I Love Spring!

It is almost summer but I want to tell how much I enjoy spring here at Watts Tree Farm in Prince Edward Island, Canada.  After a long cold winter it is nice to get out and see the forest coming back to life.  Of course in a blog I can only show you a few photographs of the spring season.  As things begin to return to, or grow in, the forest after a long rest or a long flight back from some warmer place the promise of a new season of life is seen and felt.  Unfortunately, I can not convey the sounds and even the smell of the forest this time of year.  But it is a beautiful time of year and one that fills you with hope and just makes you feel good about the coming summer months.

It nice to go for a walk in the woodlot in early spring and not have to walk through snow.  The warm sun sure feel good.

It nice to go for a walk in the woodlot in early spring and not have to walk through snow. The warm sun sure feel good.

Just getting out to go for a walk this time of year seems so beautiful.  Life is beginning a new season of growth.  The leaves are not even out on the trees yet but you can feel the warmth of the sun and you know things are going to change every day.   Things seem to change more rapidly this time of year than at any other.  One of the earliest butterflies to appear in the spring is the Mourning Cloak.  I hadn’t seen one in years so I was pretty excited to see this one.  They seem to be more of a forest butterfly rather than a garden butterfly.

The Mourning Cloak butterfly is a very early butterfly in the spring.  I have seen it appear before the leaves are out on the hardwood trees.

The Mourning Cloak butterfly is a very early butterfly in the spring. I have seen it appear before the leaves are out on the hardwood trees.

Many of the forest flowers seem to bloom early in the spring.  Some are in bloom before the leaves are fully out on the trees.  I guess this is to take advantage of the warm sun before they are covered by the shade of the trees later in the spring.  There are a lot of woodland flowers that bloom early in the season.  Some are in the more open areas, like purple violets and wild strawberries.  Others grow where there is more shade.  One of my favorites for aroma is the May Flower.  Its small white or pale pink flowers give off one of the most beautiful scents.  As I was saying earlier, I can show you a photograph but I can not send you the aroma.  You’ll have to come for a visit when the May flowers are in bloom if you want to experience the fragrance of these delicate flowers.  We only have tiny patch of them in our woodlot.  I transplanted a few of them many years ago and they are established now but only in one spot.

The May Flower is not the most attractive of all the woodland plants but it has the most beautiful fragrance.

The May Flower is not the most attractive of all the woodland plants but it has the most beautiful fragrance.

Even the new ferns as they unfurl are nice to see.  When the conditions are right they can grow very quickly.  One of the most popular late spring flowers to bloom in PEI is the Lady Slipper.  The Lady Slipper is the Provincial flower of PEI and is seen on many craft items in shops across the “Island.”  Unfortunately it blooms just a little too early for most of the tourists to see them first hand.

Lady Slippers are the Provincial flower of Prince Edward Island.  The bloon in mid to late June in my area.

Lady Slippers are the Provincial flower of Prince Edward Island. The bloom in mid to late June in my area.

There is a Flying Squirrel peeking out of the opening in this nest box.  Flying squirrels only come out at night to feed.

There is a Flying Squirrel peeking out of the opening in this nest box. Flying squirels only come out at night to feed.

Along with the return of the earliest butterflies and the blooming spring flowers are the sights and sounds of wildlife.  The migratory birds begin to be seen in the tree tops and as soon as the leaves are fully out most of the birds will have returned for another nesting season.  You can’t blame them for wanting to come to PEI to raise their young.  Some of the mammals will also become more active and search for a place to raise their young.  I have written about the use of nest boxes in a previous blog.  This year I was fortunate to get a photo of a flying squirrel using one of my nest boxes as “home”.  Flying squirrels are out only at night so they are not often seen.  Most people probably do not even know we have them in PEI.  Although they are called “flying” squirrels they don’t actually fly.  They do have an extra layer of skin that is attached from their front legs to their back legs.  When they jump they spread this skin and glide easier from tree to tree.

There is so much to see, hear, feel and smell in the Spring.  It is one of my favorite times of the year.


Until next time, keep safe and well.

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

Red Oak – PEI’s Provincial Tree

Red Oak in early fall, adding a beautiful color to the Autumn landscape.

Managing a woodlot begins with some simple principles, such as, being able to identify some of the most common trees in your area and knowing something about them.  I’ve chosen Red Oak to talk about in today’s blog.

Every province in Canada has its own Provincial tree.  Red Oak is Prince Edward Island’s.  Red oak is not an overly common tree in PEI and grows only in a few concentrated areas.  When I bought my woodlot back in 1978 there were no red oak trees on the property or in the area.  In the mid 1980’s I stared a few red oaks from seed and planted these seedlings in scattered spots in the woodlot.  Today these first few red oak trees, now in their mid twenties, are the source of new red oak seedlings beginning to grow throughout the woodlot.  I often find them growing among my Christmas trees, where I know I did not plant them.

