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.