Hudspeth in Wilton: Something very peaceful, a good thing

Stephen Hudspeth

Stephen Hudspeth

Staff / Hearst Connecticut Media

There is something very peaceful about being alone in the woods. It’s shady and quiet there, and whether it’s walking in Wilton’s Town Forest or working around the farm here in Maine, the sense of communing with nature is very real.

In our Town Forest, the communing is largely quiet, but happily interrupted from time to time by a passing mountain biker or a fellow walker who is often a friend from town.

Here in Maine, where our vacation time is now coming to an end, being in the woods for me takes a different form: I like to work there. We have hay fields (tilled and mowed by a neighboring farmer) surrounded by woods and also a tree farm. The tree farm is due next year for its required every-tenth-year harvest. A professional forester marks the individual trees to be cut by a logger and files a report with the town and state.

During our last harvest — in 2013 — the forester recommended that we limb every larger tree as far up as we could reach with a pruning saw or what our grandkids and I call “whackers” - those powerful limb-cutting shears that all of us probably have in our garage for yard work.

So I do that lower limb cutting and also, in some of the areas around the hay fields, remove the dead trees. I cut them down and saw them up using manual methods (pruning saw and those whackers, along with an axe) as part of my exercise program up here. That’s pretty quaint by Maine woodsmen’s standards, of course, but I like the exercise and don’t want the noise of a chainsaw spoiling my communing-with-nature time.

We’ve all read about how communities of certain types of trees appear to be able to “band together” to transfer essential nutrients either from (apparently as a “bequest”) or to — perhaps as a form of emergency — help failing trees. Not knowing whether that kind of tree communication is going on in our woods up here but not wanting to interfere with it if it is, I’m very careful about only chopping down already fully dead trees. I do so especially with respect to trees that are likely to fall into our hay fields where they would interfere with plowing and harvesting or that, in falling, are likely to block our dirt roads.

Especially on a hot day — and the days up here, notwithstanding that it’s usually cool in Maine, have been surprisingly hot — the shade offered by the woods is both welcome and refreshing. I drive my ’88 Jeep Wrangler as close as I can go to the portion of the woods I will be working. My tools are in the back of the Jeep and to it is attached one of our four very old but still strong trailers, to haul away the trunks and branches.

Each trailer has its purpose: Big Blue at 6’ x 8’ can hold a lot of branches and small trunks, and Little Blue at 4’ x 8’ holds quite a few too. Mighty Little Green (all were named by our grandkids) is only 3’ x 8’ but it is very strong with wide retired racing car tires, and it can carry large trunks. It’s not licensed for the road and so has a “slow vehicle” triangular sign posted on it.

For logs that I’m too lazy to cut down to 7’ lengths, I’ll attach a red flag to the end of the oversized log as I prepare the load to go on the public roads all of a half mile to our town dump (which amazingly accepts loads of this sort free of charge!)

Lastly, Old Yeller, named for its burnished yellow color, is a flatbed heavy-duty hauler with steel frame and bed that can carry the biggest butt logs.

For trees that are “hangers,” tied up in the branches of living trees that prevent them from immediately falling, or that are heavy enough to require a motorized pull out of the woods, the Jeep’s two heavy-duty hooks mounted on the front linked to heavy ropes with steel hooks on each end make pretty short work of them.

My family thinks it’s a little crazy that I seriously like to do this tree work, but I love it and find it very relaxing. I also feel that it really brings me closer to nature, and as my non-woods work resumes this fall, that’s certainly a good thing.