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.***

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***

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***

Roads and Trails

Managing a small woodlot depends heavily on having good access to the woodlot.  Without good access it is nearly impossible to do good management.  The layout of where roads and trails will be established will be influenced by many factors.  In this short blog I’ll touch on some main points that I hope will get readers thinking about their need for access and do more research into proper locations and construction.

Main woods road at Watts Tree Farm.  The road has slight curves to reduce the sight distance and make it more enjoyable to walk when hoping to see wildlife.

Main woods road at Watts Tree Farm. The road has slight curves to reduce the sight distance and make it more enjoyable to walk when hoping to see wildlife.

One of the first questions to ask yourself is “Why do I need or want roads and trails?” The most probable answer is, to remove harvested products.  If you are managing your woodlot then at times there will be quantities of harvested products to remove.  Having an access road that allows for trucks to pick up the products, relatively near to where they are harvested, can be vey beneficial and in most cases a necessity.  However, people own and manage woodlots for many different purposes so the need for roads and trails should keep the objectives of the owner in mind.  Roads and trails can have multiple purposes and this is the way we look at them on Watts Tree Farm.

Smaller trails give access for many things.  Wood can be extracted or it can be a great place for a leisurely walk.

Smaller trails give access for many things. Wood can be extracted or it can be a great place for a leisurely walk.

At Watts Tree Farm we are fortunate to have relatively flat terrain and very few wetlands or water course to deal with.  As the woodlot is relatively long and narrow it made the most sense to locate one main road, more or less, in the center of the property.  The woodlot is managed for multiple purposes and therefor the design and locations of the main road and secondary trails takes into consideration more than one use.

Lets look first at the main access road.  If my only objective was wood extraction then the most efficient road would have been perfectly straight in the exact center of the property.  However, we are interested in recreation, aesthetics and wildlife in the woodlot along with economics.  Therefor, when the main road was laid out it was designed with slight turns to actually reduce the “sight distance”.   The road is used as much for walking and enjoying the scenery and wildlife viewing as it is for removing harvested wood.  In fact I would say we use it much more for these secondary uses.  By having shorter sight distances it makes the walking much more enjoyable.  There is always the excitement of what might be around the next corner.  The woodlot is home to many species of birds and mammals and  by having slight curves in the road it occasionally allows us to get a little closer to viewing some of this wildlife.   At the same time, the curves do not hinder the slow movement of trucks or machinery that might “occasionally” have to come in to pick up a load of logs, Christmas trees or for managing the blueberry field.  If you are planning to construct a forest access road you should consult professionals in your region.  There will most likely be environmental standards or restrictions that you must adhere to.

A properly constructed trail can be a cost effective way to haul fire wood home if you only have small equipment.

A properly constructed trail can be a cost effective way to haul fire wood home if you only have small equipment.

Trails, just like main access roads, can have multiple uses as well.  They are used more for recreations and wildlife viewing but they can also be use for extracting wood using my ATV (All Terrain Vehicle).    The decision of where to locate and how wide to make the trails is dependant on the type of machinery you have to do your management.  It also may have to do with the type of management to be done in a certain part of the woodlot.  For example,  in areas where I intend to remove my annual fire wood by either strip cutting or selection cutting I will create a slightly wider trail that will accommodate my ATV and trailer.  In areas where I do not expect to be harvesting firewood the trail will be narrower.

Sophie walking down a freshly cut trail in a young fir plantation.  Better access will increase the chances of better management.

Sophie walking down a freshly cut trail in a young fir plantation. Better access will increase the chances of better management.

Recently I have decided that I need to significantly add to my trails in the woodlot.    There are parts of the woodlot that I have not visited for several years and if I had a proper trail system I would most likely visit these areas more often.   I enjoy walking through my woodlot and that addition of more trails will make it more accessible for me and anyone else who want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

Having access for management or enjoyment are a very important component of owning a woodlot.  The locating of these should reflect your personal needs and preferences.  But sometimes the locations may be, in part, determined by physical land conditions or by regulations or laws.  All of these things should be taken into consideration but by all means, make sure you do develop a system of roads and trails that gives access to the woodlot.

An early spring outing on one of the many trails at Watts Tree Farm.

An early spring outing on one of the many trails at Watts Tree Farm.

