Damaged Trees Can be Repaired

Occasionally, smaller trees in the woodlot will get damaged. Heavy snow, ice build up from freezing rain or perhaps a larger tree falling, can break the top of a tree.  If it is a tree that is special to you and you do not want to lose it, then there may be something you can do to help repair it.  In my work with Christmas trees, I sometimes use flagging tape to straighten up a top.  I’ve adopted this same principal to help repair smaller, damaged trees that I want to keep and it does work!   There is often some little trick that one can to help repair a damaged tree rather than give up on it.

The top on this pine tree was broken by heavy snow in the winter.   However, it can be saved.

The top on this pine tree was broken by heavy snow in the winter. However, it can be saved.

A stick is tied to the undamaged stem and a living branch is tied to this stick.  The branch will become the new top of the tree.

A stick is tied to the undamaged stem and a living branch is tied to this stick. The branch will become the new top of the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Prince Edward Island we get freezing rain which causes ice build up on trees.  Sometime the weight is too much and the top of the tree gets broken.  I have pine trees planted along the side of one of my roads and I want to keep them.  I’ve had this ice problem break tops more than once.  Also, damage can occur when cutting larger trees or when high winds blow down some mature trees.

This pine tree had its top broken off about 7 or 8 years ago.  Now there is only a slight crook at the point where the branch had been tied up.

This pine tree had its top broken off about 7 or 8 years ago. Now there is only a slight crook at the point where the branch had been tied up.

The damaged top can be repaired and in time the damage might not even be noticed.  I start by tying a straight stick to the stem of the tree below the broken spot.  This stick will extend well up past the broken spot.  Plastic flagging tape works well for this.  In fact, I find a lot of uses for flagging tape around my woodlot. The next step is to take one of the branches below the damage and tie it to the stick.  Take care not to put too much pressure on the branch as you tie it to the stick. This branch will, within one or two years, become the new top.   The stick holding the branch will eventually be removed.  I’m sorry that my photographs do not show this as well as they should but this tree repair does work.

Although I am showing only pine trees in this blog, similar treatments can apply to hardwood trees as well.   Hardwood trees may have a tendency to have a two tops.  This will create a fork in the tree that will be a weak spot as the tree gets older.  By cutting back one of the two forks, at a very early age, and by tying the stem that you want to become the main trunk of the tree, you can straighten the tree.  This will make for a stronger and more attractive tree in the future.  A single main stem is usually more attractive then a tree that is forked only  a few meters from the ground. If any readers would like more information or would like to see photos of a hardwood (oak) tree that has been repaired please send me a  reply.  You can simply send a comment at the bottom of this page or send me an email at: wattstreefarm@yahoo.ca .

Until next time, keep safe and well.

*** Click on any photograph to get a larger image.***

Reflections of Japan

I returned recently from a business trip to Japan.  It is a country that I have come to like very much.  I enjoy the food, the culture and perhaps above all the respect shown for people.  I especially appreciate the kindness and respect I receive, no matter where I happen to be in the country.  There are some people who have gone very far out of their way to help me, as I attempt to create more business opportunities for companies in my region of Atlantic Canada.  My business, Sunset Trading Company, is a small company that focuses on assisting Atlantic Canadian businesses who wish to seek marketing opportunities in Japan.

Looking out across the skyline of Tokyo.  This massive city and surrounding area is home to nearly 40 million people.  The famous "Sky Tree" is in the left of the photo.

Looking out across the skyline of Tokyo. This massive city and surrounding area is home to nearly 40 million people. The famous “Sky Tree” is in the left of the photo.

As I sat one morning, gazing out the window of my hotel in Tokyo, I had some quiet time to reflect on my being in this foreign land. I was there doing things that I would never have dreamt earlier in my life were ever possible.  Believe me, I have come from very humble beginnings, with a modest education but with a heart and head full of dreams.  I started out in forest management and grew to love the forest so much that I felt I wanted to find the most valuable uses for every tree in the forest.  This lead me to marketing of wood products, locally at first, and then to international markets.  I had some early connections to Japan and I never forgot those connections.  As my career advanced, I had an opportunity to finally visit Japan to promote wood products from my region.  I became hooked on this fascinating and beautiful country.  So, late in life I felt I just had to start-up my own business and focus only on Japan as a market.

