This evening I was admiring a walnut tree I planted by my workshop 20 years ago, now substantial, even more amazing because this is far beyond the historical range of walnut. I am often wondering if the genetics are extraordinary, or if it’s the climate that has changed. I might even live to see some of the trees I planted milled into lumber.
My dad was a professional bulldozer operator, farmer, and conservationist. This led to moral conflicts. As a young child some of my first memories were of carefully stepping amongst the near carpet of poison ivy, to access the juneberries, raspberries, nannyberries, high bush cranberries and chokecherries, while admiring in amazement the lady slippers, and many flowers, the seeming never-ending variety of insects. My brother and I were so happy to hear the tree frogs singing in early spring.
Dad bulldozed almost all the forest to make it into fields, including a grove of wild plums, and next to it a golden eagle nest in the top of a 70ft trembling aspen, perhaps the last southern nest in Manitoba. Such majestic birds.
An expert bulldozer operator, and working on dry ground, the windrows of elm, ash, oak and poplar were quite clean. But being a tangled mess, were burnt once dry. A small bit of firewood was recovered. Dutch elm disease would soon come and devastate the remaining elm canopy, the last of the great elm forest in North America.
Now my parents complain about the clearing out of adjacent land, and how the wind blows the soil, that the neighbours have no respect for the environment. Their water table has dropped becoming unreliable, not as it was before.
We certainly are a destructive species. Short views, very short lives, and always ready to take a little bit more than how we knew it when young.
After retiring, dad bought a portable sawmill. It’s my impression that we could have made more value, with less work from a continuously renewing forest than as carbon depleted, denuded farm land.