You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Environment’ category.

 

Marker posts for Fixed Point Photography along the TRCA hedgerows. I'll also be taking dimension measurements

Marker posts for fixed point photography points along our hedgerows. I’ll also be taking  measurements (height, width) at regular intervals

Yesterday- Earth Day 2019- felt like the warmest day yet this Spring here in Ontario- a balmy 19 degrees, a perfect day to get started on the monitoring programme for our Mount Wolfe Farm hedgerows.

We  planted two hedgerows here at the farm in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 hedge was started in the fall of 2017 but completed in 2018 and was planted by volunteers and marked the first ‘performance’ of the Hedgerow Rite.  The 2018 Hedge- was planted by a TRCA team last fall. The plantings have been made possible by the generous support of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) who supplied the plants and labour and continue to support the Hedgelaying In The Ontario Landscape (HOL) Project.

My long-term aim is to set up a long term citizen-science monitoring programme for hedgerows that we plant as part of the HOL project, and also to fine tune recommendations for organisations and groups who want monitoring programmes for their hedges. I have worked with hedgerows and citizen scientists for 10 years, and created the Hedgerows for Dormice project at People’s Trust for Endangered Species (2009-11) and Hedgerow Heroes at Surrey Wildlife Trust (2017-ongoing).  I have created a draft monitoring calendar for a range of taxa associated with hedgerows.

SurveyCalendarAPR2019

This Earth Day was fixed point photograph (FPP) day! I spent the afternoon setting up FPP points around the farm which I will use to capture images of how the hedge grows and transforms the local landscape.

I have had a couple of camera traps (thanks Grant!) set up on Hedgerow TRCA18 with nothing captured so far although there is a good evidence of coyote Canis latrans using the adjacent paths, and the white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus are already nibbling the tops of some of the plants- though thankfully the damage is localised both on the plant and within the hedge.

 

All pictures were taken with my Samsung A10 Mobile Phone which has serious limitations (offers of a proper digital camera gratefully excepted!), although it does allow me to switch to the compass feature and GPS to get a bearing and location (not that accurate sadly) without changing instruments!

It was a wonderful day to be distracted by the wildlife on the farm though. An American robin Turdus migratorius was searching for insects in a wood chip pile. A Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis was singing its heart out from the top of an old sugar-maple on the drive. While down near Hedge TRCA17, I spied what we had thought was an Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus  seen from the house a week earlier. I’d been advised through I-Naturalist I(Sarah and I are using the App to record all widlfe sightings on the Farm) that it was a little too early to see these and my correspondent had suggested instead an Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe. I had recently downloaded the I-Bird App and played both calls through my phone. Sure enough my friend took a real interest when the phoebe calls were played. and so too did another bird which I haven’t seen before- the chipping sparrow Spizella passerina with its dark eye stripe and bright red haircut! Later I sat for a while and watched three tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor whip and dive above the front 10 acres, above the nest boxes where they nested last year. Soaring high above them a turkey vulture Cathartes aura was a crack in the sky.

Today its raining so I’ll be planning small mammal surveys, moth surveys ( Peterson’s Field Guide on order from my local bookstore Forsters Book Garden, along with Robert Macfarlane’s new book Underland!) and butterfly transects. I have seen the first butterfly on site yesterday- a mourning cloak Nymphalis antiopa next to the hedgerow Sarah and I finished laying. I’ll also be sourcing some ‘tins’ for the reptile surveys

Peterson Moths

I’m going to need to up my skill level for the invertebrate surveys and soil fauna- and hopefully find a suitably qualified friend to help out! I expect it is within the invert communities that we might be able to detect differences in the species or functional groups present in and around the hedgerow, from monitoring sites which I will also set up in grassland, wetland and woodland plots. The fact that Mount Wolfe Farm is a site with mixed habitats will make it difficult- perhaps impossible to show an effect from the planting of the hedgerows and so I look forward to being able to develop a project at a site with very little or no woodland where the presence of hedgerows should have an immediate impact on the biodiversity within the landscape.

I’m embarking on these surveys to develop a database on the biodiversity of Canadian hedgerows but also partly to develop my skills identifying Canadian biodiversity and to maintain a survey practice  much as one would develop a for a musical instrument or a for yoga. Its easy to slip out of these important rituals, especially if like me your career had taken you out of the field towards a more strategic focus. Use it or lose it, I think I heard someone once say!

