Sunday, January 30, 2005

“Lefty” and the Snake Rail Fence

Parts of the fence line along the north side boundary are sections of either post and wire fence or snake rail fence. Snake rail fencing is quite simply the stacking of usually cedar logs split to a 7 to 10 cm. (3 to 4 in.) diameter and layed in a zig zag pattern. Each log would be stacked alternately with the log in the ajacent section until it reached a height of about a metre (~ 3 feet.) The length of the logs were generally less than 2.5 metres, (~8 feet) long. Although not very sophisticated, it is quite an old practice used by the pioneers in Canada.

While walking along the snake rail portion of the fence I came across scratch marks on a trunk of a cedar tree that closely resembled scratches left by a cat sharpening its claws. Figuring that there must be an animal nearby, I looked up, obviously and saw above me a 15 to 20 kg. (33 to 44 lb.) Porcupine high up in a clump of cedars. One digit on the left front paw of the poor animal was bent upwards as though it was broken and set wrong. The creature had pretty impressive claws on its front paws that were easily 2 to 3 cm. (+/- 1 in.) long.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Layout of this Property

This woodlot is a remenant of a 200-acre lot from which parcels were severed off. A condition for a severed parcel is minimum 200 feet front on a county road. What remained was a property with virtually no access to serviceable and maintained roadway. So to occupy this lot required an extension to the current road, which would provide 60 metres today now in metric (196.9 ft.) of road frontage; and to township and provincial standards. The upside of this arrangement is a relatively private lot set back in the bush.

In the mid 1790’s this township, then called North Gower, was surveyed and partitioned into equal lots of 200 acres each. Lots were normally rectangular measured in units called chains of 66 feet. The dimensions of all lots here were 100 chains long by 20 chains wide. If you did the numbers you would find that this is ¼ of a (statute) mile by 1¼ miles exactly. For the metrically inclined, this is roughly 400 metres wide by 2 km. long.

Each lot is layed out side by side in rows running north to south called concessions. Each concession is numbered. Both ends of these lots would front on a road or road allowance called a Concession road or “Line” named to match the concession to its west. We are in Concession Two, which is thus between Second Line Road and Third Line Road.
Within the stack of lots there is also a 66 feet wide (1 chain) road allowance every 5 lots. So a map here would show a grid pattern of roads separated by 1¼ miles as a rule.

This remenant lot is too odd a shape to describe simply. If one were to lay out a grid of rectangles numbering 1 to 8 across the top from left to right and four divisions marked A to D down the side, you could say that the lot comprised blocks A4 to A8, B4 to B8, C1 to C8, and D2 to D8. All other blocks were outside of the property.

Using this system of positioning it is then possible to verbally describe the relative locations of forestry management areas that were partitioned in the management plan of October 29th. They are very generally located as follows;
Partition A is blocks C2, C3, D2 and west half (W½) of D3.
Partition B is C4 and W½ of D4
Partition C is B5, C5 and E½ of D4, W½ of D5.
Partition D is A5 and W½ of A6.
Partition E is mainly D5 and C6
Partition F is mainly E ½ of A7, B6, B7, W ½ of C7, and W ½ of D7 and E ½ of D6
Partition G is E½ of A6 and W½ of A7.
Partition H is A8, B8, C8, D8, most of D7 and half of D6
Partition I is all of C1.
The residence acre is within Block C2 inside Partition A.

From here forward I will use this grid to locate findings in general.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Cloud of Small Chickens !!

Driving down Third Line Road South (Rideau Township) at dawn, near Steven Creek I saw what at first looked like ducklings, and when approaching I flushed a covey of more than a dozen small chicken-like birds. The only indigenous and wild chicken-like bird I know of around here is the ruffed grouse [Bonasa Umbellus] which are also at home in our woodlot. After discussions with more informed family members it turns out that it is most likely the Hungarian partridge [Perdrix perdrix]. The ruffed grouse does not flock like these birds did.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

A description of the Canadian forests in 1820's

John MacTaggart authored a book entitled: “Three years in Canada: an account of the actual state of the country in 1826-7-8, comprehending its resources, productions, improvements and capabilities, and including sketches of the state of society, advice to emigrants, &c.”
The publisher was H. Colburn, out of London and the book was published in 1829.

