The end of the year’s growing season prompts us to give a short report on the Kolb forest. The greater than normal precipitation in the last several years (68.15″ in 2011, 47.8 in 2012, 61.8 in 2013, 43.4 so far this year) has produced strong plant growth, and we now have a lot of trees with a dbh of 36″ or greater. On the other hand, the wildlife seems to be diminished, probably due to the severely reduced mast crop last year. The roadways in the county were littered with dead squirrels, apparently migrating out of their normal habitats. This year we haven’t seen a squirrel in months. The irony is that this has been a strong fruiting year, with acorns, nuts, berries, and fruits in abundance, which are not being eaten.

On the invasives front, Jean notes that if the economy were as robust as our stilt grass, growth would be phenomenal and new startups would abound. Stilt grass tried to invest this year’s heavy rain in extra seed production, but by putting in two or three hours nearly every day this summer, we were able to find and thwart patches (some large) on most of 113 acres. Starting at the mountain top, we sprayed and pulled our way down the slopes and hollows—taking out wineberry, bittersweet, and other invasives as we went—but by the time we got to the lowest part of the property, stilt grass had begun to make seeds. Spraying is no use at that point, so we’ve been pulling big plants and piling them (see photo). But we won’t be able to attack all of them before the seeds begin to eject. I think, however, we’ve stopped about 85% of next year’s stilt grass plants; some seeds, of course, wait a year or two before germinating. (You need to check each patch at least twice to get new plants or ones you missed.) It’s been a ton of work. The worst non-native invasive plants on our property are Japanese stilt grass, garlic mustard, beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens), wineberry, Oriental bittersweet, mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata), Asiatic hawkweed (Youngia japonica), long-bristled smartweed (Persicaria longiseta), and multi-flora rose.

On the positive side, we can report that we now have four major trails, giving us convenient access to different parts of the forest: the Ridge Top Trail to the summit of Boaz Mountain on the south; inside that, the shorter Two Bridges (loop) Trail, which we used at the outing last fall; the Creek Trail along the northern boundary to the west; and a new Sunrise Trail which starts near the mail box and runs up the eastern side to connect to the summit. These trails total about 3½ miles, and there are additional connectors and crossovers. And we just finished another new bridge, our fifth, which fords the stream where the upper two branches come together.