So, I tried to stay focused on the desk work today, but it was nice outside, not raining, and I finally gave it up and went out. Chopped some firewood, let the sheep out to play and then decided to go for a walk. I took a rifle and the dog, and set out to exercise my god-given rights as an American to go to my local clearcut and shoot at stuff. Well, that wasn’t really the purpose of the hike, or taking the rifle. I already had the rifle with me, because the coyote predation on my sheep has been so bad that I can’t let them out of their night pasture without first walking the perimeter with a firearm, doing some target practice and making a lot of noise so that the coyotes won’t want to come near. By the time I was done with that, I was at the top of the pasture at the forest gate with an unused clip of ammunition on my pocket, so I just kept on going up the hill.

sheep grazing

There is a logging road that cuts through a corner of my land, and heads east to dead end in a year-old clearcut about half a mile away. When they first came in that winter and started extending the road, I was in the middle of chanterelle picking season, and so I decided that I should go clean out the chanterelles up there before the equipment showed up and started wreaking havoc as they do. The unit that they cut is probably about 100 acres or so, and it was all plantation hemlock, about 50 years old. I spent half the day wandering around in that forest and didn’t find anything growing under that dark, crowded thicket. There were hardly any ferns even, and no mushrooms. I had just about given up, when I came out the other side of the unit and into naturally generated alder and cedar forest along the edge of a little canyon. And there were the chanterelles. They wanted nothing to do with that plantation hemlock, and instead were growing in abundance right along the unit boundary.

It took a very small number of men and machines a very short time to lay that forest down. The log truck traffic was non-stop, as was the litter the truck drivers dumped on my land while they were pulled off on one of my side roads waiting for the outgoing trucks to pass. I was very glad when it was over. Now it is replanted to fir, which is already showing fast growth.


I hate what clearcutting does to the land and the water quality and I think monoculture makes a lousy substitute for a real forest. But for now, anyway, that is the way things are done, at least in my rural corner of SW Washington state. I have to find a way to live with this around me without being angry and sad all the time. So I take my walks and I look for the beauty where I can find it. The view of my valley from this spot is beautiful and I can look over the ridgetop and into the next valley from here as well. There were a number of birds including a couple of unidentified hawks in the distance as I came up into the opening. The elk and deer come through here too, eating the brush that is starting to grow up. There are a couple of huge maple trees at the edge of this cut that for some reason were left standing. Edges are nice.

me with rifle

The rifle I took with me today is a surplus Russian SKS carbine, made in 1951. It was cheap to buy 15 years ago or so when I bought it “new”, about $140 if I remember correctly. And it is sturdy and durable, cheap to shoot and pretty accurate for what it is. I picked up one of the ubiquitous beer cans and set it up next to a stump and then walked away until I could barely make it out, probably about 150 yards or so. I took six shots at it, and while none of them hit, they all were within a few inches, not bad for iron sights and not much practice. I was always told by shooting buddies many, many years ago that you should never expend all of your ammunition when shooting out on the back roads. “You never know what kind of trouble you might run into on the way out to the truck,” they would say. Seems a mite paranoid to me, but here I am, way out in back by myself, in bear and cougar territory, and having a way to make very loud noises might come in handy, so I left a few rounds in the magazine when I was done.


Speaking of beer cans, they are everywhere in a clearcut. Recycling is just not part of the program here. All the way out the road, there was at least one beer can every fifty feet or so, and there were probably a half dozen of these beer cans stuck on branches and shrubs. I guess the rednecks want to be sure everyone knows that they were there. Trust me, guys, we know.

beer can

The dog just goes crazy on these walks. For a while I stopped taking him because he would get off on some tangent and just disappear, showing up at the house hours later, all out of breath and covered with mud. Obviously great fun for him, but since I hate livestock chasing dogs, I don’t want mine to be one too. But today I had pity on him and took him along, and he mostly stayed within sight. Here he is, actually waiting at the gate, instead of going around. How well-behaved!

forest gate

Near the forest gate, at the edge of the pasture, is an old vine maple tree that is just covered in the lichen known as usnea longissima to the binomial Latin nomenclature types. People sometimes call it “old man’s beard” or “spanish moss” but it is not a moss. It is used medicinally as an anti-bacterial among other things.

usnea longissima

So there you have it, detailed instructions on how to get out of doing office work for a few hours! Helps if you have access to a dog, a rifle, a logging road and a clearcut full of beer cans, but I’m sure everyone can find their own appropriate substitutes nearby.