I feel that I have been so fortunate in my life.  It has been, and still is, an amazing journey.  But remembering my humble beginnings makes me take note of those around me.  To me, the smallest things are the biggest things.  As I sat that morning gazing out the window I was actually in the hotel restaurant.  A lady came to pour my coffee refill.  She had no expectation of being noticed and was probably meant to be as “unnoticed” as possible.  However, I noticed.  As I notice many of the people who are in the positions that are meant to be almost unseen.  But with out these dedicated individuals my trip would not be as pleasant.  To me, the lady who served me coffee is as important as the hotel manager.  Every task, no matter how small it may seem, is important and needs to be done by someone.  Without people performing the so-called smaller tasks, things would never get done.   It struck me in such a profound way that morning of just how important each of these people are to my comfort and success in Japan.  As I left the restaurant that morning I stopped and personally thanked each of the people who had made my stay so memorable.  I hope that they appreciated that I had noticed them and deeply appreciated their hospitality.

Having a business lunch with Mr. Makoto Anzai, Pres., Jyuka Soken Co., importer of Canadian building materials.  Not seen (taking the photo) Mr. Yuya Kato, Pres. GPE Inc. and assisting me in all aspects of my meetings.   I have to say, this is one of the best Japanese meals I have ever had.

Having a business lunch with Mr. Makoto Anzai, Pres., Jyuka Soken Co., importer of Canadian building materials. Not seen (taking the photo) is Mr. Yuya Kato, Pres. GPE Inc. and assisting me in all aspects of my meetings. I have to say, this is one of the best Japanese meals I have ever had.

I wondered also if I would ever have another opportunity to return to Japan.  At this point, I truly do not know.  Only if I have some success in creating new business will I be able to afford to return.  So now, only time and more hard work from home to follow-up on the contacts I had made will tell the tale.  Will we be able to bridge the gaps between the Canadian producers and the Japanese importers?  Will we be able to put the right products, at the right price, with the right scheduling and with all the many necessary adjustments to suit a Japanese buyers?   At this point I can only say “Perhaps”.  I have a lot of work to do with the Canadian companies to help them understand exactly what is required to make the possibility of sales a reality.   The interest is there, but there are many conditions to be met.

Since I have returned, I have had more opportunity to reflect on how blessed I am to be able to do the work I am doing.  From my humble beginnings and background, to be in face to face discussions with executives of some small and large Japanese importers is truly amazing!  Some days I feel I am living in a dream.  What effect will my success have back in my region?  If orders do develop then products will have to be made and shipped.  Flooring, cabinets, stairways, bricks and more will have to be made.  Sweaters and slippers and maybe some food products may find a market in Japan and have to be made or prepared by hands in Atlantic Canada or beyond.  People working in small business to make all these things will be needed.  It is hard for me to imagine the effect that my work may have on the lives of others.  And when those floors and cabinets and stairways are being manufactured they will require wood from this area.  Trees will be harvested, trucked, sawn and manufactured into beautiful finished products.  Some of these trees which are turned into lumber and then into a finished product could be my trees, straight out of Watts Tree Farm.  This brings me full circle, right back to the place I love the most, the woodlot.

A pine floor in a home in Japan.  Manufactured by Royalty Hardwoods Ltd. in Prince Edward Island, Canada

A pine floor in a home in Japan. Manufactured by Royalty Hardwoods Ltd. in Prince Edward Island, Canada

I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had in life.  For the people I have met through business but now call friend.  For the many people I have yet to meet but I look forward to meeting.  And to the many people I may never meet but I hope my work touches their lives in a positive way.  Will I ever return to Japan?  I don’t know.  But if I do it means there is some success and many of the things I had mentioned above will continue to happen.   My life is richer for having had this opportunity to visit Japan and for meeting some truly wonderful people.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***

Walking Sticks – One Example of Non-Timber Forest Products

My youngest son left this week for work in western Canada.  It reminded me of just how much the woodlot shaped his life and made him who he is today.  His story is worth telling and worth thinking about. The forest can influence young lives and give them some positive direction in life.  This story shows how the simplest of ideas can turn into a small business and show that the woodlot can generate wealth other than through the harvest of timber. It can even influence what we do in life and give us a basis for self-worth.