Red oak has a large seed that is called an acorn.  Because of its large size it is not distributed by the wind.  So how are these large seeds being distributed?  This is where our fur and feather friends play a role.  Squirrels, chipmunks and blue jays are the most likely distributors of these seeds.

Young red oak saplings, about 2-3 meters tall, under-planted in an aging white spruce stand. The beginning of a new and diverse forest stand.

Remember I mentioned about knowing something about trees in order to begin to manage them.  Every tree species has a certain characteristic known as shade tolerance.  Simply put, it is the measure of the degree of light necessary for species to survive.  Most trees will grow much better in full sunlight but some are very good at surviving in shade or semi shade conditions.  Red oak is roughly in the middle of the range of shade tolerance or what is called intermediate shade tolerance.  This means they can be planted in areas where they will get some sun and shade.  But for best growth they need more sunlight.

One year old red oak seedling growing naturally in the woodlot. This young tree was not planted and is a long way from a mature tree. Proof that either a squirrel or a jay brought the seed here.

Most people think that red oak are slow-growing trees.   Most people would be wrong.  Red oak is among the fastest growing hardwood trees in PEI.  In the right conditions it has a growth rate nearly equal to some of the best growing softwood trees.  Red oak has many great features which is why I encourage them to grow in my woodlot.  They have value as a tree that can be cut for high quality lumber.  They respond well to pruning, which will be a topic in a future blog.  They add diversity to my woodlot.  They are aesthetically very attractive, especially in the autumn.  Red oak also add a valuable new food source to my woodlot for several mammals that make up part of the natural food chain.   They are probably one of the most valuable tree species I can add to my woodlot from just about every use I can think of.

If you want to add red oak to your woodlot it can be very easy.  If you don’t have a source of seedlings but you do know where there is a mature red oak you can collect acorns in the fall, then you may be all set.  Collect the acorns just as they fall from the tree or if you can, pick them directly from the tree right at the time they are ready to fall.   Take your red oak seeds and walk through your woodlot and plant the seeds directly in the soil in the fall.  You are just doing what mother nature intended!  Plant the seed just barely beneath the soil.  The winter will stratify the seed and make them ready to sprout the next spring.  If you are anxious to know where they are put a small marker by the spot where you planted the oak seed.  In the first year the new seedling will only put up a small top, as seen in the photo (click on any photo for a larger image) but will have a very long root.   Red oak will develop a deep root which makes it very wind firm as a mature tree.

In future blogs I will write about other species giving you some insight into why they are important to Watts Tree Farm.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

Hello World – Welcome to Watts Tree Farm

This is my first Blog and I hope it will be fun for me to write and for you to read.

Watts Tree Farm is a 40 hectare (100 acre) woodlot located in Eastern, Prince Edward Island, Canada. As I write my blogs I hope to touch on many subjects related to owning, enjoying and using a small piece of the world forest. It does not matter what part of the world you live in I think you will find something interesting. You don’t have to be a land owner just someone who loves forest and trees. I will try to be a little entertaining. However, at times I intend to use the blog to teach what I know about forest management, trees, wildlife, Christmas trees, recreation and many other subjects.

I believe that owning a forest is a responsibility. But the forest should give us many things, including some income. We all think about forests from our own point of view. I will give you mine. You may not agree with what I do or how I do things but we are all entitled to our opinions. These differences make the world a wonderful and interesting place. We form our opinions from information we receive from others. We take those ideas and think about them and finally form our own unique opinions. This is what I would like to accomplish. Not that what I am doing is right or wrong but it is there for you to read about and form your own opinions. I believe in using the forest and trying to have a vision for improving it. At Watts Tree Farm I think we take a balanced approach.

As I am most definitely “technology challenged” I hope you will bear with me as I try to learn how to use the features of this blog site. I hope some of you will reply and perhaps suggest topics I can post. You may have questions that I can answer in the posts. If one person has a question it is safe to bet that there are others who are wondering the same thing.

I can only converse in English but I hope the blog will be found by people around the world. You can live in a city like London, England or Tokyo, Japan and I still think you will find this blog site interesting. I would like to hear about forests in other places. However, I will talk mostly about what I know and things I see and do in the 40 ha Watts Tree Farm. I’ll try to add a few photographs to keep it interesting. As they say, ” A picture is worth a thousand words.” so I will be able to write a whole lot less. I am not sure how long a blog should be or how often I will write.

Perhaps it will take more than one blog to set the stage. I would like to give you some more information about the woodlot and the types of trees we have. I would like to talk about our management philosophy. You will learn more about my passion for value-added and trying to grow the best possible tree and not necessarily the most possible trees. You will understand more as time goes on. You will see that the forest has many uses and many products. You will see how we integrate wildlife needs into the management done in the woodlot. Lets think of this as a journey and the journey begins here and now.

Until next time, keep safe and well.