June 3, 2019

All members of the Culbert family enjoy spending time in their woodlands and using Margaret’s Gator. Photo by Margaret Culbert.

By Margaret & Tom Culbert

Our woodlands, located in Holcombe, include a 40-acre mixed hardwood forest that backs up against some 2,000 acres of Chippewa County land. We were familiar with the property 25 years before we purchased it, as a friend of Margaret’s family bought the property in the late 1960s and Margaret’s father helped build the rustic A-frame cabin that has become our traditional deer hunting meeting place.

Every November, Tom traveled to the cabin from our home in Virginia with one or both of our sons for deer hunting, and we all gathered there for family celebrations whenever possible. We purchased it in 1993, taking the fam-ily legacy into the next hunting season and beyond.

As our family retirement approached, we had more time to spend at the cabin, traveling to Wisconsin about every other month. Tom purchased a compact tractor (Margaret got a Gator), and with the help of family and friends, carved four trails into the woods. The trails have opened up the woods for recreational enjoyment in all seasons; they also prove useful as “fire lanes,” providing access to county land in the event of a fire.

Tom is a life member of WWOA and, when possible, we attend Chippewa Valley Chapter and Annual Meetings. We look forward to those meetings as we share our interests and concerns with other woodland owners, while the educational sessions continue to help us shape and improve our woodlands.

We are in a 25-year MFL program and have participated in Wisconsin DNR/WFLGP and USDA/NRCS/CSP projects that have improved our forestland, encouraged wildlife growth, and, one day, may provide for a crop tree harvest. Since we largely do the work ourselves and travel from Virginia, we are involved with only 1-2 acres at a time.

Over the years, Chippewa County foresters have been generous with their time and provided a wealth of information on best land practices. Working with the forester from the beginning of a project helped us to avoid mistakes and increase the likelihood of project approval. Working in our woods has allowed us to gain chainsaw skills, improve (or maintain) our physical fitness, and most importantly, enjoy countless hours in the woods. And, yes, we do tick checks twice daily (only once a day in winter).

We added some facilities to our non-MFL property — the all-important machine shed, a wood-fired Japanese Ofuro soaking tub, and a three-season gazebo. However, the cabin remains rustic as a one-room hunting cabin with a hand pump well and outhouse. While in Virginia, we do not worry about electricity going out or pipes freezing in the cabin.

We have some wonderful memories because the cabin is so rustic. One evening years ago, we saw the most fantastic northern lights. The sky was concentric rings of color that were pulsating. The family rushed out of the cabin and stood in awe at the sight. Getting up at 3 a.m. and venturing outside for an outhouse visit has opened up a whole new vista of star and moon cycles that we would never have appreciated if we stayed inside.

Before retirement, the woods were an import-ant respite from stressful careers in the Washington D.C. area. Margaret recounts how she felt a physical unwinding of tension every time she ventured into the woods. We enjoy the spring carpet of trilliums, the Margaret and Tom Culbert’s grand-strangely shaped son, Sammy, helps move a log. and brilliantly colored mushrooms, the study of scat and tracks, listening for the seasonal birdsongs, the cacophony of frog croaks, and the drumming of grouse. Most recently, we love sharing all of these things with our grandchildren, whose reactions underscore the wonder of the woods.

Our sons believe the “forty” is a part of their history and heritage. We work hard to improve our woodlands with the help of our sons, ensuring the creation of new memories, passing on of traditions, and preserving the forest.