Graham cutting an aspen to make into a walking stick.  The aspen was growing in a pine plantation and needed to be removed anyway.  Making money and improving the woodlot at the same time!

Graham cutting an aspen to make into a walking stick. The aspen was growing in a pine plantation and needed to be removed anyway. Making money and improving the woodlot at the same time!

When Graham was eleven years old he asked me about something he could do in the woodlot to earn some money.  He reminded me that I had once mentioned something about making walking sticks.  It was early in the summer and although I didn’t know anything about making walking sticks I told him “Sure, lets see what we can do.”  Prince Edward Island is a popular place for tourists to visit and I thought perhaps this might be a possible target market for his new idea.  I never dreamed where this would go!

We headed out into the woodlot in search of trees and shrubs that would possibly make suitable walking sticks.  We focused on species that would not normally be considered as commercial tree species.  We found that mountain ash, which grows in the woodlot by the thousands was a good place to start.  We peeled some and found that some had interesting designs in the wood beneath the bark.   We tried pin cherry, striped maple and grey birch, three more non commercial species which were abundant in the woodlot.  They were all unique and we were having fun finding them and making them into what we thought were good walking sticks.

This deformed grey birch has value as a walking "cane" .  These are even harder to find than straight waling sticks.

This deformed grey birch has value as a walking “cane” . These are even harder to find than straight walking sticks.

He made a few dozen and then I drove him to local craft shops.  He started to sell a few.  He did the selling.  My job was to do the driving.  At one shop we met a lady who thought what he was doing was terrific but our first attempts were not quite ready for sale.  She gave him some ideas to make the walking sticks more saleable.  She critiqued the products and made some suggestions.  She suggested that he add a leather strap and put a tag on each one telling the story of where the sticks came from and about him.  This was advice that was well worth listening to.

That first year I think he sold a few dozen.  But that got him more interested in making more and being more prepared by the following summer.  He sold more the second year and he was becoming known around the “Island” as the boy with the walking sticks.  A few dozen turned into a  couple of hundred or more.  As each summer came his confidence grew as well.  He began to attend local craft trade shows and learned even more about business.   More and more people gave him advice and information.

Graham in his booth at a craft trade show.  Nature Trails was the name of his business.  Note that there were other natural products like pencils and a game he made.

Graham in his booth at a craft trade show.  Nature Trails was the name of his business. Note that there were other natural products like pencils and a game he made.

When Graham turned fourteen he was fortunate to get work on a local dairy farm.  But his passion for making and selling walking sticks did not go away.  He made some money working at the dairy farm and he made good money creating and selling his walking sticks.  As a young teenager he was learning a valuable lesson about making money by working with his hands.  Along with the lessons in working he also learned about saving money and investing it for the future.

Somewhere along this path, Graham decided that he wanted to take business at university.  When I think back, I realize that it all started back on that day when he asked about making walking sticks.  That day changed the course of his life.   He learned more and more about the forest.  He seemed to really like being out there.   We have three children, all grown now.  All of them learned life lessons by working in the woodlot at one thing or another.  They all still help out at harvest time with the Christmas trees or helping to get the winters wood ready.

A dozen walking sticks with a stand. A typical order from craft store would be 1 - 3 dozen at a time.

A dozen walking sticks with a stand. A typical order from craft store would be 1 – 3 dozen at a time.

This simple story about using under valued products from the woodlot to create income.  I hope it will be taken to heart by readers.  Many opportunities exist in the woodlot for non-timber forest products.  For young and old, small business opportunities exist utilizing renewable products from a woodlot.   In a future blog I would like to expand on this topic.  I believe that for many people there is more economic value to be found in a forest other than timber harvesting.  I like to hear back from readers about the things you read in this blog.  My hope is that it will be a place where readers around the world find useful bits of information.  I would be especially happy if readers find it to be a bit of an inspiration to do some work in their own woodlot or backyard.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***

Good-Bye Muffin

Yesterday was a sad day in my life as I had to say “good-bye” to my beloved Muffin.   As she has been such a big part of my life and loved the woodlot so much I thought I would post a tribute to her.

