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From Snag to Log - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
From Snag to Log
Almost exactly 9 years ago, one of our big trees blew down in a storm. After doing some careful research, we decided to leave the standing snag in place as a type of habitat.


But there was all the rest of the tree in the way. So we had that cut into firewood and reduced to wood chips. Yay, mulch pile! And here's where it gets interesting. The mulch pile came into existence, and then it rained for two days straight. On the third day, I went out to look at the new mulch pile. It was already fully inhabited. I could see webs of fungus spread over it. There were pillbugs, beetles, centipedes, and spiders crawling through it. Curious, I poked the chips with my trowel, and out hopped a toad. The detritus food chain here at Fieldhaven is three days to apex. Three days, mind you, not three weeks or three months. That interfaces with the macro food chain through small vertebrates such as toads and birds. The whole process worked in miniature as soon as a situation called for it. Great job on the storm drill, folks.

Last night, another wild storm knocked down the snag. Thus it has moved on to the next stage in its life cycle, a giant rotting log. Dead wood offers many benefits in the ecosystem and serves as a home to numerous species. It can even become a nurse log hosting tree seedlings. I'll try to get some photos of mine another day -- it was almost dark when I spotted the log on my way back into the house.  EDIT 5/25/19: I have added photos of the log.

You can create habitat in your yard by adding a down log, building a habitat pile, or cutting into fresh deadfall to speed wildlife access.


Change in a well-known habitat is often startling, sometimes a little sad. But in nature, nothing really dies. It just moves into a new stage. A live tree becomes a standing snag, becomes a fallen log, breaks down into loam from which new trees arise. It's a cycle. Nothing is ever wasted. A down log is not dead, but teeming with life.

As above, so below -- all of the heavier elements that make up planets are the bones of dead stars. And here we are, inhabiting their dust, now a planet bursting with life from the depths of the oceans to the height of the mountains. All this, from dead stars, and it replays in miniature each time a tree falls and everything in the forest hears it and comes running to check out the new housing unit.

This is why I think of death not as an end, but as a new beginning. Because I can see it all around me, and it's funky and beautiful and amazing.

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