Monday, October 24, 2005

Visit to the Carolinian Forest and the Comfort Maple.

Last weekend my wife Carroll and I were in St. Catharines, Ontario and surroundings to attend an OWA (Ontario Woodlot Association) meeting and to tour some local woodlots. Even though it rained steadily all day Saturday and most of Sunday it was a great visit.

The area on the Niagara Peninsula is now covered with vineyards, were the area used to be dominated by fruit trees. On Sunday we visited about half a dozen woodlots. I understand that the area forests are called Carolinian since the forests resemble those of the Carolinas in the United States. We saw many tulip trees of formidable size, black walnut is very common and well established. We also saw sassafras trees, which is quite rare here but common in the mid-eastern United States. Because of the climate there is a much larger diversity of plants and trees and the trees grow much faster.

We visited several woodlots that belonged to OWA members including a mature maple sugar woodlot, a newly planted field, soon to be forest, and several other forests with spectacular and unusual trees like the chinquapin oak and a swamp white oak.

The day culminated with a visit to the spectacular “Comfort Maple” pictured above. Carroll and I are to the far right and right next to the dog. The others are the hard core OWA members that stayed on after the meeting regardless of the rain. This tree is claimed to be the oldest living sugar maple in Canada. It is estimated to have germinated circa 1500 a.d. has pictures of the tree and a short description.

In an attempt to measure the tree, I used the reach of my outstretched arms which is very close to two metres and it took about three and half of these to measure the circumference. So the approximate circumference was thus seven metres. The diameter is calculated as 2.22 metres (7 1/3 feet). On any account, this is a big tree.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Field Session on management for value of red pine plantations in the Petawawa Research Forest

Today, I and 14 other members of the Renfrew Chapter of the OWA attended a field session on management for value in red pine plantations in the Petawawa Research Forest. Steve D’Eon, Forest Manager of the Petawawa Research Forest (PRF) hosted the session.
A little background to the Petawawa Research Forest – it was established as a forest research site in 1918 and is the oldest continuously operated forest research centre in Canada. The site encompasses 100 square km; about 85% being productive forest land. It is dominated by mixed wood stands (70%) and also containing stands of hardwood (22%) and softwood (8%). Until 1996 the site hosted the Petawawa National Forestry Institute and more than 2 000 experimental plots and sites were established. In 1996 the research programs were transferred to other Canadian Forest Service research centres across Canada but the PRF remains, has been maintained and serves as a facility for scientific research by the CFS (Canadian Forestry Service) science and technology networks and for co-operating scientists and partners from other agencies.
The program for the session involved plantation red pine (PPr) with three general aspects being examined:
1. Initial spacing: how red pine uses the site and responds to density such as those created by planting at different initial spacing. We visited Crowbar's Field – Crowbar was the name of the farmer who owned the field before it became part of the Forest – within the PRF which has 7'x7', 10'x10', and 12'x12' initial spacing. This site provided excellent teaching tools to illustrate the biology of growing PPr and was very interesting to observe the reaction of the trees under these somewhat clinical conditions.
2. Thinning: how one can manipulate density later in a plantation's life to grow more valuable products. We looked at a first thinning (age ~30+) at the PRF Sturgeon Lakes area and then some older plantations that have been thinned a few times to different residual densities. We also looked at some data from a rich site, data on products and prices for those products and relate our yields/values to the thinning regimes and the site productivity. The Sturgeon Lakes area is on the poorer side of sites.
3. Next crop: Growing the next crop using plantation red pine as a starter crop. We looked at three options on what one can do as a plantation approaches rotation age to start the next forest/plantation. These are, clear cut, plant in strips, under plant Pw using two planting layouts, and catch natural red pine with scarification. Scarification basically means to scratch the duff layer on the ground to expose the mineral soil that thus allows tree seeds to take. This was also at the Sturgeon Lakes area where PRF staff are generally practicing continuous cover forestry using plantations established in the 1930's.
It was an excellent day despite the rain showers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Butternut Tree

So far I have identified about half a dozen butternut trees on this woodlot. In certain areas all that remains are dead trees likely killed off by the ice storm followed by the Butternut Canker. I will have to check them out more carefully one day to determine the cause of death. Other trees appear completely healthy. One article that reports on a study of the DNA of the Butternut Canker fungus states that the disease had been introduced to North America around the 1960’s. The disease has had a devastating effect on the NA butternut population which centres around Northeastern US. In Canada it exists in Southern Quebec, Southern Ontario and parts of the Maritimes. In some areas of the US, the populations have been reduced by as much as 80%.

