Re-Wilding Wildlife Forestry

Agroforestry Practices in the 21st century Appalachian Woodlands.

Here at the Chestnut Hill Research Site our philosophy towards forest gardening and agroforestry is that hands-on processes and practices inform the very vision and goal of what we are trying to create. While initial design strategies (like those in traditional permaculture) can be very useful and practical, we believe that the relationship one forms from actually interacting with the land is the basis of an adaptable, resilient agroforestry system. Especially in Appalachia, where the land-base and geography are so complex and unique, it is important to hold this lesson close to our awareness and land management strategies. This means that we are creating a hybrid experiential learning practice that combines design analysis and modern scientific research with process-oriented management techniques and dynamic hands-on strategies. Instead of starting with abstract principles and designing out, we believe that through experiential understandings we can learn to treat every aspect of our system as unique and create a situational agroforesty practice. Since so much of this type of forestry work involves re-learning how to create healthy, human-scale disturbances in our habitat we call this “Zen and the Art of Graceful Disturbance.”


Structure and Practices of our Project:

*Experimental canopy gap dynamics in a regenerating rich cove forest, with 3 various directional orientations and several hundred feet of elevation change.
*Succession management and seasonal maintenance plans with perennial green manure/bio-mass crops.
*Exotic species management and affect of allelopathic properties (Ailanthus altissima) on various fruit and mast producing trees.
*Integration of coppice agroforesty into native mast-producing forest, with special focus on rocket stove and mass heater fuel, and bio-mass laid down on contour.
*Mindset and perspective of rewilding agroforestry: Practices beyond design, how to listen to the land and observe change, practice working meditation, and create productive disturbances.

Ecosystem considerations in our particular Forest Garden:
*Natural function of grapevine in forest regeneration coupled with management strategies
*Soil regeneration with native and non-native trees for bio-mass
*Phases of natural succession and uses of early and mid succession trees
*Cultivated mushroom integration in understory production
*Black Locust nurse trees and coppice systems for building
*Native wildlife habitat zones
*Canopy gap management strategy through thinning for smaller-medium height trees and shrubs, and planting edible edge transition zones

Below are some photos of our manufactured On-Site Winter Tree Guards:

A primitive tree guard made from on-site materials, including greenbrier, blackberry, poplar and grapevine, help protect this young chestnut from browsing deer.

This chestnut bud is well protected. A browsing deer would find it difficult to reach the terminal bud through all the greenbrier and blackberry thorns.

Be like the fox,
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.
-Wendell Berry, The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

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