Often we experience woodlands that have never been managed containing trees growing so close together that they have little side branching and no understory growth (such as witchhazel, blueberry, or ferns) -these forests are dark and infertile. Stonehouse Hill's 36.5 acre forest -lovingly cared for by the Wirths and the McLanathans before them- is the opposite. In the second half of the 20th century, the McLanathans maintained a tree farm; every decade only the largest trees were removed to make space for light and growth. The "slash" from these trees was spread below and allowed to decompose over the next several years, composting the forest floor and feeding all the newly sprouted cones and acorns where they could bask and grow in the sun rays that made their way into the woodland between the taller trees. Slash also provides shelter for moles and mice that feed the raptor population. Managing the forest at Stonehouse Hill has been a careful and thoughtful process, just the opposite of clear cutting which destroys an ecosystem. Today the forest is fertile and alive, a very special place.
The Wirths continue to tend their forest. They remove the blown-down trees after storms, leaving slash to decompose and invigorate the forest's fertility. They also they create burn piles and nature piles when clearing trails or preparing house sites or views. A landscape architect, Tom sensitively designed the road with the land, curving it around ledges and trees and respecting the existing topography. He has opened views to heritage trees for all to enjoy. Tom and Helena did extensive plantings to repair the scars of road construction. They transplanted 3 - 7 ft seedlings of spruce, pine, and rhododendron with shovels and small carts. This maintenance will continue... for our family loves the land and its vitality.