One of our high-priority tasks at WTF was to build a set of trails around the edges of the property.
Although I did a lot of reading on trail construction, making the trails has been straightforward. To start, I used the rotary cutter on our John Deere tractor to clear the trails of the small brush that grew up since the fields were last farmed. The clay soil on the property makes a good foundation for the trails and we’ve not had to dress them with gravel or other ground material. In 2020 and 2021, we’ve been able to maintain the trails by cutting them every three weeks or so with our ride-on lawnmower set at a 3-4″ cut. There is only one small length of trail that is prone to washing out/staying muddy; I could put a small walkway there but for now we’ll live with it.
Naming the Trails
We’ve had a lot of fun naming the trails:
The east side of the property is covered with blackberry plants, so the name was pretty obvious. Blackberry Trail starts at the bridge we built in 2020 and ends at a log bench where you can look out over Lake Erie (as seen in the title photo). Blackberry Trail also gives the best views of the trees we had planted in 2016. In the future, the trail will sit between two rows of oak trees for much of its length.
We’ve seen a lot of deer moving across the farm right at the cliff’s edge. I think it was Becky who said “Look. Deer on Deerfoot Trail.” The name is also an ode to Calgary since everyone except Lily lived there for quite a few years.
Turkey Run Trail
In the early days owning the farm, we would most often see wild turkeys on the west side of the property, so we choose to name this trail after them. Turkey Run Trail also runs through the forested area in the northwest corner of the property; this stretch is probably my favorite part of all the trails.
Centre Trail runs down the middle of the property following the old gravel road for part of the way. It is the main access route for getting our tractor into the south part of the farm.
When we started construction on our new house, it became pretty clear that we needed to manage the flow of water coming off the fields from swamping the house. At the suggestion of our general contractor, we had a swale cut on the east side of the house that diverts the water north towards the main road. While this has helped the water management tremendously, it has left us with a three-foot ditch that prevents us from accessing the east fields directly with our lawn mower. The lockdown around the COVID-19 outbreak gave us a lot of free time on our hands and Robin suggested building a bridge over the swale. She sketched out a plan and secured the building materials (which at the time there was still plenty available).
We decided to build as much as we could in our workshop rather at the site. The workshop has a nice flat floor and was pretty warm in comparison to the outside temperature.
The next weekend, we prepared the footings for the bridge. Then we used our John Deere 1025R tractor to move the finished sections to the final location.
Preparing the Site
First Footings in Place
Assembling the Bridge
Ready for Planking
Installing the Planks
Once in position, we joined the two halves together and installed the planks and the caps on the posts.
Both Robin and I are really happy with the way it turned out and access to the east side trails is now straightforward.
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.
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…
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.
Framing in Progress
Granddaughter Lily checks out the finished workshop
If you look back far enough in Google Earth, you can see that there was at least a barn and a house at the north end of the White Tree Farm property in 2006. We believe the owner before us had these buildings removed, creating a blank canvas for us to build upon.
Robin and I have had a number of planning meetings over the past six months and we’ve agreed that starting with a sizable workshop would be the best first step. We’ve engaged a local builder who drew us up some plans and he’ll start construction in the next few months. The image above is of the south elevation of the workshop; it will be a substantial building.
Robin has selected the color scheme: red siding, white trim and a gray roof which will give it a classic Southern Ontario farm building look.