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!