By Cam Mather
Even after 12 years of living on 150 acres of bush that is surrounded by more bush, I spend much of my time in sheer amazement of it all.
Recently we’ve been hearing an owl that starts its “hooooing” call at dusk and goes well into the evening. It starts up again early in the morning. I guess it’s mating season. The female fox that lives nearby has started her nightly bloodcurdling howling and screeching. Her screaming sounds like something out of a horror movie but even scarier. Morgan the Wonder Dog has a running battle with her all evening as she moves though the woods near the house. I think she’s lecturing me to get Morgan into the house for the night so she can raid the compost heap. She’s probably pregnant right now, so she loves that readily accessible food.
Our forests are a real mixture of hard woods and conifers, and white pines do remarkably well. They seem to thrive in our sandy soil that clings to the granite rocks. We have an old road on our property that was built by the township many years ago. At that time the original road that goes past our place crossed a bog and there was a floating bridge for cars to get across the bog. Too many cars fell off the floating bridge and so the township decided to make a detour around the bog by putting the road on (what is now) our property. Since then they have made improvements to the existing road, filled in the bog and the old road on our property has almost grown back in. Recently on our walks along the old road, we’ve noticed a new pine tree nursery. It’s on an open hill that has very little soil on top of a rock outcrop. Nothing had grown there and then a couple of years ago when the conditions were just right the white pines in the surrounding area dropped a lot of pine cones, and the seeds were able to germinate. Suddenly there are hundreds of white pine seedlings in the area. It’s quite amazing. For years I have been purchasing seedlings to plant on my property, and now I’m going to start thinning these and moving them to open areas that need filling in.
We also have hemlock trees on the property. I love them and so do the deer. Hemlock trees tend to grow in clusters, which produces a dense canopy of branches with rugged needles that keep the snow from reaching the ground around them. Often after a big snow storms I’ll notice that the under the hemlocks have been used for overnight stays by the local deer population. You can see where the snow has been packed down when they’ve crashed for the night. Some of the area will all be stirred up, where they’ve kicked at the leaves underneath to look for food.
Many of the hemlocks have crazy holes in them. The holes start at the base and work their way up as high as I can see. They look as though someone has taken a drill and drilled ¼” holes strategically around the whole tree. At first I thought they were caused by woodpeckers but from what I’ve seen wood peckers like to jump around a lot and don’t tend to concentrate their pecking in one area. After doing a quick bit of research, I think a bug called a Hemlock Borer causes these holes. The trees seem to be handling them and I’m hoping that the cold winters we usually have keep their numbers manageable. This has been the problem with the Mountain Pine Beetle devastating forests out west. The winters are no longer cold enough to kill them.
Right now the geese are heading north and sometimes when I am outside huge groups numbering in the hundreds fly over. I realize that a lot of people think of Canada Geese as “pooping machines” who leave their mess in parks, but up here they are a harbinger of spring (and fall) and an inspiration to watch as they fly overhead. They actually fly in enormous “V” formations, which supposedly makes their flight more efficient. No matter why they do it, they are a wonder to behold.
There are plenty of downsides to living where I do. I can’t pick up a phone to order take out food and I rarely eat in restaurants because they are too far away. I never go to malls and I spend next to no time in stores. I have to drive 14 kms into town to pick up my mail or to buy groceries. But despite these inconveniences, I wake up every morning feeling like I’ve won the lottery!