Franklin Chthonics’ land was essentially a wilderness until sometime in the first half of the 19th century, when it became farms, and these farms defined the land until the second half of the 20th. The woodlands that remained through that period were kept as woodlots, an integral part of the farm’s economy and metabolism. Farmers had a continual need for wood as building materials and as fuel, and occasional harvesting of trees also yielded a cash crop. These woodlots were land in “silviculture”, and they have all gone through repeated logging episodes through recent times. Signs of logging campaigns that took place, say, 20, 40 and 60 years ago are all still visible today in the same woodlot. The western part of the property that includes “Mt. Tom” appears to have been the main farm woodlot since the land was first cleared. There are no stone walls or piles of stones in these woods, a strong indication that they were never used for grazing livestock. They also contain tree trunks left from several cullings of timber separated by decades.
Eastern hardwood timber, one might be surprised to learn, is among the most costly and desirable wood in the world. There is tremendous commercial value in these trees; a single maple, oak or cherry log of “veneer quality” can be sold to a sawmill for $1000. Almost all the wooded acreage on FC is committed to state approved forest management programs in exchange for tax abatements. Trees are not immortal and older trees almost all begin a slow but visible process of dying before they reach one hundred years of age; trunks split in storms while others become weak and hallowed out from rot. Harvesting specific trees as timber is an intelligent policy in the context of a plan to permanently maintain woodland. No commercial cutting of trees has taken place at FC in recent years but it will almost certainly happen in the future. We can also choose, as we have done in the past, to cut trees and saw them ourselves for building projects. We have used our own beech and larch in building the winter hut, and we still have a supply of spalted (colored by fungus) beech boards stored in the barn for future projects.
Two farmers use fields on Franklin Chthonics for growing hay, feed corn and grazing cattle but those are the only truly agricultural activities currently pursued at Franklin Chthonics.