A Memory Of Trees

Edited 2022-09-27

Enya's song "The Memory Of Trees" comes to mind, trees being tightly held in the celtic tradition. But I am only remotely related to the celtic line so that cannot be the reason for my love of trees. I also worked with forestry as a pilot for a while and one of my grandfathers was a cartright whom my brother and I watched for hours on end as he made things from wood, but these are not why I love trees either. And long before all that two of my ancestors were forestland owners and although the lumber industry in those days didn't even resemble today's total-destruction for profit it's not the reason either. It isn't because sawdust ran in my veins that I became a tree activist, that would come only as the direct result of having witnessed the atrocity that humanity has done to our forest worlds.      

Much like my maternal cartright grandfather my wife's paternal grandfather was also in his prime at the turn of the last century. He would tell us stories about rural Quebec life in those days, in Gaspesie more precisely, where snow clearance was unheard of and where the roads were practically forgotten for the duration of winter when snow drawn sleighs would fly on snow-roads "under the branches of pine trees that took two or three people to embrace i.e. put their arms around". These stories got me thinking, well aware that today trees are harvested as soon as a 2 by 4 can be sawed from them and as far as Quebec is concerned 2x12's are now imported from British Columbia because there are simply no more foot-diameter trees left standing here, much less five and six footers.   


My father-in-law (above) was among those trying to harness technology in the fight against phenomenal snow-falls. The snow-roads of old had become obsolete with the arrival of automobiles, only a few remained in service by 1950 and those only in the most remote regions. The winter forests were being abandoned in a sense albeit not in the minds of the lumber industry. Although still rather unnoticed it was the dawn of mechanized clear-cutting. There were still plenty of big trees to be felled but a difference is already palpable in or between photographs taken then or fifty years earlier.

So I began to pay attention to data, all kinds of data about trees and forests. Some statements to the effect that there were as many trees today as ever didn't go unnoticed, except that the two generations of trees were evidently not of the same size at all. Then I went visiting in Hungary where this slice in a museum showed the rings of a tree born there in the time of Jesus. The slice was around 16 feet in diameter, I could not get it all into one picture, unfortunately the digital image fails to show its rings.


The earliest identified year is marked as 453 A.D. and the last 1956. Then, while researching on the great pines (while planning to plant 200 myself) I stumbled upon pictures of diameters between that of the above Jesus tree and the 5-footers that my wife's grandfather had known and talked about.

http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/media-858/55_1_diametre_pin.jpg  ....or others I've lost the source of
There are accounts in Nouvelle-France of "fields of 40 meter great white pines as far as the eye can see" but soon after, because the Royal-Navy had use for straight trees to make ship masts on the east coast as well as the west coast, the apocalypse of these trees would also begin.  As we move ahead in time, by 1950 as seen in the reference video below the tree diameters are mostly below 1 meter, certainly so in eastern Canada. About the only places where trees of substance, those that once filled entire vistas, can be found now are in protected parks and arboretae.


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0RQzlb7zkU   and   https://patlbr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/alaska-yellow-cedar-Jim-and-Brad-1.jpg

All in all I figure that in 10,000 years we have consumed 1/2 of the trees since coming out of the last ice age, going from some 30 trillion big trees to 15 trillion much smaller ones. This gives some sense of the dioxide absorbing greenery, the lungs of the earth, and capacity-destruction but if we look for the actual amount of wood and branches then we find 6 inch trunks where 4 footers once were! I suspect that in terms of board-feet or foliage we have destroyed over 80%. Every human being should be charged with the planting of 1 tree per month throughout his or her life, such being the true scope of what we have allowed the money-changers to do to our spaceship home.

I had planted maybe 200 trees in my life in different places before retiring and then about 100 here since 2003. It was last year in 2020 when, having discovered my 1000-in-life formula that I really went at it with 250.  Among these were some Siberian Cedars that seem to be remarkably tough. One seedling got completely uprooted by some animal and I only found it in June 2021, immediately replanting it. Time will tell if it recovers.


Alaskan Yellow Cedar  Cupressus Nootkatensis


This section is about my attempt to migrate the above majestic tree to eastern Quebec

Often bred as a weeping tree, the Alaskan Yellow-Cedar is somewhat sad in outlook and not inappropriately so given what we have done to trees and to our spaceship home since coming out of the last ice-age 11,000 years ago. I have run some numbers and have concluded that every human being should plant one tree every month of his/her life to make up for the atrocity of human presence, this averages out to maybe 1000 trees per person. Now at about 600 and reaching 800 of my own this coming spring I hope to atone for my part of the sin.   N.B. Climate-change is killing the tree off in Alaska, I figure the same climate-change might help it survive in Quebec.

Ordered a box of 220 plugs from PRT

Order  shipped out from Campbell River, BC

Seedlings arrive, moist and cool, very healthy looking but thawed out. "3-4 day Express-Service" was at 8 days last night when Purolator warned of another possibly 1 week long additional delay. Had a few words with them about the political correctness coefficient of being called killers-of-baby-trees and package arrived this afternoon.  Placed them in fridge at 1-2c, too scared to risk freezer at this point and with freezer unstable -2 to -10c.

My better-half will help pot them tomorrow, maybe 10 (but separated) to a large pot.

Seedlings get potted, too late to shop we just drafted the pots and pans on hand.

Major (Triple-A) surgery on Apr-26 has come to delay the project a little. In my 5th week of twice-6-weeks of convalescence/recovery I now have about 2/3 of the 220 planted outdoors. Here are some typical habitats over about 3000 feet of land with various topography and vegetation.

Ideal and protected bog-on-rock on left, open grassland middle, woodland line-swath on right.

A better habitat in wet ravine with lots of snow and ground not so cold.

The 215 yellow-cedar "plugs" are now planted-out (I gave 5 of the received 220 to one of my sons). Still not one lost. The image below shows rough locations of these as well as around 250 other evergreens planted last summer (about 25 of the Nootkas got planted on another lot).

The planted trees are gradually uncovering themselves and so far all are alive and well. All the snow should be gone in a couple of weeks so I intend to do a more detailed inspection later.




Have started making the rounds, so far so good, the one on the left is already past 2 feet (and almost got a snow-blower placed on top of it, I never saw it was there). NB. early pictures INCLUDED the 5-6" root. Field conditions were abominable so I'll probably do an encore. Many I could not find in 4-5 foot tall grass/hay.  Seen about 3-5 totally dead (3rd from left), some very small but also VERY dark green (4th from left), most were like the one on the right; all in all not a hopeless prog thus far.  


Almost all the plants that I had not marked with 4 or 6 foot driveway markers (about 150) have become impossible to find in tall weed. So I undertook to mark them all. I have found about 2 more dead and one as an unequivocal example of 2nd year resurrection (above).