I do need to get some more survey equipment but I haven’t yet found a Canadian equivalent of NHBS or WildCare which were the go-to companies in the UK. Not that I have much in the way of funding to go on a spending spree but even some sampling pots would be useful! And a sweep net. and a bat detector and a….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A major frustration to putting on any outdoor workshops this time of year is the inclemency of the weather. The site where we held our first spoon-carving workshop in September last year  is now under a thin blanket of snow (which is thickening even as i write!) and the temperature with wind chill is  -4 0C. Not great for the fine-motor skills needed for whittling!

However, the Crandall family, owners of Mount Wolfe Farm, have come to the rescue of the Caledon chapter of the fledgling Ontario Rural Skills Network (ORSN). On the ground level of the bank barn at the farm, Seymour Arnold Crandall (aka SAC or just Arnold) carved out a space for a workshop. “Poppa’s” workshop hasn’t really been used as a workspace since 2000 and is a treasure trove of timeless tools and a miscellany of assorted wonders, bric-a-brac, and curiosities – a testimony to his love of collecting.

With a bit of tidying and sorting there is space for a small group of spoon-carvers, and even a lathe to practice on until I can build the pole-lathes that we will use in the outdoor setting.

Arnold Crandall was passionate about woodworking and the Crandall sisters think their dad would be tickled pink to see life in the workshop again.

Sign up for one of winter/spring workshops on the ORSN website here and come and see what the place looks like!

 

Copy of 20181024_104006

Sarah is very excited about our new hedgerow

Its Autumn! Its Fall! Its Hedge-Time!

I love this time of year as the leaves lose their chlorophyll pigment and the anthocyanins and carotenoids reveal a harvest of ochre, carnelian, caramel, crimson, and ruby.

Chemistry-of-Autumn-Leaves-2018

Perhaps its my conservation background that makes me feel its a time to tinker, or maybe its just a revealed human trait that we are called to interact with the world around us. I’m led towards autumn walks and to woodland work and of course to hedges..

The Hedgelaying in Ontario’s Landscape project is organising the planting of  three new hedgerows  and finishing off an existing site this autumn and the first one is now complete. On Wednesday and Thursday this week a team from the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) came to plant up the second hedge at Mount Wolfe Farm, our site for demonstrating how a managed hedge can transform a landscape and provide many benefits for landowners, farmers and the community.

Farm Manager Sarah and I started preping for the arrival of the TRCA on Monday by bush-hogging, ploughing and tilling a strip up along the ‘Bowl’. We were concerned at first that the job would be hard but the plough made short work and soon we were admiring the rich crumbly soil our new plants were going to call home.

 

There had been a slight snowfall when the TRCA arrived on Wednesday morning and the 7-strong team were all bundled up against the cold. They quickly began to unload the plants consisting of American Hazelnut Corlus americana (300), Serviceberry Amelanchier arborea (300), Chokecherry Prunus virginiana (300),  Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa (150) and Fragrant Sumac Rhus aromatica (150). Their previous job had been planting fill on a development site, so seeing the prepared ground and almost stoneless soil really made their day! I wanted them to get a real sense of the excitement of the novelty of this hedge-planting they were undertaken so at the first break for coffee I gave them a quick talk about hedgerows, the Hedgelaying in Ontario’s Landscape project and the workshops available under the Ontario Rural Skills Network we have started on the Farm. Sarah was on hand to mention the CSA programme at Mount Wolfe too.

“This is your hedge” I told them. ” As you plant this hedge you will have thoughts,ideas and memories that arise that will be woven into its structure. I had in my head the upcoming  Fall Farm Fest on Saturday 27th where I launched a more formal way to bind these stories into the hedge which I’m calling  The Hedgerow Rite (more on this soon). In the mean time I left out a pad for the team to share any thoughts, ideas and “offerings” they had during the planting. I also left out a small basket filled with pieces of paper, which i encouraged them to use to share private thoughts and wishes by burying them beneath the hedge as they planted.

“Its snowed as we planted, wondering if it will be a cold winter this year”- Meggie

“I usually enjoy planting hedges but this preparation is excellent. Knowing the trees and shrubs are going to love soil. I hope i can see this in 10 years!” – Ryan

“Cool project. thanks for having us”- Will

“I was excited to find out the crew were planing here because I have visited the farm before. I will for sure have to come back in a few years and see how the hedge is progressing. thank you!”- Colleen

“Love this place! Beautiful farm! Thank you so much for your warm welcome!”- Gavin

“Thank you for the tea and coffee, so nice!” -Meggie (?)

