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From Woods to Farm Pasture
Visit a Farm in Vermont
Have you ever dreamed of staying on a farm in Vermont?
- Green pastures with black and white cows chewing their cuds
- Hens clucking
- Roosters crowing
- Ducks quacking
- Cats purring
- Paths to the waterfall
- Strolling through the woods
- Partridges bursting up beside the path
These are the kinds of things you can find at my B&B in Royalton Vermont. Not only that but this property has a long family history. In fact, it was my great-great-great-great grandfather who first cleared the land and planted the first crops.
Come learn about how Garner Rix cleared the land, make a reservation, and join me on a walk around the farm...
The Woods became Pasture
Methods of Clearing the Old Growth Forest
A couple of summers ago I spent some time with my forester in the woods learning more about my my trees and how my farm has changed over the years. He told me that men, such as my Great Grandfather, Garner Rix, used to girdle the trees of the Old Growth Forest rather than cut them all down in order to clear large tracks of land for fields.
Girding the Trees
The men of the family would use axes to cut through the bark near the bottom of the tree. They made a cut all the way around the tree cutting enough to prevent the sap from going up to the top of the tree. Cutting off the water supply to the tree would, of course, kill the tree.
Old Growth Forest
The space between trees in an old growth forest is much farther apart than trees grow today. A stand of old growth mature trees doesn't allow much sunlight in for sapplings so you find a very open understory. Once the leaves fell off the dead trees there was plenty of sunshine filtering through the branches that pioneers, such as Garner Rix, were able to grow crops such as corn, beans and squash.
Planting corn near the base of the tree helped to pop the roots of the dead tree out of the ground. It takes about 2 years for the trees to die. In the meantime, tree branches begin to fall. There would have been way too many branches for Garner and his family to use for firewood so they burned those branches for coal. The coal could be traded with the local blacksmith for his services.
Pigs Rooted Up Stumps
After a couple of years of growing corn, pigs would be allowed to roam the area. Some pioneers used poles or iron bars to poke holes under the stumps. The pigs would root under the stumps to get to the corn digging up the stumps in the process.
Building Stone Wall Boundaries
In this way the forest was turned into gardens, hayfields, and pastures. Rocks were removed from the fields and placed along the boundaries. These stone walls are still considered the legal property lines.
Clearing the Land
Getting to Know my Land
When I walked the stonewall property lines with my forester, I began to see my land in a different light. It was no longer just woods and fields. I could see Garner Rix girding the trees, chopping down trees, letting the pigs into the area and eventually open meadows with Marino sheep grazing on a summer day.
Much of that pasture has grown up again. That is what happens to a Vermont farm that no longer has animals to crop down the seedlings. The farm tractor that hays the fields can't get as close to the stonewall as a sheep. The trees begin to grow back and the meadow shrinks.
Return of Wildlife
Loggers are now thinning the trees in the woods. I walked the land again today with my forester. It looks open and flatter than it had seemed when trees and leaves hid its contours. My forrester assures me that the woods will grow back. It will follow a progression of thick underbrush, to White Pine and eventually hardwoods. Because of the cutting, there will be a return of wildlife. Songbirds will return in abundance. Deer, foxes, and many other wild animals will return.
Research in Land Clearing Methods from th mid 18th Century
- Articles > Agriculture
Clearing was as much a pragmatic necessity as a cultural ritual, in which settlers established their rightful claim to the land by opening it up to cultivation. [Lesson Clearing the Land]
- Land Clearing in the frontier--Southern and New England Methods--also ashes - Homesteading Today
This excerpt deals with land clearing and touches upon the sale of wood ashes.
Come Visit Vermont
This will be a wonderful time for birders, nature enthusiasts and hikers to come stay at my bed and breakfast. Make your reservations and come explore the forest, clearings and meadows first cleared by Garner Rix.
Reservations for Evelyn's Bed and Breakfast
- Vermont Bed and Breakfast in South Royalton
Real bed for $75. Come stay in our Historic 1840s Vermont Farmhouse surrounded by pastures and hundreds of acres of woods, trails and even a waterfall. The hous...