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From Woods to Farm Pasture

Updated on March 22, 2021

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
  • 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

Trees were cut to create a pasture.
Trees were cut to create a pasture. | Source

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.

The hillsides of Vermont during Fall Foliage

The trees are now growing back on the hillsides of Vermont.
The trees are now growing back on the hillsides of Vermont. | Source

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.

Sunshine between the Trees

Maple Tree at Royalton Bed and Breakfast
Maple Tree at Royalton Bed and Breakfast | Source

Making Coal

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.

Stone Walls delinated the Boundries

Stone Walls built by Garner Rix
Stone Walls built by Garner Rix

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.

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.

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.

Come Watch the Birds at Royalton Bed and Breakfast

Bluebird House
Bluebird House | Source

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