| Oct 22, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - October 22, 2009 Managing your woodlot makes $enseBy Julie Druker

Steve Pitt speaks about the endangered butternut

Judging by the 50 + people who attended the Forest Products Workshop put on by the Frontenac Stewardship Council at Wintergreen Studios, an off the grid eco-lodge near Westport on Oct. 17, many woodlot and land owners are interested in exploring different ways of managing their forests and the possibilities of producing a surprisingly wide variety of forest products.

Cam McCauley, Stewardship Coordinator for Frontenac County, organized the day-long event, which offered participants presentations, tours and displays by experienced local landowners who practice forest management.

Steve Pitt, Coordinator of the Lennox and Addington Stewardship Council, and Dave Sexsmith, a member of the Upper Canada Woods Co-op who is also a sawmill and woodlot owner, led one group. They highlighted basic forest management practices.

They spoke about how to keep a forest healthy; how to thin a forest to promote growth; how to recognize disease problems, and other general management practices.

Steve covered many topics including how to recognize healthy butternut trees (now listed as an endangered species), how to plant their seeds in the fall by first softening the nut and then sprinkling wood ash on top to mask the smell from hungry animals. Dave displayed examples of milled lumber and explained how to approximate an individual tree’s lumber value and how best to harvest trees.

On the topic of thinning, Steve pointed out, “Managing forests is not unlike managing a garden in that of the roughly 15 species of trees growing in this particular forest, some will grow better than others, which will determine what and when you cut.”

Speaking generally he said, “Forests are usually managed on a 20-year cycle so it’s best to look at each individual tree and ask, ‘What will it look like in 20 years?’”

In general, it is good to get rid of injured trees and leaners in an otherwise healthy lot. Maintaining a forest’s crown closure is also an important consideration since too much sunlight can encourage the growth of unwanted plants and can also encourage windthrow, which can destroy or damage healthy trees.

That being said, the long-term goal of the woodlot owner is the most important factor that will determine the way a woodlot or forest is managed.

For example, David Hahn of Forest Farms manages his forest with a focus on maple syrup and garlic production. So a huge old maple that might be taken down on another person’s lot would be left standing on his.

For Rena Upitis of Wintergreen Studios, abundant wildlife is her primary concern. She was told to encourage the growth of nut-producing trees like beech and oak. She was also advised to leave dead, cavity-bearing trees standing as habitats for birds and other animals.

Later in the morning, Neil Thomas, who owns and operates a black walnut tree farm near Lansdowne, gave a power point slide presentation of what he has learned in his 20 years of growing and harvesting walnuts.

Usually considered a southern crop, David grows black walnuts trees and harvests them for their meat, shells and husks. His uncommon foray into farming walnuts (he might just be the biggest producer in all of Ontario) has produced a lot of vital information and statistics for anyone considering taking the plunge.

He partnered in a program with the local mechanical engineering students at Algonquin College in Ottawa to develop prototypes for machines designed to aid in the harvesting and cleaning of the walnuts.

In the afternoon, Rick Dawson of Desert Lake Gardens near Sydenham, who has been growing shiitake mushrooms for a number of years, spoke about the process, which involves inoculating oak logs that he harvests from his property (see the News article titled “Farming the Shiitake Mushroom, July 2, 2009). The mushrooms are flavorful and meaty and when sun-dried are very high in Vitamin D.

Tom Kaemmer of Toba Apiaries, and Ron Peterson of Ron’s Honey in Odessa, spoke about the ins and outs of managing bees and producing honey. They brought with them the equipment they use and described the process.

Ken Waller, a wood turner from Sharbot Lake, informed woodlot owners of the value of burls, those wart-like growths on trees that make lumber barons cringe. Burls offer wood turners hidden treasures with their dramatic patterns and markings and wood turners will pay for them.

Gray Merriam, Chair of the Frontenac Stewardship Council, summed up the many possibilities available to woodlot owners these days. “It all depends on the woodlot owners’ goals. Personally, my wife and I have a strip of forest along the Salmon River and our main objective is to manage it to maintain the health of the river. Though some would consider it non-management and though we do do some selective harvesting for firewood, we mainly want to preserve the natural forest and the four species of woodpeckers, the owls, and the tree nesting ducks that live there.”

Regarding the day‘s workshop Gray explained, “The purpose was to show woodlot owners the diversity of products that they can get from their woods rather than thinking of only standard lumber markets.”

He highlighted the fact that aesthetic value alone is often an important consideration. “An operation like Wintergreen Studios is a prime example. It would not be here if it wasn’t for the aesthetics of the forest that it sits in. The studio is selling the aesthetic values of the forest to visitors coming here.”

Gray also pointed out that as woodlot owners become aware of more options available to them, they are beginning to look at forest management from an entirely different perspective. He explained, “They start looking at intensive management of their forests meaning from one individual tree to another.”

According to Steve Pitts, woodlot owners who have certain objectives in mind but are unsure of how to achieve them, should seek advice from a professional first and have them assess the lot before any cutting is done.

For more information contact Cam McCauley at 613-531-5714 or visit the Frontenac Stewardship Council at www.ontariostewardship.org/councils

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