We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
For the past 40 years, as farming has declined in the Northeast, it is not unusual to see one of these gnarly monsters among a woodland filled with younger trees. Sometimes in the midst of the stands of White Pines which often quickly fill abandoned pastures. The old White Oak is the sign that you are walking through an old cow pasture. Squint your eyes in the woods to eliminate all of the younger trees, and imagine dairy cattle chewing their cud in the shade of that old oak.
This is Frederic Church's View Near Stockbridge, MA, 1847:
I was good friends with one of these giants as a boy. Its lower branches reached almost to the ground, so that you could monkey up to 15' or 20' into the tree by going up those low limbs. Getting higher was difficult going - and slippery going from all of the moss growing on those big limbs.
New England is filled with second-growth forests, not too much climax forest yet. It's difficult to realize now, but in the late 1800s there was hardly a tree standing in rural New England other than in farmers' woodlots - and sugarbush.
My pic doesn't capture it, but this one has about a 5' diameter. We were hunting for Woodcock.
I've long thought that landowners in rural New England were missing a long term economic opportunity.
These abandoned fields fill up with scrub trees of little economic value. Better to hire an arborist to cull the trash trees to make room and sunlight for the ones with future value. The chosen ones will grow faster and straighter - more boardfeet per year per acre with a little up-front investment. The culls can recoup the labor as fire wood.
There was another specimen tree in Ashford, CT, known as The Ashford Oak (I know, I know). I measured it about twenty years ago, after it had lost much of its height and spread, and it was over 11 feet across at the "knees". My faulty memory knew it as a white oak, or Quercus alba.
The state hospital grounds where I work has 2 state champion and 6 county champion trees. There used to be a grove of white oaks - a 1906 history of Concord says there were 30 of them then, of which about a half-dozen are left. My estimate is that these vary from 270-330 years old. The oldest would have been there when Indians still had yearly undergrowth burnings along the Merrimack (better deer hunting), and possibly seen by Passaconaway himself. College campuses, cemeteries, town commons, and other such areas that have been clear and somewhat attended to often have the largest trees.
I recommend Reading The Forest Landscape by Tom Wessels, particularly for New England. http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Forested-Landscape-Natural-History/dp/0881503789 He teaches how to have an eye for age, forest succession, stone wall placement, and tree anomalies to deduce the history of how a particular patch was used.
Assistant Village Idiot
Out in the mighty western coniferous forests, we often find "wolf" trees, big old and rough trees that were the first to seed in, and grew tall and broad, often with huge limbs to outcompete lesser and later trees. I passed a Douglas-fir last month in the woods that was over 9 feet in diameter. Not even a record holder, but a real BIG tree.\Bob the Forester