Several of the Butternut trees here seem to remain quite healthy and according to internet research i.e. see: biologists are interested in finding surviving butternut trees with the hope of finding a canker resistant strain. In Canada The Forest Gene Conservation Association, based in Peterborough ON, wants landowners to come forward with reports of occurrences of the tree. See

There is another project one could embark upon in one’s spare time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

How we moved one very big rock

The sub-soil (that below the organic layer) of this woodlot is primarily made up of glacial till, or what the locals call “hard pan”. According to the Dictionary, till is “Glacial drift composed of an unconsolidated, heterogeneous mixture of clay, sand, pebbles, cobbles, and boulders” and I would say that pretty well describes our subsoil. It is called hard pan because undisturbed till is very hard to dig. Once disturbed though it can turn into a soup if wet enough. The till deposits or small hills left by the glaciers, around this area are commonly referred to as the “Drumlins of North Gower”. North Gower is the old township name for this area before it was grouped with Marlborough Township to become Rideau Township which in turn was amalgamated with the City of Ottawa.

The till here contains predominantly bluish grey rocks which I am led to believe is limestone. It is the same material that construction gravel is made of in these parts. There is the occasional but rare granite rock amongst them.

There was one rather large such rock that I had to move from our backyard about 20 metres (65 feet) to the fence line. The rock was large enough that I could not budge it even with a well-positioned 2 metre long pinch bar used like a lever. The rock measured roughly 1.2 M (3.93 ft) by 0.4 M (1. 3 1ft) by 0.5 M (1.64 ft) for a total volume of 0.24 cubic metres or approximately 8.4 cubic feet. These measurements are rough to around 10% but probably good enough for this purpose.

The first problem was to get some idea of the weight of the rock. I found a much smaller rock of the same material that was as large as I thought I could reasonably lift. If I knew then how much it weighed I would definitely have found something smaller. In a large olive pail from a restaurant I submersed the rock in water and made a mark on the inside of the pail at the water line. I then withdrew the rock from the water and then determined the volume displacement of the rock by carefully measuring the amount of water it took to refill the pail to the mark. I needed 13 litres plus or minus 100 ml of water – Eureka!

Using the average reading of several weigh scales I found about the house including a bathroom scale and some others, I determined that the rock weighed close to 79 lbs. plus or minus a pound. Yes the weigh scales are still in pounds. This equates to 35.8 kg. Doing the math then, the density of the rock is 2.76 metric tons per cubic metre or 172 lbs. per cubic foot.

To give some idea of how heavy that is, a rock the size of a NBA regulation size basketball would weigh around 20 kg or 44 lbs., the weight of a healthy six year old boy.

With these conversions the rock turned out to weigh around 661 kilograms or 1460 lbs. It is no wonder that it wouldn’t budge with the bar. This is the weight of a small automobile such as the VW Rabbit.

To lift the rock I erected a tripod over the rock and hung a 2 ton (4000 lbs. or 1814 kg.) rated chain hoist from the peak. A chain hoist has a gear mechanism with a built in brake, and two sets of chains and gears. One set is the lifting chain which moves very slowly, while the other set is a looped chain that the operator pulls on. The gearing has a high mechanical advantage so as the operator say pulls three feet of chain on the loop the lifting chain might move an inch or more. The operator has to pull on the chain in either direction to raise or lower the lifting chain.

I made the tripod out of three eastern white cedar polls each 5 metres (16 ft) long. I initially tried 6 metres (20 ft) but the poles would bend under the weight. If the poles were not green and had a chance to dry for six months this likely would not have happened. At the narrow end the 5 metre poles were of a 9 or 10 cm diameter. The next problem was how to securely fasten the three poles such that it would hold such a large weight. While at the Forest fair several weeks ago I observed some boy scouts erecting a tripod and borrowed that method. The scouts lash the poles by laying down the three poles next to each other on the ground with all the points together. They fasten the rope (clove hitch) to one pole and then proceeded to weave the rope over and under each adjacent pole back and forth until they have 12 rows (six each way), a bit like basket weaving. You will probably find this in any Boy Scout book. Actually I have since found an excellent description of this method on the following Boy Scout website:

Once fastened the poles are lifted up. The end poles are spread apart and the centre pole is pushed ahead and voila a sturdy tripod.

I used a 2cm, (¾ in) diameter polypropylene rope for the lashing which worked well and is quite strong.

To fasten the rock to the hook on the hoist, we used a very heavy chain with a grab hook. Placed the chain around each end of the rock and crossing over the chain in the middle and on top of the rock.

