Deadwood is of course a terrific series, but also important is DEAD WOOD.
I first learned about the importance of dead wood when I did volunteer work at the Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers Wisconsin. Part of the job of Woodland Dunes was to educate children about the nature around them. Another part was to educate the farmers about the importance of dead trees.
Wisconsin is a state of beautiful farms, and leaving a messy pile of brushwood or a dead tree is simply considered “messy farming”. Wisconsin farmers take pride in the beauty of their farms. However, when you have a state where much of the natural woodland has been cut down for farming, it is especially important to leave brush piles and dead wood for the native wildlife. A brush pile is a wonderful home for mice, squirrel, moles and even deer.
Dead trees are wonderful food sources for everything from deer to bear to birds of all kinds. The woods are messy for a reason, as trees are needed in all stages of development from young saplings to dead and rotting for animals and insects to live. It was a lot of fun to give school groups tours of a real forest. Children growing up on farms often didn’t see a real forest in Wisconsin.
One of my favorite games was to blindfold the children and give them a tree to hug. Then the children were spun around, and had to find their tree with the blindfold off. Trees can be identified not only be leaf shape and color, but by bark. The children were very successful at finding their tree as they paid attention to the bark and size around of each tree.
We also studied brush piles, going into a giant human sized one that was built for the groups. Often real mice could be seen scurrying in the pile. The children enjoyed learning things such as you can tell if a rabbit or a deer has been eating by the bite marks left. A rabbit will bite right through, as it has top and bottom teeth. A deer will pull and tug, as the deer has bottom teeth but just a tough upper plate on top.
Farmers also began to learn to leave brush piles and also to ensure fence lines were kept with trees and brush. Sharing the land with native animals helped all survive. Owls survived if mice survived, and brush was an important food for the deer the locals so liked to hunt.
When a tree dies on our property, we leave it alone unless it is a danger to the house. Dead trees often stand for a long while also, giving more food to all types of animals. A clean yard is not always the best type of yard for animals.