Walnut Springs Orchard Development 2010-2011

“Working with Matt was a truly awesome experience. He took the time to listen to our thoughts and ideas so that he could fully grasp and understand the vision that we had. His knowledge of the area, the properties, their values and his real estate expertise helped us get the lowest possible price we could for the property. His forestry experience, knowledge of timber and contacts with lumberjacks and saw mills maximized the value of the timber harvest, which provided ample money to develop the property and to achieve our dream. Matt is a great person, a lot of fun and is a pleasure to work with. He is truly a professional. If you want a first-class experience and a job done right, Matt is the best choice.” ~Craig and Melinda Winslow, Pilot, VA

Of all the projects we’ve handled, this one has been the most diverse- and a great deal of fun to boot. The story begins when Matt was contacted by a couple from Houston, Texas looking to purchase land in the NRV area for their retirement home. Their plans included establishing orchards on the future property, to include apple and cherry trees (among others), along with space for blueberries and a large garden. Water and privacy were a must. Because Matt is a Realtor® with McNeil Real Estate in Christiansburg, VA, he was able to assist with the land search and purchase and then transition into a forestry/property development role to help them realize their goals.

After looking at several properties during a visit, they chose a terrific 70-acre wooded tract in the Pilot area of Montgomery County. Matt had been watching this property sit idle on the market for nearly six months, and had already walked it several times knowing it would be a great buy for someone. After finding some old apples trees growing on the property, everyone knew it was the right place. The land was purchased in May 2010 and the development planning began immediately. First step, a proper name: Walnut Springs Orchard.

The property was almost entirely wooded, with very limited interior access aside from an overgrown 450’ long driveway ending at a dilapidated trailer (which was subsequently removed). Matt was tasked with designing a road system to access the future homesite, to include a loop driveway, a stream crossing, and a new entrance to the state road. Orchard sites were identified, and a selective timber harvest was implemented to help fund the project. Harvesting timber made a lot of sense for forest management on this property, but the harvest itself is really what allowed the development to work so well. Fortunately, the topography on this property allowed for the improvements and changes that the new landowners were hoping for. You can view a map of the development plan here.

Harvesting began in April 2011 on the east side of the property where the house will be built. The homesite and drainfield were clearcut, along with two orchard sites and of course the new roads. Other areas were either selectively harvested or not cut at all. Because the landowners are going to build their dream retirement home here, aesthetics had to be protected or improved, not degraded, by the timber harvest. The west side of the property came next, where a new state road entrance was constructed and about half the acreage was selectively harvested, with a small clearcut area for another orchard.

Please take some time to view the many pictures below, they tell the story best, and be sure to check our blog posts as we follow the home construction and establishment of the orchards. Many thanks to the owners of Walnut Springs Orchard, they will be welcome neighbors.

Click on any of the images below to view larger photos and a slideshow.

  • A couple of GreenWoods employees are inspecting the start of the driveway clearing.
  • The same stretch of future driveway after heavy rains and several days of muddy logging. Nothing to worry about though, things will dry up and the road will be graded.
  • The rain stopped and we got the road smoothed out. It is starting to look more like a driveway now.
  • A far cry from the muddy skid trail of a few months ago. This picture was taken in October 2011.
  • The homesite as it appeared just after the timber was cut.
  • The homesite in October 2011. The view overlooks the western portion of the property where the timber was selectively harvested- it is hard to tell that any timber was removed.
  • The largest orchard site as it appeared after the merchantable timber was removed. Now we are ready for some heavy equipment.
  • The excavation contractor gets to work clearing the future orchard site.
  • The same orchard site in October 2011. We broadcast a mix of annual rye, three turf-type fescues, and crimson clover. The areas which appear bare actually have plenty of young grass filling in.
  • Landowner standing in same orchard the following Spring (May 2012).
  • A stream crossing was constructed using two 30-inch diameter culvert pipes, each 40 feet in length.
  • Matt installing a new farm gate at the existing entrance.
  • Looking down the driveway entrance shortly after logging began. Large rock was used to create a solid base.
  • Looking up the same stretch of driveway from the road. Logging is complete, the banks have been seeded, and more gravel applied. Crusher-run stone was spread on top of the large base rock to create a smooth, stable driveway.
  • Removing mature trees while minimizing damage to residuals.
  • The first load of white pine logs at the loading deck, where the old trailer used to sit.
  • This trailer came with the property and the first thing we did was get rid of it!
  • The trailer was dismantled and removed in pieces.
  • No more trailer!
  • Clearing the driveway as it loops toward the homesite.
  • Things are starting to take shape.
  • Creating a drainage ditch on the upper side of the driveway. Cross-drainage culverts were installed where needed.
  • Another orchard site, this one is above the new stream crossing. A handful of old apple trees were retained here; the landowners are hoping to incorporate them into the new orchard.
  • Red clover in bloom, May 2012.