How do I make my place look nice?

I hear this question in a round-about way many many times. Frankly few people are willing to say it out loud because they have little idea what to do with their land, after all, they own it and can do what they want, and it’s ‘just woods’ right? Of course they can, within reason, and zoning constraints, HOA restrictions, etc. But I do meet a lot of people that run the full range from folks that have 50 acres or more they bought or inherited to those who have just an acre or two and they ask my opinion. It happens a lot. Kind of like when I was an active EMT (I’m still an EMT just not riding an ambulance anymore) and I would meet folks at a barbeque and they would ask me to look at ailments, wounds, and ‘other’ issues they had to offer a solution. Property owners are no different, they have concerns, find somebody that might know something helpful and they ask. I get it.
Now the larger landowner who wants to make an income from their property usually has a good idea what they want to do and they hire a forester to write up a management plan for them, find a logger and a log buyer when the time comes and layout how things will be done. For the smaller landowner, calling foresters that can help you manage your property usually just results in a higher phone bill with few results. The reason is, there is no money to be made on small parcels unless their is some really incredible veneer hardwood on the site. 15 acres and less seems to be a tough spot for folks to get some help. Most folks with 15 acres or less just want the place to look ‘nice’ perhaps provide some recreation for the family, or walking paths and have nice growth of whatever they choose. But there are all those pesky questions: ‘What kind of trees do I have?’, ‘Are these native trees or invasive’, ‘should we cut out all the dead stuff and rake the ground?’, ‘could we do this, or do that?’, ‘maybe we could put in a pond?’ and lots of other questions. The result is a lot of folks fix up the immediate yard to suit their needs and let the woods tend to themselves. But you have to wonder, “could I get more out of it?” Certainly. Nobody wants to look at, much less walk under, stuff like this:

Yes, of course you can get more out of it. Its your property and just because it is not a large tract doesn’t mean that it does not deserve a good plan going forward. My philosophy is that we all just own our little piece of earth for a short period and then it gets passed on, either to family or another buyer when we ‘move on’. I feel we need to act in a responsible manner to keep that piece of earth viable for the next steward that comes along. Does this mean full conservation and a ‘hands off’ attitude? Hell no, it is YOUR property. As long as one does not cause lasting damage (ground water pollution or something of that sort) you should have an ‘open palette’ of options and a lot of these are very simple hand work. Here is an old woods road with years of neglect.

And after about a days work cutting dead wood out and dragging brush, here’s how it came out.

Oh, and some of those logs I took out wound up making some benches that overlooked that swamp below where the landowner can watch the deer and turkey browse through.

This is how I got into property consulting and small wood lot management. Most folks have an idea of what they want, but they also realize they don’t know much about the terrain, soil content, native trees, thinning practices, how to hire the right folks, what to ask them, and a host of other questions. The list is long. Folks just want to know where, and how to start. There are a lot of folks out there who will be anxious to come in and cut your trees for firewood as you pay them for clearing things out, and if you want that, its fine. But most folks are a little more ‘gentle’ with the woods they see out of their windows. Some want to keep what’s cut for their own firewood or perhaps get it milled into lumber to use for projects.
If it wasn’t clear reading my other material on these pages, I am not a logger, nor a firewood seller. I’m an old guy and have no heavy equipment at all. I leave that for the young fellas and gals trying to make a living. I just like the woods and it gives me a lot of pleasure to help folks fix up their woods. Neither am I a horticulturalist, I am not going to suggest fancy trees and plants or stone paths. My strength is in looking at what someone has and giving them information to help them make decisions that get their woods the way they would like. I can help with some of the work, but I am not the big labor guy to do it all. Folks that want to get their hands dirty make my best clients because as we work together, I can teach things that a property owner needs to know. Heck, I will even tech you how to sharpen your chainsaw if that is what you need, or fall a tree safely if that is your thing. I would prefer, that you took a class I can steer you to after our lesson, but the point is I am happy to share skills, knowledge and references. Should it turn out you need some advanced work or prefer to hire someone to do all the work, I can recommend qualified people you can make a direct arrangement with. I don’t do the ‘middleman thing’. Although I charge for my time and work, I am not really in this for the money and don’t look for ways to ‘maximize my profit’ (against the advice of many).
This kind of work is not like hiring someone to put in a new front door where they come measure and order the door, come back, rip the old one out, put the new one in, do the trim and paint and it is done and looks pretty in a couple of weeks. Property improvement takes time, years. You can do the work, clearing trees or whatever it needs, then wait and see. It take a few seasons, but the results are remarkable. I am working a parcel now for a day or two a week and after just 4 days of work the differences are amazing. Open ground that the sun can hit now, this allows hardwoods to sprout and grow, it also allows access for walking and other things. The rotten dead and down trees are disappearing, the dead standing trees are going away making the property safer. In short we took it from a section that you could barely walk through into a nice place to just go and sit and enjoy things or wander through. That particular parcel is 40 acres, but the ‘plan’ we are working on only includes 4 separate 1-2 acre pieces that need particular attention and each has a different plan and goal. We figure 1-2 years to get it all done. I can tell you it is an amazing process to watch as it progresses. The initial results are really nice and striking, but over the season changes they get better and after a year or two, results really start to pop out. I never get tired of that. Life is about transitions.
I have several active clients like this right now, one is less than 2 acres, and all with different plans to suit their needs and property and they run the range from woodlot management to overhauling a side lot that has years of neglect into something a family can enjoy. The only thing they all have in common is that they will take time to show results.
Sometimes folks just need another person to walk their property with them and bounce ideas and questions off of them to see if they are on the mark or missed something, or even consider other ideas. The planning stage is where it al happens and can be critical to the desired outcome. Realistic goals and workable plans are important. I can help you get started, if you like. Give me a call or drop me an email and we can talk.