First Words – Spring 2023

In this issue, we talk a lot about trees – one of my favourite topics. When I was a kid, my family purchased a 100-acre farm from a retired French-Canadian couple – the Guilbeaults. Every May long weekend we headed to the farm, which was beside Larose Forest just east of Ottawa, to plant thousands of trees in the fallow fields. We rented Mr. Guilbeault’s old tractor and a Lands and Forests planting machine for the operation. My older brother Eric would drive the tractor, his feet barely reaching the pedals, and my little brother Doug, who was perched on the front of the planting machine, would hand me the seedlings that I would rhythmically drop between the furrows. Dad worked independently with a spade to plant the areas the tractor couldn’t navigate.

In later years, when Dad flew from Ottawa to Montreal on business, he could spot our property from the air because unlike the arrow-straight rows of the Larose Forest pines, the rows of our trees meandered, thanks to the junior tractor team. The experiences of my brothers and me – and even my sister, who was too small to be part of the planting crew in those days – have stuck with us. We still talk about the tractor being stuck up to the axles in the silty mud; we remember lying in the cool moss in the hemlock grove when the day was done. The black flies were bad, and I fought with my brother because I so wanted to drive that tractor; but we were proud of our work.

When you read this issue, I hope you feel some of my passion for the trees that clean our air and create our landscapes, and perhaps consider the importance of grabbing a shovel and planting a few trees along your laneway this spring, or even better, establishing your own forest next spring. And in doing so, maybe cultivating a memory or two of your own.