one day in the woods :: february

deer yard
9:13am. There are deer living in my zoned deer yard. You don’t know how monumental this is! First time in… 14 years?

These pictures are from February 12th. The week before, one of our truckers, who had recently fallen ill, passed out in the kitchen here at work and smacked his head on a metal pole. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. By February 12th, I too was feeling quite ill, and so I chose to believe that if I could not lose consciousness or strike my head against something cold and hard, I would be alright.

One week passes. I have driven to Quebec City for a work symposium. I believe I am getting over my sickness. I squeal with delight at a tray heaped full of croissants and pains au chocolat. I eat one, I have a cup of tea. Shortly after, while settling into the conference, something starts to feel… wrong. I become disastrously ill. I struggle to stay awake. I run to the bathroom and puke out my guts. I return to my seat and slouch so low in my chair I might as well be laying down under the table. I know I must look strange to my neighboring conference-goers, but console myself with the thought that my slouching is making it easier for the people behind me to see the PowerPoint presentation. The need arises to once again puke out my guts. And then it happens. In slow motion I push my way into the hall, and notice that the lights have suddenly become very bright and blinding. I begin making my way down the stairs, and suddenly, a voice is quietly nagging at me, calling out “mademoiselle! mademoiselle! blahblahblahblahselleblah.” I turn and stare at her, the bright lights receding slowly to reveal an ugly dark red carpet all around me. I am clinging to the stair railing, arm upraised, and I am thankfully sitting down – nowhere near a cold metal pole.


Two days later, I sought out treatment for pneumonia. February was a rough one for me, you guys. A lot of time has been spent in bed on the weekends, sipping feebly at hot lemonade and getting teary-eyed with the final season of Dance Academy and the first two seasons of Dawson’s Creek. The tears shed during Dawson’s Creek have mainly been due to how annoying Dawson is. His life interests! His lameness! His unintentionally-insulting laugh! I’ve never watched Dawson’s Creek before.

But finally I am back to full-strength, again rejoicing in the cold and sunny days of late winter in northern Maine. So here are a few photos from my February life in these gorgeous woods.

6:11am. My breakfast, like on most mornings, starts with yogurt. I am like the Olympians today, because I’m eating Chobani brand and therefore am ‘naturally powering.’ I’ve taken a particular liking to the coconut variety. I have a serious misgiving about all flavored Greek yogurt I can get my hands on, though – every variety seems to be stupidly high in sugar content. I don’t need that many grams of sugar to start my mornings, yogurt makers.

8:17am. Paperwork, colorful maps, calculations, and a slice of yeasted figgy cake made out from Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book (figs substituted in by myself).

9:02am.  My patriotic bandana makes an appearance because today it is not a bandana, it is a handkerchief. And it accents my beautiful American harvest operation in the background.

face lunch
11:05am. I realize my lunch looked like a happy monster face, so I sit it on my snowshoe and take a picture of it. Then I eat some cola-flavored energy gummies and feel real energized-like.

11:18am. A patch of surface hoar frost hiding under a log. Hello cutie.

12:39pm. This machine, a forwarder, moves wood that has been cut into specific lengths by a processor from the woods to the roadside. Earlier in the morning, the forwarder broke down at the back of the harvest block, up a really steep hill, far far far far far from the road. The forwarder operator, who is scheduled for hip surgery soon, was needless to say in a bit of a predicament. I was as well, because just hiking up to visit the machine took away all of my limited cola-flavored gummy energy. Luckily within five minutes of my arrival, the machine is back up running.

2:02pm. Softwood from an OSR, or overstory removal, with my snowshoes and snotty bandana for scale. An OSR removes the main canopy of a stand when there is adequate and vigorous young growth in the understory. It’s all about the future for me.

2:11pm. A visual depiction of the OSR in progress. The right half of the picture has been treated, with the dying overstory removed to allow young stems to grow freely. Cedar and some pine in the overstory are left for diversity. The left half of the picture is not yet treated, with the dense understory saplings looking to be released, or allowed to grow freely.

2:15pm. A pine tree with ears!

3:03pm. A beautiful standing dead white pine, or what I like to call a snaggletooth (snag being the proper terminology).

nasty shit
3:41pm. Instead of traipsing back through the same stand, I decide to take my chances on a shortcut just outside the area I was working in. This is what I find, though, a bunch of thick+nasty young stuff. I decide to take this picture 20 minutes into my slog of a hike, about when my first tears of frustration start to form.

3:52pm. Emerging from the thicket of nastiness, I cough up a few twigs and seriously consider taking a nap on the spot. It is, after all, a balmy 15F outside. I notice that my hair looks red in the picture I have just taken and I am very pleased.

3:58pm. After years spent studying white pine, I finally have the chance to cut a few of my own. These pine are low-quality relics left behind from a previous harvest; the current harvest is now taking out the poorer-quality pine stems, and leaving the best behind for another 30-60 years.

