I went back to Big Stone Gap today to help Kirsty get logs for her mushrooms. Usually she scopes out commercial logging jobs and tries to get branches and tree top wood, since the size of wood used in Shitake Mushroom farming is just smaller than what the loggers can use.
Today, however, we arrived at a man's property which had been "High Graded." High grading is when a logger takes only the biggest and the best trees and leaves a stand of small, crooked trees behind. Its a problem common not just in forestry, but in fisheries and hunting as well. My dad, an oyster farmer, explains it best:
"Imagine a country in which every year, we took the tallest, strongest, smartest men and sent them off to die at war. After even just a few years, the men left behind would be a bunch of short, fat, dumb guys."This problem happens in forests when we take the most valuable trees, in fisheries when we take the biggest fish, and in hunting when we shoot the strong buck with the head full of horns. The problem is that evolution is working against us in this case: by removing the individuals we want from a population, we are selecting for those traits we don't want. Shoot the biggest buck, and the deer get smaller and weaker each year. Fish the biggest fish, and you end up with a bunch of guppies. Take the biggest trees, and the forest responds by providing less and less growth with each cut.
The man whose property we were at was right mad about the way the logger had behaved. He had been promised a clear cut, a hillside where he could raise a few cows or sheep. I'm torn as to whether this would be better or worse, but looking at the devastation around us makes me lean towards better. When Kirsty asked him if she could cut down a few of the smaller trees, he was happy to let us do so. I asked Kirsty to explain how she chooses her mushroom logs:
The day started out just great, then took a turn for the worse when I backed Kirsty's truck into a tree, with the tailgate down and the window to the bed cover open. The tree made a rather large dent in both, and I walked over to Kirsty (who was sawing and oblivious) to explain. What happened next shocked and amazed me. Had our roles been reversed, I would have been really pissed off, probably yelled for a bit, and demanded that I be paid for the damage.
Kirsty did none of these things.
She simply said "Andon, Andon, Andon," walked over to asses the damage, and within 5 minutes was acting like nothing had happened. She even tried to stop me from paying! Needless to say, I was humbled by her calm, and I hope I can emulate it the next time someone wrongs me in a similar way.