Muffin visiting  the Christmas tree lot  during our past season

Muffin visiting the Christmas tree lot during our past season

Muffin was a “millennium” puppy borne in the spring of 2000.   For nearly 14 years she has been a close member of our family.  My three children spend the last half of their lives being around her.  She was a mixed breed that we are pretty sure has some beagle in her.  In her younger years, she would go out, near the house, and see if she could find a sleepy rabbit that needed a little exercise.  Of course the one who got most of the exercise was Muffin!  She would come home on some of those warm summer days with her tongue hanging down to her toes!

Muffin often went for walks in the woodlot with  us.

Muffin often went for walks in the woodlot with us.

Muffin often came with me to the Christmas tree lot when I was shearing trees.  It is a slow and time consuming job and it was nice to have some company at times.  There were lots of things to look for and to a dog, lots of interesting smells.  Of course she could at times find some really interesting things and like many dogs, roll in it!  Why do dogs do this!!!??  Anyway, those occasions would be followed up with a bath.  She hated baths!  But if you are going to come home smelling like that then you are going to get a bath.  Her dislike for baths did not seem to keep her from doing it again when she found something.  We have the occasional skunk around here too and on more than one occasion she would arrive home with that distinctive aroma. More baths!  All part of living in the country, I guess.

Now Muffin wasn’t the largest dog around but that didn’t stop her from showing who the boss is around here.  She made sure she gained the respect of any dog that came into our yard or into our house.  We usually have two dogs at a time and Muffin would be protective of her space.  Any new dog we introduced to the house had to go through an initiation which was usually her growl and bark.  But even the biggest dogs invited into our house quickly learned to give her some space.  She was “Number One” and there was never any question about this in our house.

Muffin loved being in the centre of things at Christmas.  And we all love sharing Christmas with her.

Muffin loved being in the centre of things at Christmas. And we all love sharing Christmas with her.

Whenever company arrived in our driveway or at the door they would be greeted with a bark and a wagging tail.  I really think she love to meet new people.  She would often hear someone arriving before we would and head tot the door barking.  The barking was short lived as soon as she got to meet whoever arrived.   She loved to see family arriving.  She would get so excited when ever Wendy, Dennis or Graham arrived.  She knew she would get some extra attention …. and maybe get to break some of the house rules!!!

We have been so blessed in this house to have had some wonderful four legged family members over the years.  We like to think that they all felt the same way about being lucky to have chosen us to care for them.  There is one rule in this house.  When you come to live here, you are family, not a pet.   That’s the way it always will be.

We LOVE YOU Muffin and  you’ll always be part of our family!

Woodlot Management Plan

If you own a woodlot, big or small, it is quite important to have a management plan to help guide you.  A plan will help you understand what you have and help prioritize work in the woodlot. It can be simple or more complex and detailed.  I am personally all for simple but with enough detail to really help show you what you have and help guide you in what you could or should, do with it.

One of the biggest misconceptions to get over is, the forest dictates what should be done.  The existing forest is a consideration alright but the biggest influence on what should take place in a woodlot is, “You” the owner/manager!   As the owner of a tract of forest, it is your desires or interests that is the strongest influence on what should be done.  You interests could range from complete preservation (do noting) to intensive management for the highest possible financial returns with no consideration for other values.  The reality is that the vast majority of owners fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

The first step in developing a plan is to gather information about the woodlot.  Hiring a trained forestry consultant can be vey helpful.  But remember to put forward your long term objectives for the woodlot.

The first step in developing a plan is to gather information about the woodlot. Hiring a trained forestry consultant can be vey helpful. But remember to put forward your long term objectives for the woodlot.

The first step in preparing a plan is to know what you have.  Take an inventor of what types of trees or other vegetation is growing on your land.  Are the trees softwoods or hardwoods, are the old, young or somewhere in between?  What condition are they in?  Is the land wet or dry?  Is it flat or sloping.  Are there any special features that should be noted?  Is there access to the property?  These are some of the main things that should be assessed and put on a map.  It helps to know where the different features are.  Typically, when taking an inventory, it helps to divided a woodlot into stand types.  A stand is simply an area of similar vegetation that is notably different from the ones around it.  Knowing what you have will help you decide what you want, or should do.  You may wish to hire a consultant or speak to your local forestry office for advice.  But remember this, It is your woodlot and the management prescriptions should fit with your interests and not be dictated by others.