John MacTaggart was an engineer engaged by Lt-Col By to do an engineering survey of the proposed route of the Rideau Canal. Mr. MacTaggart was a man who tended to "think out of the box". He was very concerned about preserving the natural environment. He is also observant in that he noticed the impact of clearing land – as was by this time of writing already done extensively in the Eastern Townships of Quebec – and compared it to the still forested and untouched lands.

The author devotes one chapter to forests. I offer the following pertinent excerpts from the chapter and decided to confine the excerpts to the descriptions of the trees and bushes that he provides.


. . . The oak is not so endurable a wood as that of Britain; the fibre is not so compact and strong. It grows in extensive groves near the banks of some of the large lakes and rivers.


There is another kind of oak, called scrubby oak, which grows on rocky hills:-the wood of this is much like the British gnarly oak; it is difficult to work with the hatchet, but of a very durable nature, . . . The worst species for art or commerce seems to be the swamp oak: it grows in marshy places, is full of branches, soft to work, and irregular in form: the butts are often found very thick, and when water-soaked, that is in certain state of decay, . . .

p. 96.

The quantity of good oak in Canada is great, and might furnish navies for Britain as often as she requires them; ...

The pine grows on sandy soils, which are considered not good for agricultural purposes; ...

White Pine is the most common timber in Canada for Mercantile purposes; it is found chiefly in large quantities growing together, called Pineries.

p. 97.

The pitch-pine is the same with that well-known tree called the scotch-fir: it has much resin, . . . Sometimes in Canada, this wood goes under the name of the Norway-pine: it is seldom wrought into any thing. Besides all these pines, there are various firs and larches of small growth met with, according to their soils. The spruce-fir is very common, and furnishes materials for spruce-beer, a beverage in high request amongst the Canadians; and spruce knees, which are the roots of this tree, are found to be a good substitute for crooked oak, in ship-building.

The pine is the loftiest tree that grows in the forest; it looks down on the oak, and is often to be seen nearly a hundred feet high before a branch appears. I have seen it tower to near two hundred feet in height. . .


The fir species is more numerous than that of any other tree.

There are many kinds of ash-the swamp ash, white ash, and prickly ash, all varying according to soil: it is not a very serviceable wood. The prickly ash is ornamental, of a wavy nature; tables and furniture made of it . . . look very well; . . .

Black and white birch are very useful timber, and tolerably plentiful. It is the bark of the white birch that the Indians make their beautiful canoes.
The beech, elm, sleek-skinned and shaggy hickory, are very common on the fertile soils, along with maple, curly and sugar maple.
The curly or bird's-eye maple makes beautiful house furniture, . . . highly prized . . .

Butter-nut is also a tree which furnishes ornamental wood: it is not a large tree, and has many


branches, knots, and holes, in which squirrels lodge. The nuts are as large as hen-eggs, rough skinned, of an olive colour, and taste something like butter. Iron-wood may also be accounted one of those which grow on what is called hard-wood land: it is neither a thick nor a tall tree, about the size of hickory, and may be converted into a useful wood for many purposes.
In the deep gullies we meet with the white sycamore and button-wood tree. In the marshes, alder, spotted, alder, willow shrub, and a variety of thorn appears; and in the swamps, red cedar, tamarack, hemlock of many shades. . . . the hemlock grows large, but with a hollow heart; . . .

There are great many varieties of shrubs; the shumack may be accounted one, and also the leatherwood tree, of which beautiful hats are manufactured. The briars are of numerous kinds, as wild raspberries, black-current and gooseberry.

Wild plumb, apple, hazel, walnut, and cherry trees are in abundance; while the vines, like the ivy twine luxuriantly round the aged cedar of the loamy marsh.