Monday, December 27, 2010

Stewardship Trivia

Happy Holidays!
A little stewardship trivia as you gather with family and friends this season.

Can you spot the super canopy tree in this picture? 

What is a super canopy tree?

It’s a living tree (usually a conifer) that is taller than the rest of the trees around it and sticks above the canopy.

Tall white and red pines and other conifers often tower above the canopy to form the super canopy layer. They provide nesting and resting places for birds, refuges for young bear cubs escaping predators and landmarks for songbirds. The ability of these individual super canopy trees to grow taller than the rest often indicates a higher quality seed. These trees are good to keep around for habitat reasons as well as growing more healthy trees. 

Do you have a super canopy tree on your woodlot?

Read this Extension Note for how to manage for them

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Photos

I stepped outside last night around 2am to have a look at the eclipse. It was cold out in Muskoka last night: -16! I've seen lunar eclipses before but this one was special since it fell on the same day as the winter solstice. There is a strange feeling that comes along with the moon, especially when it's full, don't you think?

the beginning of the eclipse

halfway there...

We were lucky to have a clear night in Muskoka!

I went inside to warm up for a bit and came back out around 2.45am to a red moon. I wish I had a better camera...the moon looked like it was popping out of the sky.

A bit blurry, but very dark red around 3am
On a stewardship side note, here are some links I thought you might find interesting:
Did anyone see any shooting stars?
Did you get some photos or videos?
Send them to me and I'll post them to the blog!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight!

Let's hope for a clear night!
It's the winter solstice tonight and mother nature has a couple of bonuses in store!
Bundle up and head outside to catch a glimpse of the total lunar eclipse!
In Muskoka, it will happen early Tuesday morning around 1:45am. The moon should look entirely red an hour or so later.
No equipment needed; clear skies pending, it will be visible with the naked eye.

During a lunar eclipse, the Earth is exactly in line between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun's light from bouncing off the moon.

An added bonus: A minor meteor shower could send a few shooting stars across the sky during the height of the moon cover!

Want to know more?
Read this Toronto Star Article

Interested in the science?
Check our this site dedicated to Lunar Eclipses for Beginners

Come back tomorrow and let me know what you saw!
Leave a comment or
email me a photo and I'll post it to the blog.
Happy gazing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cool things that happen when the temperature drops!

photo courtesy of

The last couple of days have indeed been not only cool, but downright cold, here in Muskoka. The lakes are beginning to freeze, snow is piling up and while we're bundling up to stay warm, the trees and animals are making their own adjustments for the frigid temperatures.

The sap of evergreen acts like an anti-freeze allowing their needles to survive throughout the long winter season. The nice smell when you crush the needles is the oil beneath their surface that allows them to survive. The needles also have a think wax coating allowing moisture to stay in.

photo courtesy of

The subnivean layer is the space between the warmer ground and the snow where small animals are active throughout the winter. The layer is used for both warmth and shelter, but also an area to hide from predators. At -40 outside the subnivean layer can be as warm as -4

Chipmunks aren't able to build up a think fat layer for hibernation, so instead they take long naps and wake up periodically for a snack from the storage of nuts they collected over the fall.

Snowshoe hares and ptarmigans turn white allowing them to camouflage in the snow.

    Animals create many trail systems in the winter (like the deer trail above), connecting water, food and home locations. The trails allow for greater conservation of energy (which is key in the winter!). Moose and deer make trails based on shortest distance, as a result of their long narrow legs making traveling difficult in snow. Smaller animals on the other hand such as hares, skunks, and squirrels and even foxes make trails for both energy conservation and for survival; allowing them to swiftly escape their predators.
    What COOL things are happening where you are??
    I would love to hear from you: leave a comment below.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Inspiration: 3 Generations of Stewardship

Good land stewardship runs deep in the Dutton family- and that of his wife, Barbara Dutton (née Longhurst). Her family was among the first settlers in the Windermere area, circa 1865, where they established a farm. A drive through the Windermere area tells stories of long established farmed meadowlands mixed in with the typical Muskoka lakes, pines, and granite.

The Longhurst family continues to farm in the Windermere area, but the Duttons took a different approach to land stewardship. “Each generation has their own part to play in the stewardship of our land. But the underlying set of values stays the same and is transferred from one generation on to the next” says John Dutton.