At first we needed to move the big rock up an incline for several metres. We did this by lifting the rock with the tripod centred slightly uphill. Lifting the rock would drag it up a bit, we would then lower it, reposition the tripod and repeat. This put a tremendous amount of pressure in the one down hill tripod leg, but it held. It is critical that the tripod straddles the rock. In other words the rock must sit inside the triangle created by the tripod feet. If it doesn’t the already heavy tripod could flip over with a huge and dangerous weight attached to it.

Once the rock was moved to a flat surface, we fashioned a cradle two metres long by 1.2 metres wide out of six boards – three lengthways and three crossways and evenly spaced apart. The boards were cut at the sawmill so were of various thickness’ around 10 cm by 7 cm. (4X3).

We laid down three other three-metre long boards on the ground under the rock, like railroad tracks in the direction that we wanted to move the rock.

We used as rollers the three pieces we cut off the poles we shortened. We placed the cradle on the rollers, which were on the railroad tracks, and then slowly lowered the rock onto it.

Using a chain and the ATV we slowly pulled the cradle with the rock in the desired direction. One of us drove while the other kept feeding the rear log roller to the front under the nose of the cradle. At one point the last roller slipped off from under the cradle. The tail of the cradle was dragging on the ground and the ATV even in bull-low four-way differential lock could not budge it. We were able to move it using the Dodge Ram.

Because the terrain was not always even, sometimes the nose of the cradle would dip down into the ground and we had difficulty getting the next roller under. To resolve that problem we used a car jack (scissor type) to lift the front end of the cradle and placed the roller under.

The rest was pretty easy. Once at the destination, we moved the tripod over the desired spot and lifted the rock off the cradle, removed the cradle, rollers etc. and lowered it into position. The beauty of the tripod method with the chain hoist was that we could very carefully and precisely position the rock with a bit of lateral (sideways) pressure, even for a rock that big.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Planning Meeting for an Ottawa Area Chapter of the Ontario Woodlot Association

Planning Meeting for an Ottawa Area Chapter of the Ontario Woodlot Association

Attended a meeting in Kemptville at the OWA Office to begin planning the establishment of a local Chapter of the OWA. Right now the closest chapter that is accessible to local woodlot owners is Renfrew which is an hour and a half away. The OWA Exec Director as well as another member who is also on the EOMF Staff and I attended. We discussed the requirements for a Chapter, decided on the interim boundaries, prepared a short-term workplan and a possible kick-off event.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Outdoor Woodlot Conference 2005, also Useful Silvicultural Guide.

Attended the event, which this year took place just north of Eganville. Where we had rain last year, this time we had beautiful summer weather. It was an unbeleivable 28 deg. c. (82 deg f.) and sunny with a few clouds. I found the few sessions I attended again quite interesting, although the focus was on sugar maple woodlots of which I have very few. I think I finaly grasped the concept of basal area at one of these sessions. Basal area is a measure of the density of cumulative cross sectional wood in the trees in any one spot. It is readily calculated using a foresters prism. The method is quite approximate and is most effective if the density and size of trees are uniform.
I offered to volunteer to man the booth for the Renfrew Chapter of the Ontario Woodlot Association, so did not partake in all the events, but did take in one session plus one short woodlot visit.

The gem I picked up at this event was on how to manage cedar of which I have quite a lot. There is very little on cedar management in the literature of more conventional texts. One of the attendees who is a forester for the Renfrew County gave some excellent tips as well as refered me to a text entitled “A Silviculture Guide to Managing Southern Ontario Forests” which devotes 30 odd pages to just cedar management.

I have since bought the book through the website at: for a mere $27.50 cnd, or approx. $24.00 usd. It is a wealth of information, rightfully refered to by some as the bible. It is a total of 648 pages plus a 19 page preface, jamb packed with information. Can’t go wrong for the price.

It can be ordered by mail at:
Natural Resources Information Centre
300 Water Street
PO Box 7000
Peterborough, ON
K9J 8M5

Or by email to

Or by phone inquiries can be made at: 1-800-667-1940.

I ordered it directly by visiting then on the left near the bottom I selected “Shop Online”; then select “English” , then “products”; then “forests” and you will see the book listed. This is a great website for lots of othe stuff too as you will see.

The publication should be cited as:
OMNR. 2000. A silvicultural guide to managing southern Ontario forests, Version 1.1 Ont. Min. Nat. Resour. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Toronto. 648 P. The ISBN is 0-7778-9229-4.