Offsite in West Virginia

We are at “the Woods” near Hedgesville in West Virginia for our offsite.  I have mixed feelings re offsites.  On the one hand, you get to be away from the office and can concentrate on the work/learning at hand.  On the other hand, most people have Blackberries so they don’t really get away.  Anyway, I am here, so I will take advantage as I can.

The Woods is one of those communities that has a mix of condos/hotel it rents out, amenities such as pools and golf courses and then some residences.    The community is 1980s vintage.  You can see the picture of my room above. 

I went for a short walk before supper.    The land is covered with mixed forests.  My picture doesn’t properly show it, but you can tell that these forests have been “high graded” for many years.  High grading is sometimes misleadingly called selective cutting.   It involves cutting the bigger trees out of the forest while leaving the rest.   This sounds like a good idea, but there are problems.   The biggest trees may not be the oldest trees, but they are usually the best.   You are removing the fastest growing and healthiest trees.  It is a type of negative selection.   Many of the small trees are old.  They are just stunted or runts which will never attain a good size.  There are many possible reasons or combinations of reasons for this.   Most trees will not grow to their potential size if they are too long deprived of sun and nutrients when they are young even after the larger trees are removed.   In other words, if they miss the chance, they cannot make it up.   There is also significant genetic variation.  Beyond that, some soils do not support the growth of some trees and some just won’t get big no matter what.    In any case, high grading results in an unhealthy and stunted forest.   You can tell if the trees are young or just small by the bark.  Young trees have relatively smooth bark.   The bark on older trees is furrowed.   

Also common in these forests is Virginia pine.   Virginia pine is a kind of permanent brush species with poor growing habits and shallow roots.   They tend to blow down in storms and even when they don’t, they never get very good.   They more or less occupy the niche held by the jack pines in the Lake States and look a lot like them.   Above is a thicket of them.

Above is a Virginia pine that grew in the open.  They rarely get that big and even with all the sun it needs, it still doesn’t look good.  They are almost incapable of growing straight and clean.

Above is one of the private houses in the Woods on a one acre lot.   It is for sale.   The brochure outside the house says that they are asking $199,000 fully furnished with what they say is quality furnishings.