Ready to retire, the Duttons moved to Barbara’s grandmothers’ house near Windermere that was built in 1932. They eventually ran a Bed & Breakfast for eleven years. For their part, they envisioned continuing with Barbara’s family’s vision to steward the land. While not farmers, the values that were passed on through her family gave them a keen interest in private land stewardship.

The Duttons first became involved in the Stewardship Program in 1994. “It was important to us to be participants in the Muskoka Stewardship Program so we could preserve our property for our children. Handing the property down through each generation establishes a sense of inherent value in our family” says John Dutton.

Running the Bed & Breakfast allowed guests to experience the diverse habitat types, flora and fauna found on the Dutton’s 31 acre parcel of land. It also motivated the Duttons to focus on the stewardship of their land to enhance and preserve the natural systems that exist there.

During the first visit from the Muskoka Stewardship Program in 1994, the Duttons identified several initiatives that were important to them in their stewardship plan. These included maintaining existing and creating new trails, trail interpretive signs, learning more about the natural features of their property, continuing to extract small amounts of timber, and haying a small field.

Chris Near, a volunteer Master Steward, visited the Dutton property this summer as part of the new Stewardship Program: “When I met with the Duttons and walked their property I quickly became aware of their past efforts and future potential as stewards of their land.” Since the 1990s, John Dutton has expanded the trail system in order to gain better accessibility of the property and to appreciate the birds, wildlife, and unique land formations of the property.

One of the trails leads to a 3-acre portion of the property that is harvested for grain every couple of years. The trail system and this field are recognitions of Barbara’s family farming roots in the area and a way for John’s son and grandson to become involved in the stewardship of the property. Passing the land down to his son and grandson “creates a Trust for the family. They help with maintaining the property and learn about it and it becomes important to them” says John Dutton. Master Steward, Chris Near agrees and adds that “the Dutton’s land will also benefit from the knowledge that one generation is passing on to the next.”

The values of conservation and preservation are echoed by Jonathan (son) and Michael (grandson); the generations who are growing up on the land and envisioning their own ideas for stewardship. Michael is interested in maintaining the trail system and planting some trees. Although he admits it is hard to articulate, he values the strong family connection that he feels when visiting his grandparent’s property: “It is calming and peaceful to visit there, and I feel at home there.”

Jonathan notes that his parents have “passed on an active interest in the property. They have researched and learned so much about wildlife, for example, and shared that information and those stories with their kids.”

There is a long history of stewardship being passed on on this land. For John, Barbara and their family, the stewardship of their land has changed “how we value Muskoka as a whole. One leads into the other; the more we appreciate our 31 acres, the more we appreciate Muskoka” says John Dutton. For them, the family connection has given them a sense of how wonderful it is to have natural places that they can enjoy and steward.

Many landowners who participate in the Muskoka Stewardship program reflect on the importance of conservation on private land. John Dutton thinks “it is symbolic of our values. We want to preserve our property in a natural setting for generations to come.” Certainly, these are sentiments are representative of how many landowners in Muskoka feel about the region and their special piece of it.

The Dutton family has made a voluntary commitment to protect the rich and valuable natural heritage of their land by becoming part of the Muskoka Heritage Foundation’s Stewardship Program. The Foundation is helping them and many others to be better caretakers of the natural features that make Muskoka so special. If you and your family are interested in stewardship of your special piece of Muskoka, contact me.

The Muskoka Stewardship program is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Considering Logging? Hiring a Qualified Logger

I wrote last week about researching, planning, and exploring your property before commiting to logging- or a logger.

Today, I noticed on the Ontario Forestry Association website a new resource they have developed called Hiring a Qualified Logger- it's a matter of doing your homework!

It includes:
  • Questions you may want to ask when hiring a logger
  • Questions to ask when checking references
  • Additional Tips
Check it out and Good Luck!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Gift Ideas

Need a stocking stuffer or gift idea?
Check out these gifts in support of the Muskoka Heritage Foundation.
Affordable too! $20 or less
Tea Towels

Back by popular demand: Muskoka Heritage Foundation tea-towels. These fly off the shelves because of their high quality and unique designs. A new design just arrived (bottom)! $17 each.

DVD: History of Muskoka

Life on the Edge: a DVD about the history of the Muskoka region. From the Anishinabek, to the European settlers, to the first tourists. This 2 hour documentary explores Muskoka's history through interviews with historians, photgraphs and re-enactments. An amazing stocking stuffer- only $20. Watch the trailer!

