Ask Chuck: What Are Some of Your Favorite Things About Living on a Tree Farm?

In our Ask Chuck column, Treehugger editor-at-large and famed rock 'n' roller Chuck Leavell answers questions from our audience.

Chuck Leavell and piano in the trees

Chuck Leavell

For this month's Ask Chuck column, a reader asks:

"What are some of your favorite things about living on a tree farm?"

Everything! OK, if I have to list some specific things—first of all, in a way it’s like living in a beautiful park. Here at Charlane Woodlands, we are surrounded by all kinds of different species of tree. In our yard we have pecan trees, elm, mulberry, magnolias, loblolly pine, Japanese magnolia, dogwoods, and more. All of these trees have a soothing effect on mind and body. In the evenings, Rose Lane and I like to sit on our back porch in rocking chairs and watch the songbirds come in and out.

Rose Lane calls me "The Birdman of Bullard." Bullard is the "don’t blink" community we live in, and I try to keep some 20 or so feeders, bird cakes, suet holders, and such around our house. We also have several different sizes of chimes around our yard, so watching the different birds come in and out (chipping sparrows, chickadees, redwing blackbirds, titmice, house finches, mockingbirds, mourning doves, and more), listening to the light sounds of the different chimes in a breeze, and hanging out with our three cats and two dogs on that porch is, well, pretty dang zen-like. It is a form of meditation for us.

Other things that I love about living on our tree farm are:

The physical work: Working in our garden, doing grounds maintenance, using my Stihl chain saws, pole pruners, and other tools to keep our forests in good shape, taking down dead trees, bucking them up and having them sawn into beautiful lumber (my brother-in-law has a small sawmill about five miles away from us), cutting firewood and splitting them up for our fireplaces. There are all kinds of physical activities to perform, and it really helps keep me in shape.

Fooling with the dogs and horses: We have four Tennessee Walking Horses, and looking after them (and riding them, of course) gives me a lot of pleasure. Taking the dogs out in the woods and letting them run, chase, and have "doggie fun" is also pleasurable. We have two German Shorthairs that stay in and out of our house, and then we have about 12 hunting dogs in our kennels of various pointing variety, like English Setters, American Pointers, Brittanys, and more German Shorthairs.

Encountering wildlife of all kinds: Seeing white-tailed deer, the occasional fox, raccoon, rabbits, wild turkey, quail, cat and fox squirrels, and other species.

Watching our trees grow: We planted our first tract of pines (about 20 acres) back in 1981. They were just small seedlings, six or eight inches high. Now those 20 acres are a mature forest of loblolly pine. Yes, it takes a long time, but I can’t tell you what a great feeling it is to watch them grow over the years into a beautiful and productive forest. Since then, we have planted so many more trees in tracts of various sizes, and have been able to watch them grow.

Harvesting: Yes, from time to time, we cut trees down to be made into various things that we all use. My trees go toward making fence posts, paper products, furniture, lumber for buildings, and so many other wonderful things that we love to use. We have used our own trees (mostly ones that have died for one reason or another, due to lightning strikes, insect or disease damage, storm damage, and such) to build our lodge where we house guests. We've used them to renovate historic buildings on our property, and to build our horse barn. Even the pasture fencing was built from our own wood.

When we harvest wood, we do it in a sustainable way. What does that mean? Basically, it means making sure that we are planting, growing, and managing more trees than we are taking off the landscape. And remember, trees are natural, organic, and, most importantly, renewable—not to mention that they filter our rainwater that goes into rivers and streams, clean our air by sequestering carbon, and provide home and shelter to all manner of wildlife. And the thought that some of our trees that we've harvested are going to build someone’s first house, to renovate a historic structure, to make books, magazines, and other paper products, to make furniture—that thought gives me a very good feeling.

I could go on and on about other benefits of living the "tree lifestyle," but one final thing I will say is this wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, "In the woods, we return to reason and faith." Just being in the woods—soaking in nature, hearing the sounds of the wind through the pines, songbirds singing, the crunch of leaves underfoot, breathing in the fresh air—all of these things give me a certain sense of spirituality and peace, and help me maintain a kind of balance in mind, body, and spirit. In a way, my woods is my church.

Chuck Leavell is the pianist for the Rolling Stones. He has also played with George Harrison, the Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Martina McBride, John Mayer, David Gilmour, and many more. He is a conservationist and forester who co-founded the website Mother Nature Network and became Treehugger's editor-at-large in 2020.

Do you have a question for Chuck? Leave a comment, or write to us at with "Ask Chuck" in the subject line.