I can justifiably claim some credit for that population explosion because I let a local businessman who harvests pine boughs onto our land.  The crew prune the lower branches of the 5 to 10 year-old white pine trees and haul the bundles of foliage to Toronto for sale in the booming Christmas decoration market.  The guy says it enables him to keep his construction crew active for an additional month each fall.  They’re good at what they do and the overall quality of the stand shows improvement from their efforts.

An unanticipated consequence of the pruning of the trees is more sunlight in the rows of the plantation, an area away from the hay harvesting machinery.  Milkweed plants grew rampant last summer.  Monarch butterflies emerged and flourished around the property.

I figure the timing was good.  Dog Strangling Vine (DSV) is spreading rapidly in the Chaffey’s Locks area.  Monarchs are attracted to this milkweed-relative to lay their eggs,  but the caterpillars can’t eat the stuff so those hatchings are lost.  Along with allowing the milkweed plants to grow without mowing them, I’m carefully patrolling my property for DSV.  I found and uprooted 6 stems last summer, though it has taken over another woodlot a half-mile away.  I’m prepared to encourage milkweed growth to crowd out DSV and wild parsnip.
Besides, Granddaughter Ada likes to play with the dried seed pods.

The Eastern Ontario Model Forest has produced an outstanding film series narrated by Andy Kerr-Wilson on the history and future of the forests of Ontario.

Look below for links to the films, including a 12 minute preview. The first film runs 47 minutes, and the second runs 50 minutes.

If you found Two Billion Trees and Counting an interesting read, you’ll certainly want to have these films at your disposal.


The blog’s called The Walnut Diary, so I decided to take advantage of some drone videos our son Charlie shot on Sunday.  He filmed on very high resolution, then uploaded them to You-Tube so that your computer can stream them at a resolution it likes.  With my Mac I need to turn up the resolution to 720 after it loads.

Charlie recommends turning off your sound while viewing.  It’s just motor, propeller and wind noise, anyway.

#1:  https://youtu.be/eMmCCNGVx9Y
#2:  https://youtu.be/3mrf6QHdkHA
#3:  https://youtu.be/jzgljWGEn84
#4:  https://youtu.be/NCIFPOGxJLc

A look into dangers of using herbicide to control wild parsnip outbreak in Lanark County
COMMUNITY Feb 03, 2016 by Theresa Peluso

I write from the point of view of a Rideau Lakes Township property owner who looks after fifty acres of trees on a 107 acre fam. Wild parsnip is a current problem to my seedlings because it has spread from the township road into adjacent fields. Ms. Peluso naively claims that “After two years, the plant dies.” She further suggests that the seeds don’t spread far. Nothing could be further from the truth. The seeds are magnets for birds. I now have clumps of wild parsnip growing wherever on my tree plantation there was a patch of bare ground and a bird has stopped to roost after a big meal of parsnip seeds. These were not “disturbed” sites in almost all cases.

After eight years of careful mowing, I can state definitely that Ms. Peluso is wrong when she claims that regular bush-hogging before the plant goes to seed will kill wild parsnip. In its first stage it will regrow and flourish indefinitely.

Until this year I have used increasing concentrations of Roundup in a spot-spraying program to keep the wild parsnip from overwhelming my seedlings. Reluctant to spray excessively, I mowed the aisles between the seedlings with a rotary mower. The Roundup worked, but the areas I chose to mow repeatedly, simply grew back. But now the wild parsnip survivors have become tolerant of the spray. It’s time for a new herbicide.

“With proper management, using environmentally sustainable solutions, we can control the spread of this plant.” Sorry, Ms. Peluso, we can’t. Not unless we kill every small bird in Eastern Ontario with a taste for wild parsnip seed.

My merchant just quoted me $1450 for a container of Clearview. Roundup ran $265 last time. Clearview is a serious financial step for a hobby farmer or a municipal government, but I see no point in unleashing Roundup-tolerant wild parsnip seeds on the environment.

Finally, I would suggest that parents not listen to those who belittle the risk to kids of wild parsnip. It’s nasty stuff, far more of a threat to unprotected faces and arms and legs than poison ivy.

How the Lake works

April 8, 2017

Readers of the ice reports on this blog have a proprietorial attachment to the body of water which surrounds Scott Island, but the coming summer will be one of celebrations on the canal and free lock passes, so it’s a good idea to look at surrounding lakes and the culture of those who cherish them.

The Big Rideau Lake Association’s website now features an ongoing series of learned essays under the general title How the Lake Works.  They sent me copies of the first six papers.  Of very high quality, the essays seek to inform without bias, so the tone remains carefully neutral and the bibliographies are good.

I particularly recommend the paper on water levels by Brian Hawkins, and Life Under the Surface by wildlife biologist Buzz Boles which will be posted over the next few weeks.


Or you can go immediately to my neighbour Doug Bond’s lyrical description of the geological features of the area:



This spring I attended a session in Lanark on the spread of wild parsnip and the county’s plan to spray with Clearview to control it.  The protesters, young, articulate women, were there in force, communicated by text, worked in shifts, and generally disrupted the meeting.

They left little time for a reasoned discussion of the selection of Clearview as the pesticide of choice, so I’d like to weigh in on the risks of wild parsnip’s spread and eradication efforts versus the greater risk to the environment of the spread of DSV, or Dog Strangling Vine.

