Stan Wortner, pictured here with his wife Clara, is a long-time tree enthusiast and OWA member. Stan, now in his early nineties, had an early schooling in tree appreciation. The neighbouring farm where he grew up north of
Chatham, Ontario had a 50-acre woodlot that had never been pastured and had maples with four-to-five-foot diameters. Stan’s family also burned wood for heat and cooking until 1939, so trees and wood were a part of everyday life. On top of all this, Arbor Day was celebrated each May in the Chatham area and it provided Stan with the inspiration to learn to identify trees.
In 1959 Stan had the opportunity to purchase a 94-acre property near Bothwell, Ontario. The land had been used for pasture and had sandy soil with a variety of scattered trees. Before long the Wortners were experimenting with a wide variety of plantings, including a white pine/walnut plantation, scots pine, spruce, and mixed plantings. The woodland was soon thriving and now has large walnuts, even larger tulip trees, and a variety of hardwood trees that have been planted or returned on their own. The Wortners operate or have operated a number of businesses related to their forest including Christmas trees, a 700-tap maple syrup operation, lumber from their own sawmill, custom sawing and a campground. Although they use firewood to heat their home, they leave cavity trees, standing dead trees and downed woody debris for wildlife. The Wortners still have a few American Sweet Chestnut on the property and are members of the Canadian Chestnut Council.
Stan’s involvement with woodlot associations began with the Lambton Chapter in the 1990s which became the South West Chapter of the OWA. Stan reports that he enjoys the fellowship of people who like trees, birds, and conservation. Stan also enjoys receiving his copy of The Ontario Woodlander and especially enjoys the technical articles. The South West Chapter has honoured someone annually since 2007 with their Woodlot Management Award for management of their own forests or contributing to the management of other people's forests. The Wortners were presented with that award in 2010.
I played with my dolls in the trees. The trees were my friends. One day I had set up house on a Barberry bush and my neighbour, Dr Barrett, came over to me and told me that I could eat the yellow flowers. Both of us enjoyed them, together. Then he produced a brown paper bag and offered me a chocolate covered date.
Dr Barrett, his wife, and her sister, all wore steel rimmed spectacles. That impressed me. They were a family of spectacles. So therefore, I asked that learned man the names of my friends. I wanted to know the actual names, not pussycat names, the real thing. He rang out the names in Latin of the arboretum that grew in front of our Georgian house, The Terrace.
I went to my first day of school and sat at my tiny desk and began to draw with my handful of new coloured pencils. My new Senior Kindergarten teacher asked me what I was drawing. I drew myself up and informed her of the names of my tree friends, all in Latin of course. Then I looked out the window of the classroom, which was high over the walled garden of our local Pharmacist and threw in one more name of a nectarine for good measure. My teacher literally had a fit.
She marched off to the head mistress’s office without closing the door. There was a loud conversation. I was terrified. Later that day a letter was sent to my mother, I was even more terrified now. My mother was furious with me for making, “an exhibition” of myself. I knew in my bones that I was in big trouble. I hid behind the couch with my dolls and waited for the dust to settle.
My husband, Christian, and I are members of the OWA for a very simple reason. We both love trees and the natural world we have around our house in the country. We learn something from nature every single day.
Diana and Christian are members of the Lower Ottawa Valley Chapter. Diana’s passion for trees has resulted in numerous books and one documentary film (The Call of the Forest). For further reading here is a list of her publications:
Thom Snowman has spent most of his life in New England—outdoors. During a decade in outdoor education, he got to know Canada through bicycle and canoe trips and grew fond of the north woods. After the career that followed, as a forester working in Boston’s water supply forests, Thom was fortunate to be able to retire in Canada, where he and wife Carol have settled in the Napanee area.
As Thom began searching out ways to exercise his interest in forests and forestry, he found and joined the OWA. He says, “While there are many common species and similar natural resource issues (invasive species, impacts of climate change, etc.) in Ontario woodlands and New England forests, they are also distinctly different both in the details of their physical make-up and in the human community charged with their care and management. OWA is a model organization for addressing the concerns of anyone who has realized the critical link between our forests and our future. Personally, I am fortunate to have found an excuse to wander private woodlands and get to know their owners here in southern Ontario!”
Ruth Tracy’s appreciation of trees began as she grew up on a farm in northern Ontario. As an adult, she purchased a property in 1976, which had old farm fields and an existing hardwood stand. Under the Woodlands Improvement Act, she had over 12,000 conifers planted—now her entire property is wooded except for the site of the house that she designed for her retirement.
While working as a college teacher, a co-worker invited Ruth to join the OWA. She has been a member for over 20 years and serves on her Chapter board.
Education has always been a priority for Ruth; membership in the OWA means she will continue to learn even into her retirement. She has given a niece an OWA membership as a gift to ensure the next generation will continue on with her tradition.