Book: On the Living Edge

On the Living Edge: offers a host of ideas on waterfront living including help with septic system health, native plantings and shoreline wildlife, as well as tips for purchasing and building on shoreline properties. We are offering it for $20.00 including tax!! A great bargain and a perfect gift for your cottaging friends and family.

Book: Old Muskoka

Old Muskoka tells the stories of the first cottagers in Muskoka in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Exceptional photographs and rich history describe the area, grand cottages and times spent on the lakes in Muskoka.

Interested in supporting our work directly?
Become a member!
Or donate on behalf of your family and friends!
Only $50 for the year. Contact us!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Considering logging? Read this first!

Have you been offered money from a logger to harvest your woodlot?
Interested but think there is a better way?
There is!

It requires researching sound advice to make the best decisions possible to protect the health and integrity of your woodlot.
Woodlot owners harvest trees for many reasons: to generate income, produce lumber or firewood for your own use, create recreational trails for skiing, hiking, or hunting, improve wildlife habitat, or to maintain the health of your forest.
These reasons are not mutually exclusive.
Whatever your reason, there are many factors to consider first.

Do Some Research
The choice of a silvicultural system depends on characteristics unique to each woodlot. The book "A Landowners Guide to Careful Logging" provides landowners with sound advice as they make decisions to protect the health and integrity of their woodlots, while maximizing financial returns. Download it, or pick up a free copy at MHF.

In addition to a silvicultural system that is appropriate for your woodlot, a reputable consultant and/or logger is a must. They ensure that logging operations are conducted accordance with good forestry practices and that other values in the woodlot are protected and maintained. This guide also has more information about this selection process. Contact me for a list of loggers in Muskoka.

Make A Plan
Download or pick up a copy of "A Guide the Stewardship Planning for Natural Areas". Fill in the blanks on the worksheets to make a personalized plan for your woodlot. I have these books at the MHF office and they're free! Also, see the upcoming December issue of the MHF newsletter, the Steward, for an article about planning for your stewardship activities.

Learn, Read, Explore!
Access resources: do some winter reading.
Attend workshops: learn from others and the experts
Explore your property: what wildlife lives there? when and where is it wet, dry? what kinds of trees? what do you use it for?

Consider becoming a landowner participant in the Stewardship Program.
I'd love to chat with you about how the program can help you! Contact me today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Forestry Workshop

The Ontario Forestry Association, in partnership with the District Municipality of Muskoka, is offering a landowner workshop in the Muskoka area.

This informative workshop will provide you with tips and tools to help protect trees in your woodlot from disease, insects and other natural threats. The workshop will also provide landowners with information on how to manage a forest harvest, contracts and oversight, planning, managing expectations and informed decision making. Information will provided on the Managed Forest Tax Incentive.

When: Saturday November 27th, 2010

Time: 10am - 2pm (Classroom and field trip)

Where: Macaulay Public School, Bracebridge ON

Lunch will be provided

Pre-Registration Required!

Contact the Ontario Forest Association 1-800-387-0790

Interested in some prep reading for the workshop?

Check out these articles about Forest and Ecosytem Health on the Muskoka Watershed Council website

The OFA has an article about the Value of Our Forests

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On my shelf: The Practical Naturalist

Last week, Liann Bobechko, author of Cottage Life's "Cottage Kids" blog wrote about how much she is loving the book "The Practical Naturalist". Read her entry here.

The more we understand about the natural systems where we live, the better actions we can take to protect and conserve Muskoka's resources.

One of the reasons the stewardship program exists is to encourage good stewardship of Muskoka's private lands. Above, landowners from the program receive their gatepost sign this summer.

But what is stewardship?

Stewardship means taking good care of our land and water. It requires sound planning and informed choices based on good information.

Take some time this winter to do some planning over the coming months so that come spring you are ready to take action on your land, shoreline, and garden. More on this topic in a upcoming post...stay tuned!

In Stewardship,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Local Food Movement

Fall is a time for harvest!

But with the frost and cold weather setting in- and even *gulp*- snow, the harvest is winding down. Fortunately, there are ways to continue enjoying the delicious fresh foods from the summer and fall.