If you enjoy reading this or any of the blogs of Watts Tree Farm please consider following by clicking on the “follow” button on the side.   I appreciate receiving comments or questions from readers.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

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

Pruning White Pine for Higher Quality Wood

First of all I want to apologize to my blog followers for not getting a blog written in April.  Life became a little too busy and there was no time to sit down and write a blog.  This could happen again as there are some things happening that will keep me away from finding much time for some of the things I enjoy.  Enough of this, lets move on to the topic of this blog.  Back in January I wrote about thinning a softwood plantation.  This time I would like to write about pruning white pine, which could easily be substituted for many other softwood or hard wood trees.

This young whie pine is receiving its first pruning.  Only two or three whorls of branches will be removed at this age.

This young whie pine is receiving its first pruning. Only two or three whorls of branches will be removed at this age.

The first question you are probably asking yourself is, “Why bother to prune trees at all?”  It is very time-consuming and a fair bit of hard work if you have a larger acreage of trees.  I hope I can clearly answer the question of why pruning is a worthwhile thing to do.  I will focus strictly on white pine for this blog.  The main reason we prune pine is to create clear wood in the trunk or bole of the tree.  When you go to a lumber store to buy pine lumber or pine wood products, you can usually buy it by grade.  In the case of white pine, clear lumber with no knots is the most expensive grade to buy.  In manufactuing clear pine has more value for making things like moulding for your house.  These clear pieces are more stable and less likely to have any breakage.  So if the clear lumber is more valuable then trees that have a higher precetage of knot free wood should also be more valuable.

Knots in lumber are formed from the branches of the tree as it is growing.  The tree simply grows new wood each year and if there are branches the tree will grow around the branch and keep doing this as long as the branch is there.  When the tree is sawn into lumber we see the encased branches as knots.  Some species of trees “self prune” reasonably well but a little intervention can speed up the process.  Quite simply we are trying to remove the lower branches as early as possible in the age of the tree.  Once the lower branches are removed the tree will grow clear “white wood” with no knots in that part of the tree.

Two examples of white pine lumber (paneling).  The one on the left is clear with no knots.   The one on the right is an example of knotty lumber.
Two examples of white pine lumber (paneling). The one on the left is clear with no knots. The one on the right is an example of knotty lumber.

To get the best advantage of pruning it is best to start when the trees are still quite small.  But only a few rows of branches can be removed at one time.  The trees can be revisited every few years and a few more rows of lower branches can be removed.  When the trees are small I like to keep at last 50% of the tree in “live crown”.  In other words, do not remove branches more than halfway up the tree.  As the trees get older this ratio can be reduced to 30% live crown.

Pruning is best done during the “dormant season”.  For white pine in my area this would usually be from October until April Although I have done some smaller trees in May and perhaps even June.  It is best if the pruning is done in the colder months as it is less likely to cause a disease entry point where the branch is removed.  You should try not to cut too close to the trunk of the tree and be careful not to tear any of the bark.  This could cause a decay problem at that point and degrade the lumber from the tree.  As the branches get larger it is desirable to make a cut in the underside of the branch first.  This will help prevent the bark on the trunk of the tree from tearing when the heavy limb falls.

This white pine is receiving its second pruning.  A good pair of hand pruners will still handle this job.

This white pine is receiving its second pruning. A good pair of hand pruners will still handle this job.

When I begin pruning small trees I use hand pruners. It is worth buying a high quality pair which should last years and work much better than inexpensive ones.  As the trees get taller and the branches larger I move to a pruning saw.  You can purchase a small hand pruning saw, a saw with a medium length handle or for really tall trees, a telescoping handle pruning saw works well.

As the trees get taller it is necessary to move to a telescoping pruning saw.  These saws work amazingly well.

As the trees get taller it is necessary to move to a telescoping pruning saw. These saws work amazingly well.

Previously, I had mentioned that the main reason for pruning lower branches is to create higher value wood.  There are a couple of other possible reasons to prune white pine.   White pine are susceptible to a fungal disease called White Pine Blister Rust.  This disease is usually fatal to white pine if they get infected.  One way to reduce the incidence of White pine blister rust is to prune the lower branches of the tree.  In theory this creates better air flow and drier air around the trunk of the tree and seems to help reduce the incidence of this disease.   A third reason to prune trees is purely aesthetics.  There is something very appealing about looking up a tall straight tree with no branch for a long way up the tree.  They seem to be just a little more majestic when they have a clean trunk with no branches.