Before someone, other than yourself, can prepare a plan they must know what your interests are.  It can be surprisingly difficult to decide which elements are of the highest priority to you.  In a short blog, it is not possible to go into detail but I have created a list of things to take into consideration.  You must choose your priorities and convey this to whoever is developing your plan.  The following is a list of possible things you may wish to manage for and you must place them in order of importance to help guide your management plan:

  • ECONOMICS (MAKING MONEY)
  • growing more valuable trees (quality vs quantity)
  • maximize income (high intensity management)
  • generating income from non-timber forest product
  • WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
  • song birds
  • small mammals
  • amphibians
  • rare species
  • forest plants
  • birds of prey (hawks and owls)
  • hunting (rabbits, grouse deer, etc)
  • AESTHETICS
  • RECREATION
  • BEING CLOSE TO NATURE
  • SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
  • PROTECTING A SPECIAL PIECE OF LAND
  • SPRITUAL CONNECTION
  • MAINTAINING OR ENHANCING BIODIVERSITY
  • OTHER (BE SPECIFIC)

There could be many other things that are important and if the things that are important to you are not on this list you should add them.  I recommend putting your top six priorities in order of importance.  If it is less than six, that’s is OK.  You must have a good understanding of your own basic objectives and be able to convey these as “long term guiding principals”. Give the list to whoever is writing your plan.  This list should make up a part of the first page of your plan.  It is there for you and others to see and to help keep you on tack.  These priorities can, and probably will, change over the years.  But the changes are often gradual and usually are small incremental shifts.

Perhaps you have an area with wild edible mushrooms that you want to preserve or enhance for annual picking.  Your plan should reflect your desires and interests.

Perhaps you have an area with wild edible mushrooms that you want to preserve or enhance for annual picking. Your plan should reflect your desires and interests.

These guiding principals are for the long term development of the property.  A management plan is usually for a short period, often 5 to 10 years.  It will help you decide which work is the most important.  It is very difficult to do everything in a short period, so creating priorities will help you target the most important work first.  All of the short term work will help achieve the greater goal of developing the property for the priorities you have listed.

This is a somewhat simplified view of developing a woodlot management plan.  However it is an important part.  Woodlot owners, with limited knowledge of the forest, should ask a professional to prepare them a management plan.  But, unless “YOUR” long-term objectives and interests are at the forefront, then you will have a plan which is written from someone else’s perspective on what “They” believe are the most important things.  Too many plans get written and then never acted upon, mostly because the woodlot owner is not satisfied that the work prescribe meets with his or her desires for the property.  I do believe in getting advice from others, as their knowledge and perspective may lead you to things that you had not thought of.

After all the information has been gathered and there has been time to develop a suitable plan, sit down and go over it carefully.  It is only a guide and can be changed, if you need to.  But, use it to help keep you on course to get the most satisfaction out of your woodlot.

After all the information has been gathered and there has been time to develop a suitable plan, sit down and go over it carefully. It is only a guide and can be changed, if you need to. But, use it to help keep you on course to get the most satisfaction out of your woodlot.

Planning is so important.  I didn’t go into the principals that drive our decision making at Watts Tree Farm in this blog.  However, if there is interest from readers, I would be happy to write more about this topic.  In short, we use an “integrated use” approach.  We look for a balance among economics, wildlife management, recreation and all round good stewardship.  In future blogs, I will touch on some of the broader areas and break them into smaller parts or attempt to make the decision making process more understandable.

