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The Leopold family and foundation agreed to a careful thinning but, in the vein of their father's land ethic, sought to find good use for the thinnings.

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A design team headed by Kubala Washatko Architects developed plans for a 13, square-foot, three-building complex that would use as much of the wood from the pines as possible and incorporate innovative techniques rarely tried before. In addition, the center was designed as a model for energy efficiency with a goal of producing 10 percent more energy than the buildings consumedv. All told, the foundation's ecologist Steve Swenson marked 1, trees for harvest, including red and white pines from the Leopold family stands and 50 trees of various other species that would be put to structural and non-structural uses.


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Harvest began December 27, , and after some stops and starts due to variable weather, was concluded in February Fike used a low-impact harvester-processor that both held and selectively cut trees from the stand without damaging the remaining trees. The processor used large arm-like clamps to grasp a tree, then a chainsaw swung out from its housing at the bottom and cut the tree at the base.

The arm then swiveled with the tree in its grasp and dropped the massive trunk in the desired direction. Once the pine was on the ground, large rollers slid the tree along and a chainsaw automatically limbed and cut the logs to a desired length. The harvester moved on wider, tank-like tracks that greatly reduced soil disturbance in the forest.

Fike Forest Products used a timber harvester to hold, cut, limb and gently drop trees, causing minimal soil compaction and disturbance.

A Sand County Almanac | Documents

Foundation staff learned new respect for professional loggers. Huffaker recalls that when weather made it difficult for Fike to get his equipment into the woods, staff tried to do some of the cutting by hand-felling and using a light tractor. Eleven truckloads of these smaller diameter logs, or cords, were shipped an hour's drive to Samsel Limited, a family-owned sawmill near Hancock.

Samsel handled milling, kiln drying and finishing of more than 70, board feet of wood, including pine paneling, red maple ceiling decking and oak siding. About 70 skinny and tall red pine logs, ranging in diameter from six to eight inches, also became an integral part of the center's structure. Too small to be milled into structural beams, such logs are usually considered "substandard" for most construction and are more typically ground for pulpwood or other uses. In this project, designers employed an innovative technique — leaving the logs in the round — for use as trusses, purlins and rafters.

By keeping the logs in the round the strongest part of the wood, the sapwood, remains intact. The round-log trusses are so strong they can span the roof of a foot deep building without any internal support columns. The center's three-season outdoor classroom, made entirely of round logs, is the best example of this technique. In keeping with the other low-impact techniques used in construction, staff decided to "peel" or remove the bark from each log by hand. More than volunteers were recruited over a period of several weeks and spent about hours peeling the logs.

A Sand County Almanac

The peelers straddle the logs and pull the knives toward themselves, peeling and turning the logs as they move down the trunk. Their names are engraved in a plaque made from one of the Leopold pines and displayed at the center. Volunteers used draw knives to hand peel logs for the project. The round logs used for trusses were graded for quality and structural soundness by Mac Garcia of Expedition Log Homes.

Once graded, truss construction commenced. Each truss was formed from a bottom chord parallel to the ground, a top chord forming the angled roofline of the building, and shorter web pieces in between.

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The webs were attached to the chords at all weight-bearing surfaces with foot-long steel screws. Finally, the tops of the pines that were deemed too small for building materials were ground and made into paper used to print a commemorative edition of A Sand County Almanac. Researchers from the Forest Product Laboratory in Madison and students from UW-Stevens Point's Paper Science Laboratory collaborated to make paper from the pounds of pine pulp, strengthened by pulp from other softwoods and hardwoods.

Self-guided tour materials are available 10 a. For hours, tour times and contacts, visit The Leopold Center. In addition to touring the center, farm and "Shack", the public is welcome to sign up for courses scheduled throughout the year at the center, including those that are part of the Woodland School, which offers practical workshops to guide landowners and public land managers in identifying the biotic community, understanding threats to their land and developing stewardship skills.

The coon-hunter will not dislike basswood, and I know of quail hunters who bear no grudge against ragweed, despite their annual bout with hayfever.


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  • Our biases are indeed a sensitive index to our affections, our tastes, our loyalties, our generosities, and our manner of wasting weekends. This crop of wisdom never fails, but it is not always harvested. I here record some of the many lessons I have learned in my own woods.


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    • Because a fallen and diseased tree on his property became a safe haven against coon hunters. The tree, half tipped over by a storm, offers an impregnable fortress for coondom. Oaks wind-thrown by summer storms become a harbor for grouse during winter snows, keeping them safe from wind, owls, foxes, and hunters.

      The diseased oaks also provide oak galls, a favorite grouse food. Wild bees fill his hollowed oaks with honeycomb. Rabbits, he says, spurn red dogwood until it is attacked by oyster-shell scale. Pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, wood ducks, and squirrels all take advantage of diseases trees.

      The flash of his gold and blue plumage amid the dank decay of the June woods is in itself proof that dead trees are transmuted into living animals, and vice versa. When you doubt the wisdom of this arrangement, take a look at the prothonotary. It is October in Wisconsin and Aldo Leopold turns to the subject of the fall hunt.

      I have to admit that I have only been hunting once in my life and that was because I was doing a story for a daily newspaper on a hunting club. They tried to fool this Girl Scout into thinking that golden raisins were deer scat, but I knew better. And I never told them that I was secretly pleased that no deer died by our hands that weekend.

      The creekside alders have shed their leaves, exposing here and there an eyeful of holly. Brambles are aglow, lighting your footsteps grouseward. Up twitters a woodcock, batlike, his salmon breast soaked in October sun. Thus goes the hunt. It is strange that of all the multitude of creatures who must rise in the morning at some time, only these few should have discovered the most pleasant and least useful time for doing it.

      Orion [the constellation], the most widely traveled, says literally nothing.

      A Sand County Almanac Lesson Plans

      The coffee pot, from its first soft gurgle, underclaims the virtues of what simmers within. The goose on the bar, rising briefly to a point of order in some inaudible anserine debate, lets fall no hint that he speaks with the authority of all the far hills and the sea. I feel a deep security in this single-mindedness of freight trains. This will take you over ground where the birds ought to be.

      This will likely take you where the birds actually are. The lanterns are blackberry leaves, red in October sun. I do not understand how a mere bush can thus be infallibly informed about the Wisconsin statutes, nor have I ever gone back the next day to find out.

      A Brief Chronology

      For the ensuing eleven months the lanterns glow only in recollection. I sometimes think that the other months were constituted mainly as a fitting interlude between Octobers, and I suspect that dogs, and perhaps grouse, share the same view. After a brief minute or two, the music closes as suddenly as it began. The disappointment I feel on these mornings of silence perhaps shows that things hoped for have a higher value than things assured.

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      This small but powerful work is considered one of the most respected conservation books of all time. As long as humans consider themselves as somehow apart from, and independent of, the natural world and its soils, waters, flora, and fauna there is little hope of conserving what remains of our precious natural world. As their understanding of the ecology of this amazing property grows, we hope that the beginnings of a love and respect for wetlands, prairies, and forests will be fostered.

      In the end, this is what a land ethic is all about.