There are many things to do in a woodlot to make improvements.  Some can be to someday make more money from the sale of our timber or other products.  Some small improvements are for aesthetics, which can be every bit as important as making more income for our woodlots.  Pruning is just one of those little things that can be done, one tree at a time, to make a small improvement.   There are lots of things I would like to write about in future blogs and I hope that many people find this site and find some value in it.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

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

Tracks in the Snow

Winter is coming to an end and Spring is just around the corner. I should have written this blog a couple of months ago but I was our recently with my camera and found some tracks in the snow.  Sometimes, you might not see the animal or bird that is in the woodlot but these tracks show me that they are there, happily living in my woodlot.  Winter is not my personal favorite time of year, however, it is a good time of year to look for signs of our winter residents.  I do enjoy getting out to see these signs life, even if I don’t see the actual wildlife that made these tracks.

Rabbit tracks are one of the most easily identified tracks as well as one of the most plentiful.

Rabbit tracks are one of the most easily identified tracks as well as one of the most plentiful.

Rabbits, which are actually Snowshoe Hare in my area, are usually one of the most plentiful mammals found in the woodlot.  They are very active winter animal and therefore leave lots of tracks to find.  It is important to me to know there is a healthy population of rabbits as they are a prime food source for some of the larger hawks and owls.   These birds of prey are welcome in my woodlot and I know I can do some things to encourage them to live here.   Things like creating good habitat for some of their favorite food sources.  Great topic for a future blog.

Mice are also very active in winter.  Here a single rabbit track is crossing severl rows of mice tracks.

Mice are also very active in winter. Here a single rabbit track is crossing several rows of mice tracks.

By getting out in the winter and looking for the tracks it is possible to do a bit of senses taking.  The more tracks found by one species or another is an indication of how plentiful they are.  On my outing on this day I found a lot of mice tracks.  There are several species of woodland mice and I am not an expert in these small rodents.  However, they too are an important part of the food chain and ecosystem of the woodlot.  Some mice will tunnel under the snow where they are of course safely out of site of potential predators.

Squirrel track next to cell phone (for scale).  The red squirrel track is very similar in shape to a rabbit but it is much smaller.

Squirrel track next to cell phone (for scale). The red squirrel track is very similar in shape to a rabbit but it is much smaller.

Squirrel tracks are another commonly found track in the snow.  Although they spend most of their time in the tree tops they often come down to the ground or snow.  You will usually see their track running from the base of one tree to the base of another tree.  Squirrels will often knock their food to the ground and then come down later to pick it up.  You can especially see them do this in the Autumn.  There are two species of squirrels that I know live in the woodlot.  Besides the red squirrel there are also very elusive and seldom seen flying squirrels.

Landing spot for a Ruffed Grouse.  Note the long slide before it walked away to the top right of the photo.

Landing spot for a Ruffed Grouse. Note the long slide before it walked away to the top right of the photo.

Ruffed Grouse, commonly called partridge in our area, are a common bird found in the woodlot.  They spend a lot of time on the ground walking.  Their tracks are distinctive.  The photo shows a long sliding landing site.  I think a crusty layer of snow was covered with a light dusting of new snow and perhaps gave this larger bird a bit of a surprise landing.  The signs of wildlife living in the woodlot in the winter can be pretty noticeable if you take the time to look.  It can make a winter walk on snowshoes or skis more enjoyable.

Tracks of the elusive Ermine.  Very easily identifable "two" tracks often far apart.

Tracks of the elusive Ermine. Very easily identifiable “two” tracks often far apart.

One mammal I almost never see but can usually find tracks in the winter is the Ermine.  Ermine, which are commonly called weasels, are quite elusive.  Like our snowshoe hare, they turn white in the winter and back to their brown and white color in the summer.  They are a carnivore and prey on mice and voles among other creatures.  They are very fast-moving and any small mammal has little chance of escaping them.  They are also known to climb trees where they may find the occasional birds nest but they seem more at home on the ground.  Winter can be a quieter time of year for viewing wildlife.  A lot of species are either further south or hibernating.  But it is also a good time of year to look for signs of life that you might not see the rest of the year.  If you are like me, I am looking forward to spring and the return of many of the migrating birds and sleeping mammals.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

