***For firewood purchase from our farm, call or text Jonathan Royer at 819-334-1877***

Here at Ferme L'eau du ruisseau, we are managing our forests for human, climate  and biodiversity needs. While our forests would sort themselves out without our interference, there are lots of things that we can do that protect and increase ecosystem health while also producing forest products that we can harvest to use or sell. On the ecological front, we want to maintain healthy animal and plant life, especially protecting those species that are more delicate or at greater risk in our area. A healthy and fast-growing forest puts carbon into the soil and holds it in the tree trunks, reducing climate change. For human needs, our forests can help provide heat, shelter, and food, by producing firewood, lumber, and such things as wild foods and maple syrup.

Local history: Most of the farms in the Gatineau Hills are more forest than field, and ours is no exception. In fact, about 80% of our total property is forested. All through the Hills, the timber cuts were quite extreme in the latter part of the 1800s and early parts of the 1900s. Most areas were cut in such a way that they took almost every tree that had economic value, leaving behind a forest of mostly small trees not worth cutting. Essentially, this 'reset' the forests from old-growth to be young forests. It brought in species that need more sun, and greatly changed the forest dynamics. Walking through our forests today, we can see all the signs of that history. While the old stumps are now gone, you can see lots of short lived and sun loving trees (like aspen, white birch and black cherry) that are now mature and in some places already dying of old age. The slower growing and generally more shade tolerant trees are starting to again reach larger size, sugar maples in particular. When it comes to managing these forests today, we have to start from this context - ours is a relatively young forest that has a 100+ year history of timber cutting. 

Management:  Through a combination of apprenticeship and book learning, we have tried to adopt all the best practices that we can for managing our forests. If you'd like to learn more about the practicalities, Ontario has an excellent series of forest management guides. Those that we have found most useful are those for tree marking and conserving biodiversity.

Management for ecosystem health: There are things that we actively do and others that we avoid in order to promote ecosystem health. We make sure to keep a wide variety of tree species and sizes in all areas. For wildlife, we encourage things like mast trees (those that provide food like nuts, fruits or seeds), and keep some dead or damaged trees that have holes for nests and feeding. We keep our trails as few in number as possible, and make sure that they don't pass through any wet areas. We don't do any forestry work from the spring thaw until late summer, to prevent rutting on the ground, to give birds time to raise their young in tree nests, and because trees are most prone to being damaged during this time by scraping when cutting down other trees. We use the smallest equipment that we can, chainsaws for cutting and small winches and trailers for hauling out the trees. This type of equipment has a much smaller impact than the huge machines that are now most commonly used for logging. These and other practices like them all contribute to make our forests both more beautiful and more healthy.

Management for firewood: Firewood production is currently our main forest activity. As mentioned above, we have a fairly young forest, with huge numbers of small to medium sized trees but relatively few big trees. This is a perfect place for cutting firewood. We go through and cut out poorly formed, diseased, and weak trees. We also make active decisions about which species we want to favour. We are pushing most of our forest back to a more 'old growth' state by favoring slow growing species like red oak and sugar maple, while reducing the amount of aspen and birch. We are also trying to increase tree size, so make sure to cut down those trees that are in competition with the 'best' trees. This kind of cutting leaves behind a beautiful forest, and one where the remaining trees are (on average) bigger, straighter, and healthier than when we started.

Management for lumber: We haven't yet started cutting any trees to make beams or boards, but our firewood cutting practices are also the perfect way to prepare for it. To make good lumber, you want the tallest, straightest and widest trees that you can get, which is exactly the kind of trees we are favouring with our firewood cuts. So as time passes, we will have more and bigger trees available for making beams and dimensional lumber. We hope to do processing at the farm-scale, cutting our own wood to use in our own building projects and to sell directly to our local community. Keeping things close to home will radically reduce the impact of this lumber. All our wood will have very few miles traveled, and be coming straight out of well managed forests.

Management for maple syrup: We are also hoping to start a maple sugarbush in the next few years. We have two areas that are already well stocked with sugar maple trees that could be tapped for syrup. If fully developed, we could get to several thousand taps. For now, these areas are being cut for firewood in the same ways mentioned above. The only difference is that in these areas we are doing much more to increase the proportion of maple trees. At the moment, these areas have from one third to one half maple trees. The best sugarbushes bring that proportion up to around 75% maple trees. You still want to keep some other trees for the overall forest health, but can be much more efficient in your maple syrup operation if most of the trees are maples. Hopefully we will find the time to start tapping in the next couple of years. In the meantime, we have partnered with a longstanding local sugarbush just up the way in Gracefield, J.B. Caron, so that we can supply you with wonderful Gatineau Hills maple syrup.