THERE IS a famous story about good record keeping from Visingsö. It is the largest island in Vättern Lake in Sweden where an oak forest can be found. In 1829, the Swedish Navy ordered the Forest Service to plant 35ha of oak on Visingsö as they needed oak timber to build new warships.
In an example of outstanding record keeping, the Swedish Forest Service wrote back in 1978 to the Navy informing them that the oak they ordered in 1829 was now ready for collection.
Times had changed in the meantime but this little story does tell us that you need pretty good record keeping to write that letter.
In the last article, I was discussing the importance of formative shaping if you wish to grow quality hardwood timber. I was making the point that this work probably needs to start in the first two to four years of a tree's life.
This is a daunting prospect if you keep in mind that it will take ash or sycamore 60 to 80 years to grow to maturity.
Beech and oak will take even longer.
Let's fast forward 60 years or so and you're now in the lucky position that you have quality timber for sale. How do you prove to a potential timber buyer that the beautiful single, straight stemmed trees you are selling are not hiding any serious defects?
Serious defects such as dead knots are the result of poor or no high pruning. Or maybe cattle, sheep or deer broke into the young woodland damaging stems and branches.
Both broadleaves and conifers may recover gradually over time masking such blemishes.
So, how do you prove that good forest management took place all those years ago? The answer is to keep good records.
Good record keeping starts with a diary from the time your forest was established.
This will help you to remember when you shaped or pruned your trees, the amount of timber you sold, the price and so on.
It is also a good idea to take photos and to retain the reports provided by your local Teagasc Forestry Adviser. These are useful tools to prove to a potential timber buyer that correct formative shaping was carried out all those years ago.
It is also important to have relevant maps. The maps that are generated at time of establishment are a good start.
Maps also allow you to record archaeological features, fisheries concerns, designated areas, extraction routes, stacking areas, forest roads and above all entry points into the forest.
Forest management plans as well as FSC/PEFC certification rely heavily on good record keeping.
This is one of the reasons why management plans and certification can be very costly as it is very time consuming to bring together all this information years after establishment. If the information can be found at all.
So before you decide that record keeping is dull and boring, remember it can make a big difference in your pocket all those years later.