I was invited to attend a meeting of landowners who have conservation restrictions (CRs) on their property. Since I am curious about some of the implications of my CR and since the meeting was close to my property, I decided to play hooky for half a day and go even though the meeting was mid-week. With the days getting a little longer now, I could leave home after lunch, spend a few hours in the woods, and get to the meeting on time.
The first item on my agenda was to finally wrap up the locating of my back - or western - property line. On my first two attempts to lay out the boundary using my old Silva Ranger compass and the compass bearings from a 1981 plot plan I was frustrated and perplexed because the line I was projecting from one corner stake to the other was missing the mark by a good margin. On the third attempt, I was able to confirm that the 1981 bearing seemed accurate by sighting along the 300' west line of the property to my south which is along the same bearing as my line. But, extending that line along my 565' west boundary took me to just about the same spot as my earlier attempts. I was beginning to suspect that the aluminum stake marking my northwest corner had been moved. This seems entirely possible because this stake is out in the middle of a power line right-of-way that is periodically cleared of brush.
So, on this visit on Wednesday, I went hunting for the far corner stake of my neighbor to the north. His line is also on the same bearing and his northwest comer is only 190' from my northwest corner. Once again, luck was with me and I found the old iron pipe in short order (photo), and by marking it with a bright orange stick, I could see all the way to it from my woods. Looking at the 1981 plot plan, it says "I. P. FOUND," so I get the impression that this corner predated the subdivision that created my woodlot. Again felt like I was unearthing a little history.
Now I had three corner stakes along a line of about 1055' that I could use to verify my compass work and convince myself that I did have some idea what I was doing and to confirm my suspicion that it does indeed look like the corner stake out in the power line has been moved. With renewed confidence, I carefully checked and double-checked the flagging along my property line (photo). I now feel sure I have the line marked with a precision of perhaps plus or minus a couple of feet along it's entire length. This margin of error is primarily a reflection of the fact that I'm using a compass marked in 2-degree increments to locate a line originally laid out with 15-second precision. I called it good enough.
Why all this fuss and bother? Well, I want to locate and mark this boundary once and have faith in it forever. If and when either I or my neighbor cuts timber or conducts any other activities in the woods I don't want there to be any doubt about who owns the trees in question. I was pleased to note that some recent timber cutting on my neighbors property approached but did not cross the line. It seems someone else was also doing some homework. I hope to meet my neighbor one of these days. If we can agree that the line looks good, I'd like to mark it with paint.
While at the back end of the woodlot, I snapped photos of two trees that illustrate the silvicultural challenge ahead of me. The nice, straight tree is a red oak (Quercus rubra) (photo). Red oak is - on a board-foot basis - about the most valuable common tree in Massachusetts. The second big, broad, limby tree is an American beech (Fagus grandifolia) (photo). This is a low-value species prone to defect and a scale insect pest. It's a shame, because straight, healthy specimens are quiet lovely with their smooth gray bark begging for carved hearts and initials and their long serrated leaves that glow bright electric green in the spring. Sadly, I have a bunch of beech that are ugly, deformed and taking up a lot of growing space that I would rather devote to oak. Luckily, beech makes decent firewood.
I had an hour to spare, so I continued cutting some of the storm-damaged birch trees that I attacked on my last visit to Bliss Hill. I find real satisfaction in picking a tree to favor and then carefully releasing it from the competition of its neighbors. I can't wait to see a quarter acre or so of straight, healthy trees all spaced out and growing free.
Next on the agenda: laying out a grid of permanent reference points to use for periodic timber inventory so I can develop a rational management plan and monitor progress. I also want to start laying out a walking path to make it easier and more enjoyable to move around.