4:32pm. A pile of gorgeous popple at a third job site. Poplar grows well in full sun conditions, so just to the left of this pile is a small clearcut I did in order to try to get more pretty popple growing here in the future. The only setback we may encounter is the moose. There are so many moose up here, and each one is constantly nibblingnibblingnibbling, so any hardwood cut that we do is subject to their chompers.

big wood
4:37pm. Big wood. This is a rare predicament, as most of our wood is teeny tiny, the biggest diameters usually being the size of the pieces on the top of the pile. This large wood was almost too big for the machines to handle. Pretty exciting stuff, ferreal.

broke down
4:52pm. We have a lot of breakdowns that occur on a regular basis, and this is a day of breakdowns. The machine pictured here is a broken-down delimber. A delimber takes limbs off of felled trees, or de-limbs. It then piles them to create the yards of wood seen in the previous two pictures.

6:08pm. A little pre-dinner Biscoff sampler, yeah bub.


14 thoughts on “one day in the woods :: february

  1. There’s something very satisfying about being the first commenter on your handsomely commented blog… A few things: 1) I did not know that pneumonia could make you puke, 2) I find the details of illness oddly fascinating, 3) why can’t sixth graders be as cute as surface hoar frost? 4) why doesn’t my job entail snowshoeing? 5) I see lots of machinery in your photos: why haven’t you found a way to excavating that annoying piece of land between mine and yours?

    1. And there’s always something satisfying about getting kind comments!

      1) maybe it can’t, it doesn’t seem intuitively linked after all.
      2) and i enjoyed telling the story more than i probably should have;)
      3) i think it’s because they’re not exposed to enough free air during damp+cold temperatures
      4) if it involved more snowshoeing, perhaps your 6th graders could be as cute as hoar frost!
      5) i haven’t finished calculating the costs. it’s going to be pricy!

  2. What a saga, as good as any I’ve read…Poor you, so sick, and far from everything that is familiar. And yet, somehow, you manage to make it back home…iron will! Great photos, nice careful job of “a day in the life of..”. Fascinating to me, love the details and facts. Thanks for the hoarfrost photo, so pretty! I just gotta ask, tho, what is in “european cookie spread”?

    1. Despite my dislike of driving, if there’s one thing I can do it’s drive long distances without a problem. And turns out Quebec isn’t that far from Presque Isle:)

      It’s made from those Biscoff (speculoos) cookies they give you on plane rides! Seriously, get some. Try it on apple slices! Or plain off the spoon.

  3. What’s a zoned deer yard and where can I get one!? I’d love to tell the deer here to stay in their own zone! Love your blog, always interesting.

    1. Hi Leah, good to hear from you! I should have explained! Up here in northern Maine, the deer population is very low. The state somehow eminent domained a bunch of acreage a few decades ago, mostly in wet areas adjacent to streams where deer had historically been observed. This, theoretically, contains winter deer cover. A lot of those areas haven’t seen deer in years, because the population is so low. But, there are special regulations when it comes to harvesting in these ‘zoned deer yards.’ The areas still need management, and in a lot of cases, they have been ignored for so long that the mature timber is dying or dead, and so much young tree growth has occurred that there is no longer adequate deer cover. So we apply for a permit to cut in the deer yard, and we formulate our prescriptions in a deer-friendly way. This is the first winter we’ve seen deer in this deer yard, and everyone is realllllly excited. Everyone but me, that is, because I grew up in a dense deer region (Minnesota) and know too well the problems that a high deer population can cause. I love your idea about telling the deer to stick to their own zone! ;)

  4. Emma! How scary…. I’m so sorry to hear about your pneumonia, but I’m glad you are on the mend.
    And I know I’ve said this before, but I adore your photos of the woods. All that beauty feels so different from my landscape and I love how I feel transported through your images.
    Wishing you good health,

    1. Thanks Erin, it was a bit of a fright for awhile, but I’m feeling so much better now, and I am so happy to be healthy again.

      So happy to transport you to my magical snowy woods! Next winter you should take a wintry vacation so that your kids can try out snowshoeing;)


  5. I have 100% never found any single vee-hick-le gorgeous ever ever ever in my life ever. But your logging trucks are stunning. THIS IS SO WEIRD I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M WRITING THESE WORDS also dance academy dance academy dance academy my life and soul and love and life and soul and love and HUGS. So glad you’re feeling better, precious one. I’m back in the snow, like you, now. Sigh. Do come visit when it’s warm. Don’t back out on me, okay? xoxo

    PS Biscoff 4lyfe.
    PPS Cold never bothered me anyway.
    PPPS lalalalal
    PPPPPS xoxo agian.

    1. I cherish this comment, Hannah. There is something about oversized play toys that I too enjoy, some sort of primal beauty in logging equipment. danceacademydanceacademydanceacademymeowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. i will try my best to make a visit work – i can either drive all night to get to you, take a plane, or take a train. i will compare the cost:benefits of these options and come up with a plan. i am thinking a thursday-sunday trip from my end could work out quite nicely.

      biscoff4now biscoff4evah
      you hate cold
      no you aren’t not any longer

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