Friday, October 21, 2016

October News: Making Snags for Wildlife, and a BIG announcement!

News from the Woods
a monthly digest of resources, events, and people in forestry & agroforestry

October 2016

Welcome to the October news from Wellspring Forest Farm and School. Each month, we share useful information about methods for improving forest health and increasing productivity and diversity, along with the happenings of our farm and educational programs.

This month, we have BIG news. Steve is writing another book – this time on the agroforestry practice of Silvopasture, which combines trees, livestock, and pasture. Read more below, and stay tuned for a series of free articles and webinars on various aspects of farm design and management considerations.

For the trees,
Steve & Elizabeth

In the Woods

On Working the Woods for Ourselves, and Wildlife

As the busy season winds down, we find ourselves thinking ahead to the winter, which we have found is the best time to do cutting and clearing in the woods, for a few reasons:

1. It’s best for forest health. As the ground freezes, it protects itself from damage that machinery, foot traffic, and fallen trees can do to the soil and vegetation in the woods. Colder temperatures mean more solid ground and less mud, and sensitive forest plants are dormant and protected underground

2. It keeps us active and warm. When running a chainsaw, safety gear is a must. I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve experienced in the woods. All that gear is heavy – and hot, if cutting in the warmer months. In winter it’s a welcome layer of protection, and nothing beats doing woods work and breaking a sweat, even on a subzero day.

3. Dormant trees are safer to cut. During the growing season, trees are much more “bendy” and easier to hang up on one another. Thick, leafy vegetation also obscures branches which if dead pose a safety hazard and if alive are easy to get caught on another tree. In winter, trees are more stiff, and one can more easily see the whole tree and calculate risk when felling.

As mentioned last month, Fall is a great time to assess and mark trees in your woodlot, while winter is the best time to cut and move them. Over the next month, make some time to walk you woods and observe which trees appear to be healthiest, and which are less so. Bring a roll of flagging tape to make trees that you can conceive cutting.

Selecting trees takes keen observation and decision making skills. It isn’t simple. One of the errors we see landowners and farmers do again and again are to look around their woods and cut standing dead trees for firewood.

This is a BAD IDEA for two reasons; one is that the firewood value is lessened, as fungi and other microbes are decomposing and consuming the lignin in the wood, and the other is that these trees, especially if over 10” in diameter, serve a much more valuble widlife function. They are apartment complexes for woodpeckers, rodents, and insects, which spread seedand fungi spores, fertilize, and support the overall health of the forest.

We call standing deadwood a “snag.” Snags offer a home and food source for many of the forest critters who are critical to enhancing forest health. It is recommended that one maintains 5 – 10 good snags per acre in their woods. Of course, it is wise to remove snags if they are in a place that could cause damage to people or equipment, such as along roads or trails.


If you don’t have an abundance of snags, you can create them by girdling trees. This simple practice requires just a hand saw, axe and some time in the woods, and can greatly improve biodiversity in your woodlot. Simply select a tree you want to girdle and cut two rings around the circumference 1 – 2” deep in two rings about 4” apart. With the axe, remove the outer and inner back between the two lines you cut, to ensure the tree dies slowly over time. 

Trees that are softer and that decay easier make the best ones for widlife, as woodpeckers and insects and easily get into the wood. Some species to favor include basswood, poplar, pines, and red maples among others. Girdled trees can take anywhere from a few years to a few decades to fall over.

On the Farm


SILVOPASTURE: Integrating Trees, Forage, and Animals in a Farm Ecosystem

by Steve Gabriel

with guest contributors Eric Toensmeier, Connor Stedman, and more

A new book is in the works by ecologist, author, and farmer Steve Gabriel. Over the past 14 years, Steve has passionately pursued work that re-connects people to the forested landscape and supports them to grow their skills in forest and farm stewardship. He currently works as Agroforestry Extension Specialist for the Cornell Small Farms Program and co-operates Wellspring Forest Farm and School in the Finger Lakes region of New York with his wife Elizabeth. 

Steve is also co-author of Farming the Woods, a book which explores the cultivation of mushrooms, fruits, nuts, and more, all within the canopy of an existing forest. The book has been called "exceptionally useful" and "highly recommended" as a resource for temperature agroforestry.



