patience

For the past six years, I have volunteered with the New York State Master Forest Owner program, which has allowed me to meet a number of local woodland owners, and to walk their properties with them, offering thoughts on woodlot management. On one of my first visits, I met a friendly, middle-aged man who had recently purchased a 100+ acre property that included a very promising young stand of Sugar Maple. The trees averaged maybe 6″ in diameter, and it was nearly a pure stand (almost all Sugar Maple). When he asked my opinion of the stand, I told him that I thought it was great, as many woodlots in this area are dominated by Red Maple, a lesser value species, and that, if he were so inclined, he would be looking at a very lucrative timber harvest in about 60 years. He looked at me like I had 3 (or more) heads. I think I even saw a flash of anger in his eyes. Evidently he was hoping that those trees were somehow going to quadruple in diameter before he retired in 10 or 20 years.

Unfortunately, I had burst his bubble—unlike investing in a tech startup, or winning the lottery, growing trees for profit is a long-term enterprise, even under the best of circumstances. In the case of Sugar Maple—a relatively slow-growing species—it can take 125 years or more to reach maturity. That being said, there are a number of steps a woodland owner can take to dramatically increase the vigor and growth rate of a stand of timber, which I’ll finally start to get into the nuts and bolts of in the next post. Unfortunately, none of them involve a magic wand, and all require hard work—and still require patience. Here’s a photo of a middle-aged Sugar Maple, taking its own sweet time…………………………..

sugar maple

One Comment on “patience

  1. He could always do some maple syrup production to get a little cash flow in a lot of those sixty years! That is fairly lucrative, or he could just let another maple person come in and do it and sell the sap…. But it isn’t a huge amount of cash if he is looking for the big payday….

    I don’t really think a lot of people are really ready or aware of how much work a wood lot investment really is. And if you don’t do the work yourself, and you pay someone else to do it for you, it reduces your bottom line, seriously! So the hard work aspect is just a good thing to emphasize. Some people go out and get a tractor and wagon and chain saws and all that to make the work easier and that gets pricey too… All factors in the overall yield… Makes me think of Eric Sloan and his books about loving wood and working with wood in many ways….

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