End of Winter 2017-2018

The Namesake White Tree at White Tree Farm

Can it really be the 2018 Easter weekend already?

Robin and I have been out at White Tree Farm quite a bit over the past month or so. What have we found? Winter 2017-2018 was a tough one and has impacted White Tree Farm in a couple of significant ways.

Erosion

Firstly, we’ve experienced a good deal of erosion of the bluff at the south end of the property. We noticed in the summer of 2017 that a piece of land about 10 feet by 60 feet had sloughed down about 6 inches in the middle of the bluff. Returning in March, we found this entire patch of land had fallen away. This was probably a result of the heavy snowfall we experienced in December and January, along with a long hard cold snap and the subsequent warm-up. This by far was the most erosion loss we have seen since we bought the property.

Trees

Secondly, we lost a number of old trees at the corners of the properties. Many have been uprooted; others split by heavy winds. We definitely have some clean-up to do.

Finally, we walked a great deal of the area that we had 5000 trees planted in spring 2016. While the softwoods (pines, cedars, spruces, etc) appear to be doing well, we initially feared that the hardwoods we planted did not make out as well. But a couple of weekends later, Robin and I made a second, more careful, walk of the area and discovered many more hardwoods taking hold. We marked these young trees with surveyor’s flags so we can monitor their progress better.

We are also preparing for our first year of gardening. Robin has been growing seeds that will later be transplanted into the new beds at the farm. I installed two rainwater harvesters in the downspouts of the workshop. Collecting water for the gardening will be important for later on the year.

I’ve also got a new way of documenting the farm: a DJI Mavic Pro Platinum drone. I want to use for a number of things, the most important is tracking the changes in the bluff at the south end of the property. But the drone also gives the opportunity to take photographs like the one above, showing the namesake birch tree facing north across the fields of out neighborhood’s farm.

2017 Freeman Family Picnic

Robin and I were happy to host the 2017 edition of her mother’s family picnic at White Tree Farm on Sunday August 27. The picnic has been a tradition of the Freeman family for over 100 years.

We had a perfect day weather-wise and over 40 people turned out to enjoy good food and conversation.

Our First Full-time Summer

It is hard to believe that it is the end of August already; the summer of 2017 has flown past. There has been a lot of activity at White Tree Farm since the beginning of May. It is only now that we’ve had a chance to sit down and document it.

To start, we’ve moved back to Canada after 14 years as expatriates (five years in Houston, Texas and nine years in Amsterdam, the Netherlands). After spending a month transitioning in Calgary, we’ve moved full-time into our place in Port Stanley, putting us a mere 15-minute drive from White Tree Farm. So, since then, Robin and I have been spending most days at the farm.

Finished Projects

To date, we have:

  • Bought a tractor with a box blade, a  rotary cutter and a front-end loader attachment.
  • Built a heavy-duty 4’x8′ workbench for the workshop.
  • Performed a lot of maintenance on the driveway, filling in low spots and leveling it along its length.
  • Trimmed a number of trees on the property to improve access to roads and walking paths.
  • Cleared the weeds out of the main areas around the workshop: the future gardens to the east and south as well as the land north. The weeds got out of hand in June and needed several hours to get them back in order.
  • Built a hugelkultur raised garden bed with all of the tree branches, hay and other organic material we’ve been collecting.
  • Installed a 6′ to 8′ gravel walkway around the perimeter of the workshop. We hope this will keep the weeds down in the future years.
  • Built a new sign for the entrance to the farm.
  • Rotary-cut a number of the fields that we plan on converting to gardens in 2018.

We still have a number of projects to finish this year. We purchased a 8′ x 16′ greenhouse kit which we will build just south of the workshop. This will help Robin to start getting ready for planting in 2018.

All in all, both Robin and I are very happy with the progress we’ve made during the summer of 2017.

5,000 of 50,000,000

One of the first things Robin and I discussed after purchasing White Tree Farm was the reestablishment of woodlots on the property.  In one of the early discussions Robin had with our local conservation association, they pointed out that the Ontario government had committed to planting 50 million trees before 2025 and would provide low-cost trees and planting services.  In order to qualify for the program, potential landowners need

  • At least one hectare (2.5 acres) of suitable land.
  • Land that is open, or mostly open, and has not been defined as a woodland since December 31, 1989, per the Forestry Act.
  • To sign a 15-year management agreement to maintain any trees that have been planted.
  • To practice good forestry management habits.
  • To assume the additional costs associated with the ongoing maintenance of planted trees.

Robin and I jumped at the opportunity to take part , even though we barely had time to think about it.  We decided to plant a mixture of hard and soft woods in the southeast corner of the property. The team did the planting in early May, putting in 5000 trees over 4 acres.

When Robin and I were back in the area in September, we walked through the area and took the picture above.  It looks like the vast majority of the planted trees made it through the summer.  We will see what the next few years bring.

On the Trans Canada Trail

With the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation approaching in 2017, interest in the Trans Canada Trail has picked up considerably. The last big push was in the early 2000’s when a number of connecting trails were built between towns and cities. But things have been quiet until the nation’s 150th anniversary has revived the goal to fully complete the coast-to-coast vision.

So imagine our surprise when we found out the trail passes along the north end of the White Tree Farm property as it runs southwest from St Thomas.

Robin and I are thinking about ways we can support TCT travelers as they pass by White Tree Farm. More to come…

Workshop Progress

After a month or so of inactivity, our builder, Goodhue Construction, started work.  Over the span of three weeks, we went from basic framing to having it pretty much completed.  The following photographs (taken by the builder and our daughter Becky) shows the progress over that time period.

Everyone is very pleased on how it turned out.