The last two mornings we have woken up to -23C temperatures. It’s nice to have a wood burning fireplace. Ours is a Vermont Castings “Defiant” model made in 1975. It throws a lot of heat and our problem has never been being too cold. In fact we have to keep the damper turned down substantially. The problem with keeping the fire at low heat for long periods of time is a tar-like creosote buildup in the flue and chimney. So today I am running a special log that helps eliminate creosote.
Meanwhile, out in the woods when it isn’t cold and windy, we go on our near-daily snowshoe treks. It’s a good time of year to take stock of the forest, the progress we’ve made and what needs to be done for this year and into the future. Generally, this time of year is good for planning and introspection
Sure we have the farm work during the warmer months but the forest has always had a special place in our hearts. They are the lungs of the world, a rich environment where animals and plants thrive, a filtration system for fresh water. We try to take care of our forest and not deplete it of resources. We harvest Chanterelle mushrooms in the late Summer and take out small amounts of firewood for heating.
Lately, as part of my introspection, I am mindful of the damage we can easily inflict on our environment. When Eileen and I were first dating, I traveled to Newport with her in the Summer of 1986 to see her ancestral home. When we arrived most of the forest on the property had been destroyed. Her mom had sold harvesting rights to a logging company and they had come in and clearcut. It was a sickening sight. The place looked like it had been carpet bombed, the earth churned by heavy equipment and nothing but stumps across the property. Eileen had grown up with this forest and was heartbroken by the sight. The company, as part of its contractual agreement, planted mono-culture seedlings. They also proceeded to spray (by airplane) the acreage with Roundup so that only their seedlings would flourish. Many of the seedlings were planted inches apart and when they grew they crowded each other, rarely thriving and serving as a constant reminder of this grotesque industry.
So now, 36 years later, we are still cleaning up the damage. After the first Roundup spraying Eileen ordered the company to desist. Once in a while I go in with brushcutter and chainsaw to get rid of the crowded seedlings. We have encouraged diversity in the forest and I have strict limits on how much firewood I can take out and from where. Another aspect of creating diversity is simply by keeping the forestry companies out and letting nature take its course. I was thinking of a science fiction book I read back in CEGEP by Ursula Leguin while writing this, hence the title of today’s blog – “The Word for World is Forest”.
Although the forestry company gave preference to their seedlings we have been pleased to see the return of all sorts of species. Besides Balsam firs and Black Spruce we also have White Birch, Yellow Birch, Red Maple, White Spruce, Cedar and now – White Pine!
Four years ago Eileen was thrilled she discovered a small, spindly looking white pine tree by the side of the forest road. It looked like the sad Christmas Tree that Charlie Brown got. So we named it – Charlie Brown. Not far away was another White Pine that was leaning against another tree. We named that one Linus. Last week we discovered another White pine. Her name is Lucy.
Not all of the forest was clearcut in 1986. There remains a section of old growth forest on the property with beautiful old trees. There are a couple of creeks that run through it and some amazing Yellow Birch trees. As long as we are here we won’t be selling the trees for thirty pieces of silver.
Lastly. Our activities during the last couple of weeks have focused mainly on the indoors. With the arrival of the Omicron variant and the cold weather we have gone into Winter survival mode. I have baked dozens of cinnamon and chocolate rolls, Icelandic rye bread, oatmeal bread and just plain white bread. Eileen was delighted to have found a recipe for hot and sour soup – one of our favourites from our Montreal days. This time of year, cooking and eating seem to go hand in hand. Just doing our bit during these cold Omicron days.