Heartwood Forest Farm hasn't always looked like this. When we bought the property this area was an old, 40-50 year old, dead and dying, Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris planting. It was planted by the original owner for Christmas trees, which are not a popular species anymore, so they grew and grew and grew. Many died and were toppled over others, we couldn't even walk through it. Walking up the driveway was a very dark, dismal experience. You would have never known it was the same as the Maple/Beech forest that spread across the rest of the land. After much consultation with the Conservation District, a local forester, and plant biologists, we knew that they needed to be removed. We found a local company to cut all of the trees. They sold them to the local biomass company, and that afforded us enough to hire our neighbor to remove the stumps. This doesn't sound very friendly, but if you would have seen them, you too would have agreed that something should be done. A huge fire hazard. I was told that if someone tossed a cigarette out their window they could go up just like that. I didn't want to be responsible for NW Michigan's largest forest fire knowing we could have prevented it. I also learned about how these pines are now considered an invasive species. Once it was all over, it felt very destructive. The soil pH was about 5.0 on 2.5 acres. We could see what looked similar to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, better known as Kalkaska soil which is sand left by the glaciers that covered Michigan. It was hot and dry, and there were no living plants. This was about 8 years before this picture was taken. It has been a beautiful thing watching it come back to life.
I try to imagine the land before people settled here. Cedar is known for being an area where there were many Polish settlers. The town is known for the Polka Festival. I am a blend of English, German, and Irish but find myself estranged from any of my ancestors. What I try to think about is the indigenous people of the area. The Anishinaabe people. Here in Leelanau County, you will find the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The land here is wooded and rolling, and as I mentioned, a Beech/Maple forest. I imagine an untouched land that was used for hunting and maple syrup. Full of wildlife and medicine plants you would typically find in this type of forest. Hunters and gatherers would visit from all around to the area where the legends of the sleeping bear were told through stories over the generations. I honor, respect, and appreciate all of those who came to this land before me. I don't think of myself as an "owner" of this land, more of a caretaker. I have always been taught to leave things better than when you found them. Well I don't really think that I can leave any land better than when it was undisturbed like many years before my time, but I will do my best to tend this land. Community, Preservation, and Regeneration are three of our core values. If you come by, lets talk about them.