“If there is a hedge competition there should a planting competition and if there isn’t we should invent it”- Ryan (?)

T

The hedge is planted along what was originally planned as a fence line. The 10cm diameter pine posts had long since rotted however and my visiting godkids Fraser and Sophie had great fun knocking them down to make way for the hedge. Now the hedge would ascend the hill creating a green-way between it and the adjacent  mixed woodland of Cold Creek, it would then curve around the base of the hill and along the upper path across the top of the bowl. The purpose of the hedge here serves at least four purposes:

(i) Aesthetic- providing  a new and exciting experience for  the family, CSA members and visitors as they walk up the green-way, with the grassy bowl and hill revealed through 5m gaps. From the bowl, the hedge will provide a ‘skirt’ to the tall white and red pines behind creating a dense and thick structure with flowers, berries and rich foliage during autumn.

(ii) Cultural- this hedge together with another planted in 2017 and being finished off at the Fall Farm Fest help demonstrate the Crandall Family’s commitment to the shared experience of land-based stewardship and community participation. New stories are being made in the landscape, bound together with the old.

(iii) Biodiversity– this dense well-manged hedgerow will provide many habitats for small birds and mammals and shelter from the sun for shade tolerant butterflies in the green lane.

(iv) Living Fence-the farm hopes in the future to bring in seasonal conservation grazing for the management of the grasslands in the bowl  The hedge will eventually be a stock-proof barrier to livestock.

Thank you Christina, Ryan, Will, Meggie, Colleen, Gavin, and all involved in planting. Thanks to Elizabeth Celanowicz ,TRCA Planting & Stewardship Project Manager, for funding and organising the plants for us. Do come back and visit your hedge.

Coming soon..The Hedgerow Rite in full…

20180809_140930[1]

Just back from sending off the Mount Wolfe Farm Environmental Farm Plan for review, which I have been helping Farm Manager Sarah and her aunt Debbe Crandall complete as part of my work for the University of Waterloo Hedgelaying in Ontario’s Landscape Project 2018.

The EFP is a voluntary programme driven by the farming community with technical support provided by the Ontario Ministry of  Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). It is run by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA).

EFPs are assessments voluntarily prepared by farm families to increase their environmental awareness in up to 23 different areas on their farm. After attending two workshops with Sarah and Debbe we risk-assessed the 23 different areas which included Water Wells, Pesticide Handling & Storage, Fertilizer Handling & Storage, Treatment of Household Wastewater, Livestock Mortality , Field Crop Management and Woodlands and Wildlife.

The overall purpose is to assess the impacts of farm operations- particularity nutrient enrichment from manure, pesticides and tilling practices on ground and surface water resources. There are however useful sections on sustainability of water resources where we looked at how much water the farm uses; on energy use, and on wildlife. Scoring for each question 1-4, any answers with 1 or 2 require an action plan to be completed.

Completing the EFP opens the door to cost-share funding under the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program

From my UK experience this is more a Catchment Sensitive Farming Plan than a Farm Environment Plan. I would like to have seen more emphasis on wildlife, particularly in identifying endangered species  or species of conservation concern and creating actions to benefit them.

However the EFP was an undeniably useful process for Mount Wolfe and would be for any farm interested inreducing their environmenatl impact. I especially found the mapping component useful, where i got to flex my QGIS muscles (slightly more than the hand drawn plan required by the EFP but useful for long-term farm planning especially for woodland management). It did take us, a small Community Supported Agriculture Farm, a number of days to get all the information together and think through answers, even if many of the 23 worksheets were not applicable to our operation. I think a larger farm would need more support than two workshop days in completing the form.

I’ve been in Canada a month now spending much of my time exploring new pathways around hedgerows and traditional skills so thought it was about time I got back to some field ecology. Sarah has a problem in the upper field at Mount Wolfe Farm where the young tomato plants are being eaten, so I am investigating what maybe causing the problem. On our first nights trapping using 10 sherman traps baited with peanut butter, bird seed, sardines and apple we caught this young male deer mouse Peromyscus maniculatus weighing 14g. He was safely translocated to similar habitat away from the tomatoes!

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photos

Archives

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: