Friday, June 22, 2012

A Family Tradition

A Family Tradition

From an early age, my father planted trees.  He and his sister dug up a small spruce tree, when they were still children, and moved it to a spot beside the driveway on the farm where it stands to this day, almost a century old.

Growing up on that farm, I helped Dad plant trees in areas that were unsuited for agriculture, a small patch here and there.  As the years went by,  I would go with him as he checked on how they were doing.  It gave him immense pleasure to see the seedlings grow to become young trees and eventually small stands on the landscape.

In the mid-70's, when Mom and Dad were visiting us in Yellowknife, we went out into the bush and dug up a birch, planting in the front yard of our first home.  Many years later, after we had moved back to Ontario, I was visiting our daughter, Megan, who was working there at the time and one picture we took was of the two of us in front of the birch her grandfather had helped plant.

In the '80's, in our Ontario woodlot, we planted white pine in open areas where only ground juniper existed.  Dad and I manned the shovels and my three children carried the seedlings and placed them in the ground.  Today, in that woodlot, the pines are two storeys high and taking over from the juniper.

One of the first things I did when we bought our present farm, in 1990, was to begin planting trees.  I would guess we've planted 15,000 seedlings over the twenty plus years we've owned the land.  This spring, our two oldest grandchildren got their first instruction in planting trees.  They listened with interest and put the seedlings in the hole with great care making sure all the root hairs were covered with soil.

Dad would have been pleased.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Sentinel

As I was sorting through a pile of paper the other day, trashing some, filing some, and putting the rest in new piles, I came upon a photo from years gone by.



This photo was taken in the 1970's during a visit back home from Yellowknife. It shows one of a row of pine stumps which formed a fence along the road in front of our original family farm.  I grew up on the farm next door and we drove by this fence almost every day.

These stumps would have been pulled up at the time of the land clearing by the first settlers and they acted as a boundary marker and cattle barrier for over a century.  It was one of the only stump fences left in that area in my lifetime.  My Dad loved that old fence and the story that came with it; I marveled at the tenacity of the first settlers and the longevity of those twisted roots.

 Living 3000 miles away does make you appreciate more the little things that speak of home.  Armed with a new camera, and looking for subjects, I snapped a shot of this old friend. 

Little did I know how important that act would become.  The negative has long since been lost, but the photo has travelled with me over the decades reminding me of my roots (pun intended).

Within the next year or so, the municipality "upgraded" the road and the stump fence was gone.  On subsequest trips, I would see the stumps lying, unemployed, in the pasture field where they were pushed.  At the same time, driftwood became collectable and trespassers began breaking off pieces of root to set on their coffee tables until the next fad came along.

So now this photo is all that's left to document a time long gone.  If I ever get around to writing my book, I think it will be on the cover.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Flower Shop Table

A friend of mine asked me to make a table for the window of her flower shop.  She wanted to use it for her spring displays.

Rummaging through my collection of hickory sticks, I came up with four that I thought would go together.  Next came selecting the maple for the top and skirt.  I like to work with "wane edge" lumber as it makes each piece unique and reminds us that it came from a tree. 

It also fits nicely with my short attention span, as I get bored quickly with repetitive duplication.  Each piece is different and has it's own personality.

I had high hopes for this piece but, in the end, it turned out even better than expected.  At the present time, its my favourite.


I delivered it to the shop the other day and was approached by a man as I unloaded it from the truck.  He was quite excited about the table; that's got to be a good sign.

I hope it turns heads even more in the shop window.

From Samuel Hearne to NAFTA


photo by Meghan Balough


Last November, at the Trenton Woodlot Conference, a forestry friend gave me a slice of white cedar burl.  It came from somewhere south of Bancroft and had been cut about fifteen years ago.


The burl had been cut cross-sectionally, with the tree included, the stem being about 11” diameter and the burl about 24” in the longest direction.


This winter I carved it with the intention of having it ready for my next sale but, as the rings became clearer, I realized that I would probably never sell it; the tree had 224 rings.  A healthy white cedar, in optimum conditions, could, conceivably, reach this diameter in 40 years.


photo by Meghan Balough

To put this in perspective, I employed another interest of mine, Canadian exploration and mapping.


This tree began life about the time Samuel Hearne completed his trip down the Coppermine River in 1771, becoming the first European to see the Arctic Ocean.  At this time, maps of Canada showed little west of Lake Superior.


This tree was already growing when the United Empire Loyalists began arriving on our shores.


It was over 70 years old when the Franklin expedition disappeared into the Arctic, and was almost 100 at Confederation.


The burl began growing somewhere around the time Roald Admunsden became the first to navigate the Northwest Passage.  It continued growing for another 90 years up to the end of the 20th century.


While this is not an old tree by cedar standards (some in Bon Echo Park are nearly 1000 years old), it’s special to me and, be forewarned, if you come to visit, I’ll make you look at it.


I’ll even provide a magnifying glass if you want to verify the age.