acadian Forest, which is the forest type that is native here, agree that clearcutting is not natural to this forest. Uneven-age management is far closer to what nature would do--that is, strike dead just one or two trees at a time, leaving small gaps in the forest canopy. This allows sunlight to reach trees that are growing on the forest floor, stimulating their growth. The result is a forest that contains a lot of diversity: not just trees of different species but also trees of different ages. It's harder to make money doing this kind of forestry, but on the plus side you always have a forest--you don't end up with those empty landscapes that are left after the clearcutters have been through. And there is always plenty of habitat for wildlife. Also if you manage your forest this way long enough, eventually you grow very large, very old trees that, if harvested, are worth a lot of money.

But now I am drifting away from the topic of gardening. My point is that wild gardening is actually quite similar to any type of good land management, no matter what scale you're working on. The question, and this is a question I ask myself quite often, is: Is wild gardening really gardening?


jodi said...

Now that's an interesting question, Flora. Maybe wild gardening is more accurately called stewardship--but then gardening without chemical warfare, be it to plant petunias or pumpkins, is a sort of stewardship of the natural world around us, isn't it?

Sarah O. said...

I like to think of it as a question of intention or purpose. To me, "wild gardening" indicates that one of the intended outcomes of your stewardship actions is to create/encourage a place (and I used the word "place" with all the loaded meaning of an environmental or landscape historian) that humans can enjoy for its aesthetic as well as natural value.

Like any type of garden, (cottage garden, formal garden, japanese garden) the "wild" is the qualifier for "garden." It describes the method and aesthetic being sought, but the purpose is still to create or encourage a place (garden).

Wild Flora said...

Hi Jodi and Sarah, and thanks for commenting. The boundary between gardening and stewardship is a fuzzy one, and "wild" gardening is firmly established in the fuzzy zone. Nevertheless I think there may be a distinction worth making between gardening and stewardship. As you can probably guess, gardening doesn't fare well in this comparison. But I'm going to have to give this a bit more thought.

Gloria said...

Maybe gardening with it's traditionally excepted definition seems to contradict the actions of stewardship but that can change.
I am a gardener. That, to me, can encompass science,ecology,philosophy and creative activity.
This is my habitat so it will meet my needs.How that can be achieved and still be of benefit,( to the whole interactive web) in the small space within my influence guides decisions and action. Is this stewardship? Long term self interest? I think it comes from caring for more than my own survival and considering our species a part of the earth rather than dominate.