POLAND – This Saturday’s annual field day of the western Maine chapter of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine will focus on big trees, oak management techniques and white oak at the Fred Huntress Tree Farm.

The 100-acre farm is on Strout Road, which is one mile up the Oak Hill Road off Route 26. It starts at 9 a.m.

The field day will focus on the passion of a man who has devoted his life to forestry and promoting oak “purely for my own enjoyment.”

“It’s my own enjoyment of the woodlands as much as anything. I like to see big trees,” Huntress said.

Huntress has owned the land for 40 years. He added to it in 1976, 1982 and the mid-90s to bring it up to the 100 acres it is today. Eighty-five acres of it are forested.

In the 1800s, the original piece was a pasture, which was abandoned and pines had grown up on it. Shortly before Huntress bought it, it was clear cut and oaks began to grow on it.

Huntress has cultivated and promoted the growth of oaks by “managing from below,” which involves killing off sub-par trees by girdling. That includes ice storm damaged trees, suppressed trees and two-to-six-inch trees that would never make commercial grade.

The walking tour will include several big trees as well as an impressive stand of primarily red oak.

“I’ve got some whopping nice pine trees here but basically, I’ve got this nice stand of oak that came in after a clear cut in the ’50s,” he said. “When I bought it, it was barely pulpwood size. I didn’t think it would amount to anything.”

The tour will also show off his white oaks, which he describes as “my favorite tree,” although they are fairly rare in Oxford County. A narrow streak of white oaks runs through Casco, Otisfield, Poland, through Lewiston and stretches up into Gardiner, across the Kennebec into Pittston and stops in Whitefield.

They were used to make timbers for sailing ships, flooring and are also prevalent in the Appalachian country where they are used to make white oak barrels to age whiskey. “It’s an awful nice wood but we don’t have enough of it to command any market,” Huntress said, noting that soil and climate determine where they grow.

Fred, a longtime member of SWOAM and director of the western Maine chapter, will also talk about invasive plants, including the one he calls “the strangling plant.”

“I’ve got a bittersweet that’s 2-½ inches in diameter. It’s a monstrous thing. It killed the 12-inch ash tree it went around,” he said. He will also show examples of buckthorn and barberry.

Fred offers three tongue-in-cheek secrets for successful woodland management: “Buy a woodlot when you’re young, work like hell and live to an old age.”

Foresters Don Feeney and Merle Ring will also speak.

The field day is open to the public. Coffee and doughnuts will be available at 8:30 a.m.

For further information, contact chapter President Bill Haynes at 583-2963 or Merle Ring at 441-3276.


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