Bark-Scape

April 6, 2018

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Views of landscapes are so seductive, it can be tempting to ignore what is happening up-close, such as beneath the bark of trees.

We all know the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is invading Midwestern forests. It is a small green bug that made its way to the Great Lakes from China in pallets made of ash, about 20 years ago. Once released into this ecosystem, the green bug has enjoyed free-rein, as no natural predators exist to arrest its invasion. It burrows into the bark of ash trees, and lays eggs in the cambium of the tree. The cambium is the layer just beneath the bark, through which nutrients and water move to feed the whole. The eggs find ready nourishment in that location, intercepting nutrients, and thus starving the tree. The tree then dies, the bark is shed, and a great naked corpse stands, waiting to fall when the wind will take it. 

We have tried not to acknowledge this devastation, creeping into our forest over the past five years, but the obvious is now upon us. Many dead ash trees now border our pastures, so in a preemptive move to intercept their falling into pastures, we are harvesting them. As you can see from the pile of logs below, the wood is already "checked" or split and dried-out. Green logs are not checked like that. 

We are not harvesting ash in the 220 acres of our wetland conservation easement. Those trees will return to the soil, and a few resistant ones will hopefully survive, to create seed-stock for a promising future.

One in five trees in Midwestern forests are ash, and the EAB will apparently kill 99% of them. So, this represents significant loss to the ecosystem, not unlike the loss of Dutch Elms and Chestnuts experienced in the past 80 years. The ecosystem will eventually stabilize and arrest this predator, but probably not in our lifetimes. As forests lose diversity, they become more vulnerable to threats of disease and weather. This is depressing news, and in order not to be overwhelmed by it, we have to take heart in the resilience of nature to persevere and adapt. 



Good food is a great tonic for difficult realities, so we share this newsflash from a recent Easter grill. This boneless leg-of-lamb below was marinated overnight, unfolded into the butterfly position, and then grilled to an average temperature of 130 degrees. Boneless legs are uneven in thickness, which affords some parts to be more or less cooked than others, typically pleasing a crowd. But a good portion should always be pink, as demonstrated. It is such a tender and delicious meat, when cooked rare. Doesn't this look great? 

We experienced internal confusion of message last week, and the fishing trip is apparently next weekend, not this. So, Beth & Bob will be at the Hyde Park Market this Sunday, the 8th. Susan and I look forward to following suit on the 15th.

As the forest works through its pain, may we revel in excellent grassfed food pastures offer.

Drausin & Susan
 

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