Upcoming Events

Steve is again teaching an online course in Woodland Mushroom Cultivation through the Cornell Small Farm Program, running November 8 – December 13, with Webinars on Tuesday evenings from 6 – 7:30pm EST.

Learn more at:

He will also co-teach an online course in Oyster Production in Barns, High Tunnels, and Greenhouses with Willie Crosby from Fungi Ally in MA, March 1 – April 5 2017:

Quote of the Month:

“Anyone who has a garden, park or orchard tree has an opportunity to ensure that it offers protection, brings beauty and bears fruit for future generations. In short, every one of us should aspire to be a forester.”

― Gabriel Hemery

News from the Woods” is brought to you by:

Wellspring Forest Farm & School
leaving forests in our footsteps

Steve & Elizabeth Gabriel
Mecklenburg, NY

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Purchase our Pastured Lamb and Support Local Food and Regenerative Farming


Wellspring Forest Farm & School, in Mecklenburg, NY is selling pastured lamb & mutton, by the half or whole. Your purchase supports regenerative, local farming and provides you and your family with healthy meat for the table.

We are taking orders now on first come, first serve basis. Meat will be ready and available for pick-up at the end of October and again in early December. 

Our Katahdin sheep produce flavorful and tender meat and live an idyllic life, grazing always on pasture and in the woods.  We rotationally graze, moving the flock from paddock to paddock every few days. Regularly moving the sheep builds soil, sequesters carbon, and promotes native vegetation, while also supporting healthy and strong animals. 

Our farm philosophy is not to raise sheep just for meat, but rather to raise happy animals that get to live life as their biology desires, supporting the rebuilding of a healthy farm landscape. The meat we sell allows us to manage this system, and is a byproduct of good farming practices.


Lamb: $6.75/lb hanging weight, which averages around 40 - 50 lbs per lamb. Half a lamb will cost about of $135 - $170 and a whole $270 - $350.

Mutton: $6.00/lb handing weight, which averages 50 – 60 lbs per ewe. The meat is still tender and richer in flavor. Half a lamb will cost about of $150 - $180 and a whole $300 - $360.

With lamb, you can choose your cuts with your order. We send you a cut sheet to fill out once we have your deposit and your order is confirmed. If you want a half lamb and are particular about your cuts, we suggest finding a friend to purchase with so you can order a whole together, choose cuts and split it between yourselves – with most cuts, there are two of each.  Otherwise, we select typical cut choices or divvy up half-orders for each order. 

With mutton, our personal preference is to have it mostly processed into ground or cubes for stews, burgers and similar, but happy to follow any requests.  Your order includes a variety of cuts for the freezer, excellent for cooking roasts or stews. We provide recipes and ideas for preparing the various cuts with your order.

ORDERING: Email or call Elizabeth at 607.793.3383 

Please tell us: 
phone & email
half or whole order
lamb or mutton
pick-up location (Ithaca or on farm, in Mecklenburg).  
preferred date (late OCT or early DEC)

 Meat will be delivered packaged and frozen.

Once we have your order, we’ll ask you to mail a $75 deposit.  When ordering, you can request a smaller or larger lamb and we will do our best to meet requests.

Wellspring Forest Farm & School, owned by Steve and Elizabeth Gabriel, is a regenerative farm enterprise that seeks to improve the health of the land while producing food and medicine. In addition to lamb, we produce mushrooms, maple syrup, duck eggs, and elderberry extract. We teach people about forest stewardship and cultivation of forest products through educational hikes, workshops, and apprentice programs.

Learn more about our work at


Wanting to Start or Expand a flock of your own?
Wellspring Forest Farm & School, in Mecklenburg, NY has a limited number of live ewes and lambs for sale, perfect for starting or adding to a homestead or farm flock.

Our Katahdin flock is one-four years old and only has grazed on pasture and tree fodder. They live on pasture year round, eating locally grown hay when pasture is covered by snow. We have kept good records and monitored sheep health, selecting lines for parasite resistance, good mothering, body conditioning and temperament. The Katahdin breed, a hair sheep, known for being calm, hardy, and resistant to common sheep diseases. Read more about the breed:

We sell live lambs June – December and ewes anytime. We breed in November and also can sell you pregnant ewes in December, for spring lambing.

If interested, email mail or call Steve at 607.342.2825 with any questions and to come meet the flock.