When we were looking at buying this land we did what most modern house-hunters do: we looked at it on Google Earth. We knew that the land was a 1:4 rectangle, oriented North-South, and we knew where the house was within that rectangle. The satellite image was taken at a time of year when all the trees were leafy, so there was no real detail to be had. But we could clearly see the western border of the property: the tree heights on that side were significantly higher than those on our property, forming a visible demarcation on the satellite photo. This suggested to us that our property had been cleared at some point in time, and later than any tree harvesting that had occurred on the land next door. We were also able to visualize the eastern border fairly well because the next-door neighbours had the same-shaped property as us and it was easy to visualize the halfway mark between our western border and their eastern one.
As clear as this image was to us, getting down on the ground presented us with a completely different perspective. And one that did not easily lend itself to figuring out where the boundaries were. The place had not been surveyed in a long time and we were only able to find one property marker. We do plan to get the place surveyed before we start putting in fencelines, but that is a fairly expensive process and we’re not ready for that step yet. Meanwhile, we were curious to know exactly what part of the forest that surrounded us was actually on our land.
As I said, there was one property marker we could find, and here is where the confusion began. I thought it was the southeastern corner. Based on that, I would go bushwhacking through the forest to the west of this marker, trying to figure out where the western border was. I had a rough idea, based on the dimensions of the land. And this is what I was walking through:
This photo was taken on the edge of the forest, from a clearing. As you look in you can see the groundcover of green (Salal, mostly). That covers pretty much the entire forest floor. You can also see the closely packed trees, mostly Douglas Fir with the occasional Western Hemlock.
While I love the forest, and got a real tickle out of thinking that I now owned my “very own forest”, I also appreciated that this was going to be difficult to clear. And a part of me felt a bit guilty about tearing down such a lovely forest, even if it was a tiny fraction of what continued west of our property. But we wanted and needed to create some pasture so it would have to go.
Then one day last week I was walking with Husband and we came across the survey marker. This is when he tells me that he thinks it might be the southWESTERN corner, not the southeastern. I took another close look at the Google satellite image when we got home and sure enough, now that I was more familiar with the land around us, the buildings, etc. I could see that he was correct! Well, this changed everything!
So we went out again, this time keeping in an easterly direction, and we found a whole different kind of woods awaited us. Even more exciting, on another trip out a couple days later I found an old fence! It was wire mesh and it was still shiny with no signs of rust. But it had fallen over and been covered almost completely by leaves. I just happened to spot a little patch of wire and when I pulled it up a whole fence started to rise out of the leaves! I was so excited I came home bouncing through the door, and convinced Husband to leave his work and come see. Together we pulled up the whole fence and even found a few fence posts in good condition. Right now we have nothing to hold the wire up with (it looks like the fence was never finished, as we only found a few posts and the wire ended in a coil, as if it had not been completely laid out before someone abandoned it). But we think it is usable, and I understand wire mesh is expensive so that’s a bonus!
Since that time we have managed to forge a decent walking trail through our property and have discovered a completely different type of forest:
First of all, most of the trees are deciduous, with the occasional Douglas Fir and Hemlock, and one or two Western Redcedar. And a great number of the deciduous trees are Bigleaf Maples. These are spectacular trees; their trunks are often covered with moss and their leaves are the size of dinner plates. There is not the dense undergrowth of the conifer forest next door, so it’s much easier to walk through. In this part of the world we don’t get much in the way of autumn leaf colour displays, not like they do back East. And yet we realized that our property was going to put on quite a show come fall.
We were rushing around like kids at Christmas. “Look at the size of that maple! Wow, that’s ours!”. Lots of excited talk about what we would get rid of to showcase the loveliest of the trees. I didn’t feel guilty anymore. Most of the stuff to get rid of would be small trees, many of them already struggling to grow as the canopy was getting fuller. And I wouldn’t feel guilty about felling some of the Douglas Firs – none were as big as the forest next door and the stuff is ubiquitous around here. You could really imagine clearly in your mind what it would all look like when properly cleared and we were both very happy. I came home feeling like we’d made this amazing discovery, and had come away with even more than we thought we were going to get when we bought the place.