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

Working Together

As time goes on, I am sure it will become harder and harder to come up with blogs each month that are interesting and meaningful to readers.  I even asked myself “Why do I do this?”  There is no simple or easy answer.  If I simply wanted to write things for only me then I would write in a diary and keep it under my bed, which I don’t by the way.  I obviously want to share some thoughts about the forest and it seems my woodlot is the perfect way to express my thoughts.  Anyone who knows me or has been reading my blogs has probably figured out that I am pretty passionate about the forest.  But still “Why do I do this?”  Why have I put myself on a treadmill to write a blog every month about some aspect of forest management or simply about the enjoyment of the forest?  I guess the short answer is, I want to pass on what ever knowledge I might have about the forest to anyone who might be interested.  It is not as much about passing on knowledge as it is wanting to stimulate thoughts in other people.  It is about “sharing” ideas.  It is about working together to create a better forest for the future.

A beautiful day for a walk (snowshoe) inthe woodlot.

A beautiful day for a walk (snowshoe) in the woodlot.

I am fortunate to have a few people who actually follow this blog.  This got me thinking “Why do others follow this blog?”  Some are my family and I expect a few of them to follow, even if they are not interested!  But there are others who have decided to follow what I write and I really don’t know why.  I always hope that people who find the site and read some of the things written here will gain some new information or thought-provoking idea.  I am always amazed at the countries that readers are from.  I get hits from countries around the world!  I think when I first started I thought I would attract a few people from Prince Edward Island or at least from Eastern North America, who shared similar interests in managing a small woodlot.  But when I see the places in the world that readers are from I am now beginning to think that it is a global community of people who are interested in some aspect of the forest and managing or enjoying it.  Or maybe they just wanted to learn a little about forests in Prince Edward Island, Canada, I really don’t know.

The forest provides products like these piles of firewood.

The forest provides products like these piles of firewood.

Prince Edward Island has recently started a new wood lot owners association.  The association is called PEI Woodlot Owners Association and you can find them on the web at: http://peiwoa.drupalgardens.com/. They are just getting started and I am sure there will be more content on the website as time goes on.  This association is something my tiny province needs very much.  We need people to join together to share information and to join together to encourage each other to do better forest management.  We simply can’t do things on our own.  At Watts Tree Farm, I want to see the woodlot produce the best and highest quality and valuable trees we can.  But the markets are limited, to say the least, in my area.  So perhaps by having more people, growing better quality trees, we can reach a critical mass that makes businesses start up and use these valuable trees.  It is my vision, but remember – just my vision, of seeing more small businesses manufacturing wood products from trees they find locally.  Small sawmills that focus on quality and not quantity.  Not the massive commodity based lumber mills that need huge quantities of wood to sustain them.  My wood lot is small, as are all of the woodlots in Prince Edward Island.  I am far more interested in supplying a few good logs to a local mill that appreciates receiving them than I am of harvesting a large area of my woodlot at one time to supply a large mill.  It’s just who I am and now that there is a local association of woodlot owners perhaps we can all work together to achieve some new growth in local businesses who focus on high value rather than high volume.

A gathering of people at a Forest Seed Workshop held a few years ago at Watts Tree Farm.

A gathering of people at a Forest Seed Workshop held a few years ago at Watts Tree Farm.

But of course, the forest is not all about growing the best possible trees either.  There is so much more.  Doing some things to make the woodlot a better place for wildlife is also important.  I have learned so much over the years from other people.  Getting out and meeting with other people and sharing information and ideas is how we learn.  But I am also finding out that right here online, on the “web”, we can find and share information.  So in a way, I am creating a spot online to share information.  A blog is mostly one way sharing but not completely.  I have had people send me questions which I will try to answer, either in a future blog or directly if they like.  I love the forest and I hope somewhere, somehow my words will help someone else to enjoy it too.  People can enjoy my woodlot through my blog or they can come on out sometime and actually take a walk through Watts Tree Farm.  By working together we can do so much more.  Instead of being at opposite ends of the spectrum of what should be done in a forest, we can find middle ground.  We can respect the needs of each other and truly build a good and healthy forest that provides products and employment, while at the same time, gives us a beautiful environment to enjoy.  The forest really is a great gift to use and enjoy. One that is even greater when it is shared with others.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

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