I planted my first tree as a Junior Forest Ranger in the summer of 1957, at Windy Lake Provincial Park. Sixty years later I am still planting trees. I have planted as a volunteer for the Watershed Committee in Uxbridge and as Chair, Rouge Park Alliance, and for other volunteer groups. With my wife, Anne, and our family we have planted at least 12,000 trees over 40 years on our 27-acre property in Uxbridge. Our home property had a five-acre mixed hardwood bush when we moved in back in 1975, and we have gradually turned 20 additional acres of hayfields into a forest that has a conservation easement and MFTIP.
We have a hobby maple sugar operation of 100 taps and harvest our own Christmas trees. Our forest plan includes a meadow for our feathered friends, including bluebirds and bobolinks.
I have learned a great deal since joining the OWA, through workshops and literature, but mainly from talking and working with fellow members.
The Madzo family lives in Bismark in the centre of the Niagara Peninsula where 88 year-old Louie Sr. works the farm with his son, Louie Jr. Their land includes 10 acres of mixed hardwoods which they actively manage and, when he retired in 1993, Louie Sr. began adding white pine for extra diversity.
He cleared shrubbery in the woods by hand, using pick axe and shovel, and then planted seedlings obtained from the 1st Provincial Nursery in St. Williams. With approximately 500 planted each year, the family is very proud of the 3,000 pine which now stand 40 feet tall in their woods. Louie Sr. says “They have added a wonderful diversity to the woodlot, in both summer and winter.”
In 2005, with the help of Trees Unlimited and the Niagara Woodlands Restoration Fund, 5,490 bare root seedlings were machine planted on 6.1 acres adjacent to the hardwoods, adding additional diversity and almost doubling the total acreage of the family’s forest.
In 2013, the Madzo’s were awarded the Niagara Woodlot Association’s “Woodlot Owner of the Year” award.
One of Louie Sr.’s favourite sayings is: “Plant a tree today and retire in the shade!”
Neil grew up on the edge of Etobicoke in the 1950s and 1960s, and always had access to fields, forests and creeks. His involvement in the Scouting movement gave him some exposure to woodcraft, and he has enjoyed wetlands for as long as he can remember.
In 2001, Neil and his wife, Kathy, bought 17 acres, which is part of the Oakland Swamp complex of provincially significant wetland in Brant County. A lifetime educator, Neil has always enjoyed observing and learning about nature, as well as increasing his woodcraft skills from hands-on experiences.
Neil says, “Being part of the Ontario Woodlot Association has given me a whole new avenue of learning as I rub shoulders with amazing members, many of whom have decades and even centuries of family experience in the forest.”
Ron Reynolds is a hunting enthusiast and wildlife carver who joined the Ontario Woodlot Association while attending a Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP) workshop. He owns recreational properties and is part of a hunting club which owns additional adjoining acreage. Ron is in the process of preparing his first MFTIP plan and will be recommending the hunting club become an OWA member.
He likes the fact that the OWA’s efforts on behalf of woodlot owners has resulted in the MFTIP and is looking forward to learning more about how to take care of his forest.
For the Smith family, their connection to the forest goes back over a century, and at least four generations. Located in what’s known as the Frontenac Axis, their woodlot has the mixture of white pine, white cedar and sugar maple typical of that landscape.
Kallista Smith joined the OWA after attending a field day, and immediately got involved on the Limestone chapter board. Her mother, Tracie, followed suit at the next AGM, and Kallista’s brother Justin joined the next year, after returning back to the area from college.
The Smith family has always been interested in identifying plants in the forest and have already hosted one field day on their family property. Tracie is in the process of registering a forest management plan under the MFTIP, something she heard about after joining the OWA. The family wants to host another event, this time in the spring, with a focus on wildflowers.
As Justin puts it, “Belonging to the OWA introduces you to like-minded people. The return in education is well worth the membership.”
Jim and Jan bought Maple Tree Farm in 2010; 105 acres with 85 acres forested. Since their purchase, they have discovered a true passion for trees and have been working hard to repair and upgrade buildings, trails and other features on their land.
Part of their focus has been on reviving a maple syrup operation that had been dormant for over a decade before they moved to the farm. They have since invested in a sugar shack and a 500-tap maple syrup operation.
With the help of forest professionals, they have been carrying out improvement harvests to remove the poorer trees (cutting firewood and sawlogs) — leaving the healthier trees with more room to grow. Over time, they hope to expand their maple syrup operation as they have also discovered the nutritional benefits of this golden food source and wonder of nature.
Joining the Ontario Woodlot Association seemed like the right thing to do to learn about the forest and their new “hobby,” so they became members and have hosted a local field day. They have become strong supporters of the OWA and appreciate the good forest management information that membership provides.
