my tree children

On Sunday, Don and I spent part of the afternoon hiking around the Ferguson Forestry Centre at Kemptville. The Forestry Centre includes areas of natural forest, plantation forest, as well as seedling nurseries. I’ll write more about it and post some photos later this week. But for today, I want to write about my tree children here at the farm.

After arriving home Sunday, I decided to place an order for a few trees from the Forestry Centre. As tree orders go, it’s more of a mini-order of 50 trees. Here’s a link to the first page of the bare rootstock tree selection. As you can see from the chart, seedlings become progressively cheaper as you order them by the 100 or 500 lot. We don’t order large quantities anymore. The last couple of orders have been pretty small potatoes — maybe 100 or 150 trees. This year is the smallest yet. In fact, I even debated (momentarily) with myself as to whether or not to order anything. However, I’ve wanted to plant some Hemlock for awhile now, but they were always sold out or unavailable other years. This year, there was some stock, so I ordered 20, as well as 10 Bitternut Hickory, 10 Red Oak, and 10 Silver Maple. When they are ready to pick up (around May 1st), we’ll choose spots to plant the trees in little groves. That’s what we’ve done over the years — little groves, sometimes consisting of 3 or 4 tree species — the idea being to create small forests here and there over the property. We aren’t trying to create a solid plantation stand as that doesn’t really provide good habitat for a wide range of creatures. Instead, we’ve kept some areas of the land open with oldfield pasture, which is where the Woodcock nest, and also where the foodplants of many insects, including Monarch butterflies, can be found. Other parts of the farm consist of succession forest – mostly birch and poplar with some Sugar Maple. At the back of the land, there’s a stand of Black Locust — the tree equivalent of razor-wire. Another part of the farm is covered with low willow trees growing in soggy soil. The Northern Harriers nest somewhere among them each year.

After all of our planting efforts, there are now a number of “groves” here and there around the farm. In the photo up above, you can see a couple of what I think of as my tree children. The larger tree with the feathery green branches in the foreground is a Tamarack. I planted a little grove of about 30 awhile ago… maybe 15 years ago. They’re looking pretty good now. The smaller tree near Sabrina is a White Pine, probably planted a bit more recently. I should mention that that’s another feature of the groves — that I’ve gone around sticking more trees in open spots over the years. I think that makes for a nicer forest — one that seems more natural and less like a plantation. By the way, when I say “I”, the tree planting project has been more my project than ours. Tree planting usually coincides with the first onslaught of mosquitoes and blackflies, and Don has never been particularly fond of digging around in the bush while being accosted by blood-sucking hordes. However, in recent years, he’s given me a hand to get the job done – which has been much appreciated.

Back in March, I wrote about the changes that have taken place here at the farm over the thirty years since we’ve been here. I posted this photograph of the fields as they looked right behind our house the first summer while it was going up. As you can see, things looked mighty bare. The Tamarck grove where Sabrina is standing in the top photo of this post, would be located sort of to the right about 200 to 300 feet back. In between it and the foreground, there are now many spruce and pine trees, as well as a goodly sized Butternut and Black Walnut tree that have been bearing nuts for several years. There’s a grove of poplars about 30 feet tall just to the left, and a couple of Green Ash trees also to the left. Those two tiny trees visible in the fencerow on the left of the photo are Ash that were here when we bought the land — the only two trees on the farm other then the Black Locust at the very back. They’re about 40 feet tall now.

There are plenty of other trees and bushes planted here and there around the farm — here’s a list of what we’ve planted over the years, for those who like lists: White Oak, Red Oak, Burr Oak, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Silver Maple, Black Walnut, Butternut, Bitternut Hickory, White Ash, Green Ash, American Mountain Ash, Black Elderberry, Highbush Cranberry, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, Norway Spruce, Jack Pine, White Pine, Red Pine, White Cedar, Red Cedar, and Tamarack. Some of those did well, and some not so well as it’s been a case of survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, our tree planting program suffered some major setbacks while we had a large herd of goats. Sadly, goats and trees don’t mix – so we lost a lot of our early trees – something which I regret very much at this point. I should also mention that we haven’t planted any Birch, Poplar, Black Cherry, Red Osier Dogwood, Staghorn Sumac, or Black Locust, as they’ve sprung up on their own in many spots. We have, however, relocated a few of them from one spot to another, especially in the case of Birch trees. The one tree I’d like to plant, but that hasn’t been in stock at the nursery in recent years is the Shagbark Hickory. The conditions here may not be to their liking, but I wouldn’t mind trying to plant a little grove to see what happens. Unfortunately, we’re at the stage in life when we’re planting trees for when we’re no longer around. (-:


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7 Responses to “my tree children”

  1. Dave Says:

    Good going, Bev! We’ve planted a number of trees over the years here, but “our” white-tailed deer are as ravenous as your goats were, so not very many have made it through. Fortunately, the property was mostly woods to begin with. I’m anxiously watching to see how/whether the steep slopes cleared by an icestorm two years ago regenerate. I’m rooting for longer-lived natives like sassafras and oak, but at this point I think we’ll be happy with anythig that isn’t ailanthus.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    If we had more land, we’d be doing the same thing. As it is, on our small 2 1/2 acres, we let the natives take over at the edges of our property. I like the idea of planting trees that a future generation will appreciate. Quite affirming and a generous nod to life.

  3. Am Says:

    Tamarack is one of my favorite trees. Just the photo I needed to see today. Once I was in a redwood forest in Humboldt County in California and noticed that I was feeling a love for the redwood seedlings as if they were human children. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  4. Cathy Says:

    There is something beautifully haunting about planting trees for others. It implies knowledge and acceptance of your own limited lifespan while dreaming a dream of another who will someday pass beneath your gift and look up and perhaps offer a silent thanks to those who thought to bless the future with sturdy trunks and treetops whispering in the breeze.

  5. burning silo Says:

    robin – It’s really nice being able to watch trees grow, even though I know we won’t be around long enough to see them reach their potential.

    Am – I love Tamaracks too – definitely among my favourite trees. So soft and verdant in spring and summer. When I was in the redwoods in Octover, it just happened that a campsite my friend and I stopped to check out had a little redwood sapling inside a protective circle of stones right beside it. We thought that was kind of special and decided to camp at that site for a couple of nights.

    Cathy – I’m one of those people who imagine things already “done” or “grown” almost from the moment they begin. To me, when I’m planting a foot tall seedling, I’m already imagining it 30 or 40 feet tall — it almost seems that way to me. I think all tree-planters must have a bit of that way of thinking in order to stay motivated.

  6. John Says:

    My wife and I have about an acre (and another 2 we co-own with a brother) about 2.5 hours south of Dallas. We’ve been talking about planting trees on the property, both for ourselves and those who come later. Bev, your ‘small’ numbers seem enormous, to me. But you’ve given me added impetus to stop talking and do some planting!

  7. burning silo Says:

    John – If you buy bare root seedlings from a nursery, there really isn’t too much work to planting them – at least, not too much here at our farm as we have quite sandy soil and few rocks. The biggest challenge would be making sure they got a good watering to get them started. Up here, we plant our trees around May 1st, when the soil is usually wet from spring rains and the seedlings are just coming out of winter dormancy. All of that may not be the same where you are. Although I don’t usually put mulch around the seedlings, a lot of people say that helps the trees get off to a good start as they don’t have to compete against weeds that might choke them out.