It’s been almost three months since Laire and I moved to the community, and aside from the hike we went on during our first visit last fall, we still hadn’t got a full tour of this huge property. There’s just always too many projects to do when you’re a homesteader and market gardener, aren’t there?

Well, Deryk has been meaning to take us on a hike during springtime—when there’s enough greenery to get a sense for what’s growing where, but still early enough in the season that you can get a sense of the landscape without a thick canopy blocking your view. Today was a gorgeous spring day (save for the black flies, which I guess I’m getting used to by now), and we took advantage of the warmth, the sunshine, and the breeze to walk most of the acreage’s perimeter.

Twisted old trunk, probably home to an owl

Lots of fungi around here

Amazing how trees regrow after wind storms

Another funny-looking trunk

As soon as you leave the farmyard, it really does feel like you’re hiking the backcountry in a remote park. In the old-growth forest, there are virtually no signs of human interference. Instead you see a plethora of natural abundance: the forest floor thick with spring wildflowers, unfurling fiddleheads, and heaps of spongy mosses; saplings and shrubs bursting with new spring growth; and ancient trees, twisted full revolutions by the prevailing winds, sometimes delimbed in a storm but growing forth nonetheless.

We followed no defined trail, so finding our path demanded an acute sense of our surroundings. The diversity of local flora is just breathtaking. If you take a really close look at the forest floor, as we had to with almost every step, you quickly realize that there’s a whole lot going on down there!

Wintergreen berries - a fresh forest floor snack!

Delicate goldthread flowers in bloom

Occasionally, you do come across one of the now-overgrown ruts left behind by a logging operation of the past—a reminder that this property was at one time considered just another woodlot by a forestry corporation. The change from old-growth to old clearcut is usually obvious: the difference between a high canopy with relatively walkable terrain, and an impenetrable thicket no more than two storeys tall. In the most accessible clearcuts, Deryk has undertaken as much silvicultural work as he’s had time for during the last eight years to help maintain and improve forest health. His efforts have paid off: Those areas he’s paid the most attention to have given rise to taller and stronger trees, and encouraged the growth of the more desirable species – both for the local ecology as well as for the community’s needs.

It’s really exciting to know that your own backyard is as beautiful and diverse as any of Canada’s great parks. I’m looking forward to doing more of these backyard treks as the season evolves.

—Farmer Paul

Burbling Snow Brook

About Farmer Paul

Paul grew up in a yuppie-laden Toronto suburb, though he lucked out having been raised by eccentrics who rejected the neighbourhood status quo and converted the lawn into organic gardens. In his starry-eyed 20s, his obsession with living sustainably subdued his interest in high-tech anything (somehow scraping by with a computer science degree all the same). His interest in farming was piqued while apprenticing at Everdale, an organic farm in Ontario, and studying permaculture design in BC. He's since operated three market gardens, and now takes a lead in garden management and cheesemaking at Snow Lake Keep.

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