The McCleans are self-described environmentalists who have made the conscious decision to own and preserve a piece of Ontario forest. Their dream came true when they acquired a woodlot in 2013.
The original owner suggested they would benefit from joining the OWA, and so they did. Since then, they have attended events, learning about sustainable forest management and have become FSC certified.
Through their contact with forestry professionals and other OWA members, the McClean’s have learned about the work involved in caring for wooded land. Monitoring for pests, dealing with invasive species and learning about forest health is all part of being good stewards. They have also found a local land trust which will carry on their work in perpetuity.
Brian and Margo belong to the Ontario Woodlot Association because of the emphasis the organization places on stewardship and best forestry practices.
I live on the farm where I was raised on McCowan Road, just north of Major Mackenzie Drive and south of the Markham Fair Grounds. The farm has been owned by our family since 1917.
In 1962, when I married Carol Reesor from Cedar Grove, we built our new home on the farm. Part of the property is a regenerating forest/wetland and all of the trees around the house have been planted by me over the years. Right now I am being plagued with dead ash trees which I am cutting down for firewood to use in the air-tight stove in the basement.
In addition, the family owns 325 acres of mixed forest just east of Bobcageon where I boil maple syrup each spring. This forest is all under a MFTIP plan.
I have developed a real commitment to good management of these properties and the membership in OWA has provided me a great deal of information, encouragement and friendship with many like-minded individuals.
Our property had about 30 ha of established bush and some open fields, as well as a house and barns. The year after we bought the place we had 6 ha planted in red pine thanks to the Woodlands Improvement Agreement. The bush is quite varied; stands of white pine and poplar and many mixed stands. A small area of red pine was planted in the mid 1970’s. There had been no extensive harvest in 50 years.
Over the years we cut enough wood to heat the house and sell a small amount that we did not need. We cut trees of inferior quality and those that competed too successfully with red pine which need full light.
Membership in OWA led to learning more about woodlot management. In addition, we achieved Forest Stewardship Certification for the woodlot via the Eastern Ontario Model Forest that holds the FSC certificate.
In preparing a management plan we became convinced that the established forest was in need of an improvement thinning. The thinning operation started in the winter of 2005; the last load taken out in October 2006. A local horse logger conducted the operation under contract with Laverne Heideman and Sons. They did not have the best quote price-wise, but they had a good reputation for a quality operation. Our interest was in the state of the bush after logging, number one; and a fair price. We felt that we achieved both. And in 2011 we had a first thinning of the red pine plantations that we had planted in 1986.
In addition to working in the bush we hike and ski on our trails, and enjoy the solitude and privacy that comes with a substantial area of land. Caring for the bush and its inhabitants and outdoor experiences in all seasons and weather, both severe and benign, has greatly enriched our lives.
Duncan and Ruth Hough are seventh generation farmers who currently grow corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.
While past generations relied on their woodlots for firewood, fence posts, building material and some maple syrup, Duncan and Ruth also enjoy the Trilliums, Hepaticas, Trout Lilies and other forest flowers that flourish in their woods. For them, the woods are a source of pleasure and recreation as well as a means to heat their home.
To Duncan and Ruth, OWA membership allows them to keep up to date on sustainable forest practices as well as tree diseases, invasive species and other threats to their woodlands.
Dave first joined the OWA at the invitation of a friend and he has been an active member since. He has served on his chapter’s board and hosted field days for the organization.
Through his involvement with the OWA, Dave has met many people who share his fascination with trees and enjoy exchanging experiences and ideas. Knowledge gained has allowed Dave to better appreciate the ability of the forest to provide products for our use and still be the biodiversity centre of our province.
Through tree planting and natural regeneration, Dave, and his wife Lois, have seen their old farm fields convert into a treed landscape, providing wildlife corridors and habitat.
A lifelong woodworker, Dave produces a wide range of woodland products, from firewood and lumber to carved burl bowls while, at the same time, observing how his property is evolving back to mature forest.
Of his experience with the OWA Dave says “I came out to get answers to my forestry questions; I’ve stayed because of the quality of people I’ve met.”
June Kennedy and her late husband, Bev, bought their 147 acre woodlot in the mid-1980’s. They joined the OWA soon after its inception and Bev served on the chapter board for many years. He and June hosted chapter events at their property on several occasions.
After Bev’s passing, when June decided to sell their woodlot, she assumed she could no longer be an OWA member. Fortunately, she learned that ownership was not a criteria, and she is still on our membership list.
“I miss the woods” she says “and seeing all the wildlife, but time marches on”. She adds “I don’t get out to the OWA events as much anymore but hope to again soon.” June has many good friends made through the OWA and continues to support the organization. “I like every event; there’s always something new to learn, and above all, I enjoy the fellowship”.