As always, I hope readers enjoy this blog and find some bits of useful information.  I enjoy receiving comments from readers and if you are new to this blog please consider following by hitting the “follow” button.  I assure you that I will not be sending you anything except an automatic notice when a new blog is posted.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***

Extra Income from Bundles of Brush

At Watts Tree Farm we are constantly looking for ways to generate income from the woodlot. Most people think that timber is the only thing to come from a woodlot to generate income. However, this would be a misconception. There are many other potential sources of income from a small woodlot.  We call these additional products Non Timber Forest Products or NTFP’s as they are commonly referred to. I will write about NTFP’s in a broader context in a future blog.  It is a fascinating subject that presents so many potential opportunities for small woodlots to generate income. For this blog I will talk about one Non Timber Forest Products that we produce and it is quite simply “brush”.

home made stand for making bundled brush.  Note the two strings that are laid across the stand before brush is put on.

home made stand for making bundled brush. Note the two strings that are laid across the stand before brush is put on.

November and December is the time of year when people are busily decorating their homes for the Christmas season. Not everyone has access to brush that is commonly used for decorating. Brush is nothing more than branches from softwood trees. It can be pine, spruce, fir, cedar or any other species that is available in your region. In our woodlot we have access to four species; balsam fir, Korean fir, white pine and red pine. We could add white spruce to this list but it is not as desirable to handle so we do not bother using it. Customers much prefer the softness of fir and pine.

Branches are placed across the strings with the tips outward.   The brush is placed loosely at this point.

Branches are placed across the strings with the tips outward. The brush is placed loosely at this point.

We have been growing Christmas trees for many years. In our choose and cut lot we noticed that people would ask us for some of the branches from the bottoms of the trees that we were harvesting. At first we simply gave it away but we realized that there is demand for brush, as a seasonal product.  The question was “How do we package it to make it convenient for customers to handle?”  The answer was to put it in tied up bundles.  We devised a simple but small stand to hold the brush while we tied it into compact bundles that can be easily handled. This began to generate a small bit of income from what was previously a waste product. As more and more people became aware that they could conveniently buy bundled brush our sales continued to grow. It is not a large part of our income for the woodlot but it is a little extra that goes hand-in-hand with our Christmas tree sales. I think it could be much large if we promoted it more but there is a limit to the time available to make up these bundles and we are already busy with the Christmas trees. There is even potential to wholesale this product but again it is the time constraint for us. However, for readers of this blog it might just be the ideal product for you, depending on where you are and your personal interests.

Look closely at the yellow rope in the center of the stand.  It is used to pull the brush down tightly while the two strings are brought up over the top of the brush and tied tightly.

Look closely at the yellow rope in the center of the stand. It is used to pull the brush down tightly while the two strings are brought up over the top of the brush and tied tightly.

Putting the brush into relatively consistent bundles is a necessity to bringing a product like this to market. This is where the brush stand comes into play. I am happy to show just how we do it as it is a pretty simple device. I am sure there are people out there who could improve on this and make it even easier to create compact bundles. But for the small amount that we do this works just fine. I hope the photographs show the process clearly.

As our sales grow we need to think about where we will get the brush on a sustainable basis to supply customers each year. One of our prime sources are low-grade or “cull” Christmas trees. These are trees that simply will never make a good Christmas tree and are taking up space in our Christmas tree lot. There is always a percentage of trees that, for one reason or another, have poor shape or are damaged and must be cut out of the lot. These “cull” trees have become our primary source of fir brush. For pine we either go to our pine plantations and cut lower branches or remove trees as part of our thinning process. We have planted quite a few white pine in the woodlot so there will always be a source of pine branches for brush. These lower branches need to be removed anyway, so by waiting until late fall we have a source of pine branches for the brush bundles. We can earn a little extra income simply by timing our pruning to the time of year when we need the brush.

A finished bundle of fir brush ready for sale.

A finished bundle of fir brush ready for sale.

Income from the woodlot is important to us at Watts Tree Farm but so are many other aspects of the woodlot. Balancing the need for income with maintaining and improving wildlife habitat, while enjoying the recreation aspects of the woodlot are all a function of good planning. Perhaps over the winter months I can tackle the topic of forest management. Creating a management plan will force you, as a woodlot owner, to look at the things that are most important to you. As always, I enjoy writing these blogs and hope that readers find them to be interesting, entertaining and useful. I encourage readers to follow my blog by pressing the follow button on the side of the page. You will also see a link there to our Christmas Tree lot website.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***