Hello Woodlot Owners
- The first 100 acres of woodland was purchased in 1989 by Francis and Pauline Verstraten with the original 350-acre farm parcel. They continued to buy more woodland in the area over the years as it became available, and now have approximately 750 acres of woodland in several smaller lots in the area.
- The original farm has been in Pauline’s family since 1820, starting with a land grant to the Oulton family.
- In the late 1800s there were sawmills on both brooks bordering the property, which used up and down saws.
- The woodlot was hit by the spruce budworm in the early 1980s.
- Before the Verstratens purchased the land, the woodlot had been severely high-graded by previous generations. There were very few older trees and the species mix had shifted away from Acadian Forest species like hemlock to other species like fir and white spruce.
- Initially there were very few roads through the woods, with mostly just bobsled trails for hauling out winter wood. When they bought the land, they began cutting out trails with a farm tractor and homemade winch system. In the early days, most of the work done involved harvesting pulp and studwood with power saws.
- In 1992 they started working with a Patu loader and homemade trailer, harvesting and building roads. A John Deere 440 skidder was purchased in the mid ’90s and used until 2009.
- They switched to a mini excavator in 2002 to help with road work, and upgraded in 2009 to larger excavator with an Arbro forestry head.
- In 2009, they purchased a portable bandsaw mill. They had previously hired the mill and sawyer for years, and when it came up for sale they decided to purchase it rather than have it leave the area. They currently saw rough lumber for farm building repair, carpentry, and cottage work; hardwood for flooring and furniture for local woodworkers; and softwood lumber.
- Ecologically responsible, selective forest management has always been important to the Verstraten family. They believe that a healthy, productive forest ecosystem requires a balance between harvesting and silviculture, wildlife protection, recreation, wetland networks, and many other important aspects. They continue to work towards restoring their woodlots to the native Acadian forest through uneven-aged management, including selective, low-impact harvesting, precommercial thinning to encourage healthy native species, and in-fill planting.
- In the early years, they did not apply for funding assistance for their silvicultural work. This was partly because they didn’t know what was available and partly because funding was only available for commercial harvesting treatments (commercial thinning, shelterwood cuts, PCT) and not for the kind of silviculture they wanted on their land (uneven-aged, selection management).
- In the past, they have used tree marking to let outside contractors know what to cut and what not to cut. Since almost all management treatments are now done by Francis, Christie, and a couple of close family friends (all of whom share an affinity for ecosystem-based, uneven-aged forest management ethics), tree marking is not used as much now.
- In the past, when they harvested, they made enough money to at least cover contractor costs. Sometimes, in new lots, they would make enough money from timber removed when road building to cover the cost of purchasing the lot. Most timber that has come out of the lots has been poorer quality and over-mature wood that was removed primarily to improve the quality of the stand.
- All the wood they cut off their own land (except the occasion load of #1 pulp wood and studwood) is processed on the farm as either firewood, lumber, or specialty wood for woodworking and other custom projects. Poorer quality wood is left in the forest as fertilizer and wildlife habitat.
- Currently, they do not produce any non-timber forest products, but they are experimenting with mushroom propagation and have considered starting a native tree nursery in the future.
Stephen Cole, NSWOOA Forester
NSWOOA tells government:
It’s time to change course
- Acquire the 550,000 acres of Bowater forestland that is now on the market;
- Manage the land for production of high-quality, high-value wood products as the first step in creating a vibrant rural economy based on non-commodity forest products; and
- Create a new market for wood residues from sawmills – and low-grade logs that are harvested as part of forest restoration efforts – by encouraging the development of community-based, wood-fired, combined heat and power generation facilities. They could also burn agricultural biomass, providing new revenue for farmers.
- These small facilities should be dispersed throughout the province to meet the energy needs of schools, hospitals, government offices and manufacturing plants. They would reduce our dependence on foreign fuels and increase energy security for local communities. Moreover, the money spent on fuel wood purchases would remain in Nova Scotia.