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.
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.
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.
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.
Robin wanted to celebrate the end of the first year of our ownership of White Tree Farm. Taking a cue from the Francis Mallman episode of the Netflix series “Chef’s Table”, she wanted us to share an outdoor meal on the farm. A true-Mallman meal would have been prepared on site, but we decided to make the bulk of the food at home and to simply enjoy it beside a roaring campfire.
We were fortunate with the weather as the unseasonably warm weather held until New Year’s Day. The temperature held just above zero for the evening and we found when we located the firepit just on the east side of our north-south windbreak, it was quite comfortable. Robin decorated the trees at the edge of the windbreak with a set of candle-lit lanterns she bought from Ikea which made for a magical setting. A dinner of pulled pork, potato salad, coleslaw and S’mores for dessert proved rather tasty.
Unfortunately, it was a little unsettling for our one-year-old granddaughter to be outside in such a dark place, so she and her mother stayed only about an hour. Robin, I and our son-in-law stayed longer, watching the fire and sharing stories and hopes for the future.
All in all, a fitting way to celebrate the end of our first year on White Tree Farm.