Posts Tagged ‘old growth’

O is for Old Growth

April 18, 2015

Old growth is an advanced state of forest. Really the bulk of it is dead. In any tree only the outer inch or so of the tree is ferrying the nutrients around, the remaining inner portion is….still and old, contributing strength but not much vitality. Importantly, a ton (or more literally) of nutrients are locked up in this old growth tree. Crashing to the ground in a storm delivers all those organics back to the soil. Cutting it down and hauling it away deprives the soils of sorely needed organics, but it gives us lumber right?

Old growth is dark and gloomy and quiet. Overstory blocks out the sun so the young trees have little of the sunlight they need to grow. It’s quiet because there’s not much there. The youngish forage that tends to be in reach of browsers and other eaters of vegetation needs sunlight. When there’s little light hitting the forest floor, there’s little forage in reach and therefore few eaters. They all go where there is food. Edges, meadows, and places with enough sunlight to grow.

So, like clearcutting, old growth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Old growth is mostly dead and quiet. Nothing lives there hardly, except maybe a few species of birds like the spotted owl that need the old growth for nesting. Most of life moves on to other parts of the ecosystem where there is more food.

That said, old growth is a stunning place. You are small. The trees are big. You have the quiet to contemplate your spot in this primeval nature. It is an experience well worth seeking out.

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N is for New

April 17, 2015

Of course wood is part of every paddle, but there are a few different types of wood. New wood, to me, is straight from a plain old tree, cut down in a plain old timber sale and cut for standard use. Clear vertical grain western red cedar, even though it is special, rare and expensive fits this category.

Old wood I think of as salvaged wood. Here in the midwest, the typical old wood (if there can be a typical) is salvaged mostly from old barns. I love this thought and the wood is pretty awesome too. I like the thought of wood, possibly cut from the barn site and then used as part of the barn. A hundred or even 150 years later, the barn comes down. In lieu of burning it, which still happens on occasion, there is a thriving off the radar industry that pays farmers for their old barns and then comes out and deconstructs the barn and saves as much of the old barn wood as possible. I love that thought and have on occasion bought some amazing lumber from these wood salvage outfits. Wide, mostly quarter sawn, not clear, but very good. Wide boards, small tight knots. I can only imagine what the forest must have looked like when this was a tree.

Wood is good, especially for paddles. I use it as responsibly as I can and respect the past and the history that some of this wood represents. I think preserving it as part of a paddle is a great way to honor a time and place that none of us will ever see again.