Like this Canning & Preserving workshop:
Offered by Savour Muskoka
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Mark O'Mara Clubhouse @ Delta Grandview
For details go here

Savour Muskoka promotes local food. Like I wrote about it a past post, eating locally is important because:
  • fresher food
  • better quality food
  • food travels less distance
  • less chemicals in our food and on the land on which it was grown
  • supports the local economy

My favourite:

  • connects us with our food source and the land

Are these things important to you too?

There is another workshop you should know about:
Local Food Development: brainstorming session
Saturday November 20, 2010
Muskoka Delta Grandview Resort
For more information, go here
Interested in learning more about the local food movement?
If you are in Muskoka and this topic peaks your interest (after all, we all have to eat!), I encourage you to attend the brainstorming session.
You can also read more in books like these:
And checking out websites like these:

See you at the workshops!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Valuable Resource: Extension Notes

Looking for information for your next project on your land?
Want to make sure you are doing the right things?

Extension Notes are user-friendly fact-sheets on a variety of resource management topics including, agroforestry, financial aspects, forests, insects and pests, water, wetlands & wildlife.

Read online or download to print!
PDF fact sheets on topics such as:

  • Do you have a healthy woodlot?
  • Conserving the Forest Interior: A Threatened Wildlife Habitat
  • Promoting a Healthy Forest Through Tree Marking
  • Backyard Maple Syrup Production
  • Preserving and Restoring Natural Shorelines
  • Improving Fish Habitat
  • Cavity Trees are Refuges for Wildlife
Lke them so much you want hard copies of your own?

The Landowners Resource Centre is the place to go.

  • Individual copies to a maximum of 5 are FREE
  • Subsequent copies are $1 each
  • A compilation of all Extension Notes in a binder are $80

Viewing the Extension Notes requires the free Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in.

Get it here:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Co-existing with Wildlife

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Stewardship Series workshop called "Wildlife in Your Woodlot- Challenges of Co-existing". It was hosted by the Stewardship Councils in Haliburton Highlands, Parry Sound-Muskoka, and Bancroft Area.

The workshop provided some great insights into understanding the habits of wolves, bears, and deer. Experts at the workshops told us that by better understanding their habits, we can avoid conflict and live in a way that is healthier for us all.

Black Bears:
  • 50% of human-bear conflicts are due to improperly stored garbage
  • 10% of human-bear conflicts are due to bird feeders

That means you can eliminate 60% of what attracts bears simply by storing your garbage properly and only having bird feeders out from November through March (when the bears are hibernating).

If you take away the food, you take away the bears.

Read more "Bear Wise" tips here and here

Wolves & Coyotes

There are 3 different types of wild canids in Ontario:

  • Grey wolf (canis lupus)- typically of northern Ontario
  • Eastern wolf (canis lycaon)- from Timmins south to Algonquin Park
  • Eastern coyoye (canis latrans)- southern, central, and eastern Ontario

Having wolves and coyotes in our area is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

Wolves and coyotes tend to ignore the areas where people live. You are more liekly to hear one than see one. Both wolves and coyotes howl at night to boradcast occupancy of their territory and keep each other informed of each other's locations while hunting or traveling alone.

Wolves and coyotes very rarely attack humans. Here are some things you can do to prevent problems:

  • Do not approach or feed wolves or coyotes. Feeding them makes them less fearful of humans and habituates them to food provided by humans.
  • Properly store and maintain garbage containters. Food attracts rodents and rodents attract coyotes.
  • Never attempt to "tame" a coyote or wolf.

Read more about wolves and coyotes here and here


Deer- and all animals for that matter- are all looking for the same things: food, shelter, water, and space. Their behaviours are motivated by these factors alone.

While summer is a time of plenty for deer in Muskoka (as any gardener here can tell you!), winter is hard for them. The browse is of low quality and they must contend with the cold weather and deep snow. To help them cope, deer store fat reserves for about 3 moths. They also tend to stay in conifer covered areas in winter where the snow is not as deep and the air is (a tiny bit) warmer.

Some Muskokans enjoy feeding deer but this can cause problems like dependance (if you go away and they no longer have that food source) and life threatning digestive diseases. The corn is also low in nutritional value and generally not good for them. Feeding deer also generally brings them closer to roadways.

A good brochure about co-existing with deer can be dowloaded here

Another good resource:

The living by water project