The South-facing side windows of our house look out over our garden and the forest beyond. This morning I sipped my coffee and chuckled as I noticed a recently-chipped path winding off and disappearing into the trees. In my mind, I heard strains of Follow the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz, only the word "road" became "chip."
One of my favorite activities during the non-winter months is to build trails through our 27 acres of forested land. The way I figure it, if we are going to own this much property, we might as well be able to access it! For my exercise routine each morning, you can find me out on a trail somewhere with loppers, bow saw, and a garden wagon, clearing back the encroaching forest. Most of the material that I clear out gets chipped and spread along the trail surface. This practice gives the nutrients back to the forest and makes for a pretty trail.
I've learned that the forest quickly reclaims any trail that is not regularly used. In about 3 to 5 years, you can hardly tell a trail ever existed. I used to feel somewhat guilty about removing understory trees, but I've mostly gotten over that. I now know that my trails are frequently used by the deer and moose and that the areas formerly covered with useless "dog hair" undergrowth turn into huckleberry patches and other shrubs that please the forest critters. Meanwhile, the bigger trees that are left behind become stronger and healthier.
Our little piece of the Idaho forest is one of the things for which I'm very thankful. The ability to live here in the middle of nowhere and being able to have the time to enjoy it are some of the things that make the self-employed lifestyle a fabulous thing.