Since 2006 I have become increasingly proficient in the use of Roundup, another post-emergent pesticide.  The MNR guy told me outright that my black walnut seedlings wouldn’t grow unless they were protected from grass during the first three years of their life.  That was probably an exaggeration, but it did encourage me to take the pesticides qualification course  and maintain my certification.  Last year’s renewal turned into a one-week online course from the University of Guelph — far from a formality.  I kept wondering if I had blundered into a graduate school program by mistake, but I hung in there and survived.

Last year a French study linking Roundup to Non-Hodgins Lymphoma appeared in Lancet. This spooked me a bit, as my father died of that rare disease even though he farmed organically and had no use for pesticides — or even diesel fumes, for that matter.

So you may safely assume that I use as little pesticide on the farm as I can.  Over the last three years all of the spraying I have been forced to do has been against the steady encroachment of wild parsnip.

I believe the seeds came mixed in with sand spread on the roads in winter.  The first year of the infestation concentrated on township roads where the heaviest sanding took place the previous winter.

Birds undoubtedly find the sunflower-like seeds attractive, and have spread them around to isolated locations on our 107 acres where I have done what I could to battle them back.  My neighbour was remiss in weed control for a couple of years and the corner of his field was full of the stuff.  Now I see no more parsnip on his side of the fence, but the things are well established on mine.

I have a 12v spot sprayer mounted on my Polaris Ranger, and spray by driving to the area and having at it with a 3% solution, striking individual plants.  In cramped areas this is fine, and I’m doing pretty well around individual spruces.  It’s the open areas where it’s mixed in with grass that I have failed to control the parsnip.  Mowing the stuff just doesn’t work.  It just grows back like grass.  On the other hand, it never gets to the seeding stage, so mowing every couple of weeks is better than nothing.

Why don’t I rig up a wider sprayer and nuke the plants and the hay I generally mow, or use Clearview?  I’m more concerned about airborne DSV seeds than I am the parsnip.  I don’t want to leave bare patches of earth, as DSV has spread to within a half-mile of our farm but hasn’t established a foothold yet anywhere that I can find.  But it’s a relative of the milkweed, so its seeds blow around.

Why not use Clearview?  I don’t know it well enough.  Roundup is a crop spray, well known for its herbicidal effectiveness and very short persistence in the soil.  I own several thousand little trees which have grown through repeated spot sprayings in their vicinity.  The feedback loop is pretty slow when using a spray, so I guess I’m slow to adapt.

On Lockwood Lane last summer there was a 100 sq.  foot bare spot in roadside vegetation which clearly wasn’t created by Roundup.  It was totally dead.  I don’t know for how long Clearview’s effect lasts, and what can be planted to replace the plant cover, and when.

So my advice to those property owners in Lanark worried about Clearview spraying?  Don’t ask for a ban on road spraying.  That’s the route to disaster.  Ask for Roundup for your roadside and ditches.  After the first application you’ll likely need to qualify as an applicator yourself to complete the process.  You’ll need to spray more frequently than with Clearview, but you can be pretty sure the crop herbicide won’t hurt your water, or your frogs, and it will beat down the wild parsnip if you keep at it.

That would be a show of true commitment.  Waving cardboard signs and disrupting public meetings just doesn’t cut it in the battle against invasive plants.

Update:  CBC Ottawa has a story on their site about the dangers of wild parsnip to cyclists and children.



I have never managed to shoot a deer.  They don’t exactly volunteer, it turns out.  Before I retired time wasn’t available during the short hunting season: for some reason school administrators have a big conference that week, and I usually had to run the school in the principal’s absence.  After I had retired, I couldn’t be bothered wasting a week sitting still on a deer run when there were far more interesting things to do.

A few friends have stepped up over the years to fill my license for me, though, and there were occasional deer which had been whacked by a passing vehicle.  Of the two sources of venison, I’d have to rate the found carcasses generally higher in palpability than those shot with rifles.

I’ll provide a single example and then leave the subject.  One evening in early December I was driving down Hwy 15 when I came upon a large yellow truck stopped on the shoulder, with drivers shuffling around at the front of the truck in some confusion.  I stopped.  A dead doe lay in front of the truck without a mark on her.

The drivers needed to move on, had a long run and nowhere to put the doe.  I offered some steaks if they helped load it into the back of my SUV.  I drove directly to a guy I knew who had processed venison all through hunting season.  He skinned and cut it up for me for $100.

I reported the pickup to the OPP and the clerk concluded with:  “Enjoy your deer.”

Clifford told me that the only mark he could find on the large doe was a small hole in one ventrical of her heart, no doubt from the hydraulic shock of impact with a large, flat object, the front of a Hertz truck.  The meat was outstanding in flavour and texture.

I won’t tell the far messier story about a rifle-killed specimen which did not taste very good.

O.K., one more story.  While commuting from Carleton Place to Smiths Falls I occasionally encountered road-killed ruffed grouse.  Just about everybody picks them up.  They’re hard to hunt, easy to clean, and flat-out delicious.  One afternoon I was in a line of traffic when the Honda Accord three cars ahead of me took out a low-flying male with the tip of its antenna.

Three of us immediately braked for a U-turn.  My SUV had rear-wheel drive, so I could power around more quickly than the Golf and the minivan.  The grouse had landed on the centre line so I leaned out the door and picked it up.  The other two drivers saluted and resumed their trips home.  The thrill of the hunt.

Here’s a clever BBC article on why roadkill’s not just for the starving any more.