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 ***

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: 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.***

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.

Wildlife in the Woodlot – Nest Boxes

Tree Swallow & Nest Box

Being close to nature and having wildlife in our woodlot is a very important part of the enjoyment of owning and managing a small part of the forest. There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing or being near a wild creature of the forest. Those of you who have this feeling know what I am talking about. But managing for “Wildlife” can be a complex process of decision-making and compromises. I expect that many people who read this blog will share this interest in managing for wildlife in the forest.   With even a little information you can begin to understand some of the things that can be done to help attract or keep certain species in your woodlot. Simply to say “I want to manage for wildlife.” is frankly too broad of a statement. I hope to write many blogs about wildlife both from the enjoyment aspect, which I want to share with you, and from a management point of view.

(Click on any photo to see a larger image)

Adding nest boxes to your woodlot or back yard can be beneficial to some species of wildlife.

As this is mid winter, perhaps it is a good time to prepare for the coming nesting season of some of our feathers friends. Nest boxes can be a very helpful way to encourage some species to your woodlot or to your back yard. Many of our local species are what we call “cavity nesters” . As this term implies, these are species that build their nest in a cavity space that is safe for them to raise their young. In fact, if they do not find a suitable cavity or some sort of inside space to have their nest they will not be able lay eggs and raise their young. Most cavity nesting birds have no ability to build a nest on a branch or any other external area. They must find a suitable cavity to successfully raise their young.

Nest Boxes need some way to be opened so that they can be cleaned each year after the nesting season.

This is where you come in. You can build and erect suitable nest boxes that many species will take to with great ease. I happen to like tree swallows and I have had good success with putting out boxes for them. The same size box I use for tree swallows has also been used by chickadees and squirrels, both red squirrels and flying squirrels. Nest boxes can be built to sizes that attract many different species of birds or mammals of all sizes. Of course the box has to be placed in suitable habitat as well. You are not going to get Barred owls nesting in a box in the city or in the open but you will if you locate a suitable size box deeper in a more mature forest. Of course I am talking only about the species in my area in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Your species may differ in your region so you will need to know the habits of species in your area.

To help you with designs of nesting boxes, I am attaching a few websites for you to go to find out more. Designs are usually quite simple. All species have their preferred size of box and opening. The opening size is quite critical to some species. Here are some websites for you to have look at:

Nest boxes will need only a little care. They must have a way to open so that the old nesting material can be removed after the nesting season. This will reduce the parasites that will affect next years brood. The adults are quite capable of finding new nesting material each year so there is no need to leave the old material in there. The exception might be the owls who use course woody stems for nesting material.

This box has nesting material that is moss. This is an indication that it was used by chickadees. It needs to be cleaned before spring arrives.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to use the comment box. If you do not want your comments posted on the web just tell me in your comments, as each comment must be submitted to me before they are posted online.  I hope you find this blog useful and enjoyable. Your comments and questions may help me provide even better information in the future. There are many interesting things to see in Watts Tree Farm throughout the year. I am happy to share them with you.

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.