Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Forestation and Paying Attention

Looking closely at the top left hand corner of this photo, you'll see a line on the hillside behind the transformer on the telephone pole that roughly runs parallel to the ridge top. You can see other lines on the hillside if you look closely. What are these lines? You might think they are fallen trees. They are not. The lines are old stone fences.

These fences can only be seen a few days out of the year. When leaves are on the trees, the nothing below the tree canopy is visible. On sunny days, the shadows of the trees obscure the fence lines.

I see this view nearly every day and decided to investigate the lines which is how I came to know they are old stone fences.

Here's something else I discovered.

A ruin of a house with a stone chimney. This stands no more than 200 yards from where I've lived the past 4 years but I just found it a month ago. The trees and undergrowth obscure a view of it from the road although it's less than 100 feet off the side.

What's the significance of this besides evidence of homes and farms abandon, forgotten and grown over? Forestation. Because of improvements in farming, and other factors, we have more forest now than we did in 1920 despite nearly tripling our population. Few if any of the trees on this hillside are more than 50 years old, no old growth forest. Sometime early in the 20th century, this hillside was likely clear of trees.

When I see things like this I wonder how much people actually pay attention to the world around them. Or, do they simply accept what is spoon fed them in books, newspapers and on TV?

When my oldest son was in the first grade, I helped him do a homework assignment in which he had to match animals to their habitat. We matched the rabbit to the field. The teacher graded that incorrect.

But, but as any rabbit hunter like me knows, rabbits live in fields or on the edge of fields. I went to the library, found a book that indeed verified my experience, photo copied the page and showed it to the teacher. She lamely explained the workbook gave the answer as the forest.

So, if some book publisher in New York, who's may never have trodden a field with a shotgun listening to the beagles bay as they chase a rabbit, says rabbits live in forests, they live in forests. I'm sure you may find a rabbit or two in the forest but in all the years I've hiked, camped, hunted, fished and loitered in the outdoors, I've never seen one except in a field or a few yards from the edge of a field.

I just wonder how much people actually pay attention to their own experiences rather than what they are told.

If you go tromping around the woods enough, you can find almost anything in the woods. I love the Southern Gothic appeal of the stone walls, chimneys and houses that tell you where things used to be. You can find old stone dams and millhouses on creeks all over North Georgia.

I used to work in the UGA map library, and there were collections of overhead photographs taken for surveying purposes going all the way back to the 1930's. If you look around the cities, you can see the farmland supplanted by suburbs. If you look at the rural areas, you see farmland overgrown with trees.

The acres I lived on in Oconee County was terraced for farming, but it was nearly impossible to tell as you walked through stands of newly grown pine.
I'm glad to know someone else goes tramping off into the woods.
I used to be able to more easily. Now I have to use a boat.
On the bayou.
You can find all kinds of things out in the woods, that you never saw before.

And hey, on the rabbits? Dumbass, IT IS IN THE BOOK, see? and obviously they know more than YOU do, don't they?

Been through similar crap with teachers growing up, both from blindly following the book even when they knew something wasn't right, and from being pissed when you brought up new information they didn't know about; after all I'm not a certified TEACHER, so what I find out/point out didn't count...
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