Edge habitat

Anne Kilmer viceroy at anu.ie
Mon Jun 21 09:36:04 EDT 1999

Chris Raper wrote:
> I don't really see a problem with people being on the land and even
> farming a portion of it. It is easy to forget that most of the
> habitats we treasure today - dry grassland, hay meadows, hedges,
> coppiced woodland etc are all man-made. If we just left the
> countryside it would revert back to wildwood in a remarkably short
> period of time and, although wildwood is very valuable, it wouldn't be
> very good for all those species that have adapted to living in the
> other habitats. :-)
> Hope that helps
> Chris R.

Truer than you might think. For the last 10,000 years that we know of,
the land has been managed to favor some sorts of wildlife ... in what is
now the United States as well as on the island I'm currently enjoying
... and, I think, most other places. 
The Native Americans, for instance, in the Northeast, managed woodlands
by burning the underbrush, thus providing fresh browse for deer, and a
more agreeable access to them. You will find very little undisturbed
land on this planet, except those bits where Nature has made such a mess
that we can't possibly make it any worse.
So, when you set forth to manage a parcel of land, rather than
considering what God was doing when we so rudely interrupted Him, you
need to decide what desirable creatures you might enjoy seeing there,
compatible with available or procurable plants etc. 
And you don't forget that Nature is Change and that last week's
waterfall is tomorrow's avalanche. 
Yes, yes, I know, we mended Niagara Falls with a lot of very strong
concrete,  but on a global scale this is an impractical approach.
If you're creating a period piece, a dairy farm is as good as anything.
Hedgerows and pasture provide good habitat, you want a woodlot where
trees achieve respectable size, and of course your techniques are
Vegetable garden and herb garden provide great habitat for leps, you'll
want berry bushes and if there's a pond, you can play with that. 
This will provide pleasant employment for some lucky family or families,
and an income for the project. 
If, on the other hand, you just let the wilderness take over, you will
be providing habitat for exotic plants and wildlife, or creating a
management nightmare. 
So your other good choice is thoughtfully replanting with native trees,
shrubs and herbs to create a landscape such as none of us has ever seen.
Well, few of us. 
I've seen a bit of "virgin forest" in Joyce Kilmer National Forest, in
North Carolina. But even there, paths have been prepared and roads put
through, and it is nothing like the wildwood we imagine.   
The race of man comes in many flavors, each with its own approach to
land management. Some of these have been glamourized, but never mind
I don't know that the style of dairy farming in 1938 is a particularly
fine model to follow. I think y'all need to play with the idea some more
and decide what you want the place to look like, what animals you hope
to attract and display, who your audience is going to be ... might be a
nice opportunity to invent a Millennial subsistance farm, producing
food, fuel and fabric on the premises, while welcoming wildlife. We're
moving into a new century; let's do something new, you say grandly,
hoping they won't notice the resemblance of this plan to the hippie
farmss of the 60s and 70s.
I'm watching "my" sheep soften the edges of this place as I write,
nibbling the new growth on the newly-clipped hedges, trampling trails
through the shrubbery. 
Small fields, hedgerows, streams and bogland are all important parts of
this approach. I'd go easy on the cows. 
Good luck with it.
Anne Kilmer

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