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My Black Walnut Forests

A man I once new, Henry Ellis, had great foresight. Back in the 1980's he planted a black walnut forest of about 150 trees for his grandchildren. At that time I had started my forest as well and had planted about a dozen trees on our family farm and on the hillside behind my brother Mike's farm, known as Ryder Lake.

I transplanted these baby trees from a farm on Reeves Road. This is the farm where Abram Reeves was homesteaded and raised his family back in the 1880s, each time a child of his was born he planted a tree. There were 5 blackwalnut, 1 white oak and butternut tree.

  I was fortunate to find out from a friend that one of these trees was being removed by B.C. Hydro for the safety of the nearby residents; these trees were hanging over the entire road and were hazardous, mostly during strong winds.

I was fortunate to have found out that one of these trees was being cut down in 1989. Jack and Maggie May were the owners of the property and having attended high school with their son Rick I found out about the removal of the tree and was able to purchase it.

  I hired a crane truck to move the tree to Indian Hardwoods, at the time this was the only mill that I knew of for sawing logs on a small scale. Chuck and his crew made 1", 2" and 4" thick stock, mostly dimensioned, just a small amount of natural edge material. I made lots of furniture with the low grade wood for myself, sold some to other woodworkers, local high schools and built a 7' diameter dining table 3" thick with 12 chairs and 2 buffets plus I still have some 2" planks that I stickered to air dry...they are still in the same spot...16 years later.

  In 1993 the remainder of the trees were removed after some dangerous storms, Rick sold the stumps for gunstocks and we milled up the trees and vacuum dried about a third of the wood. The two largest trunks were cut into slabs up to 5" thick, 5' wide and 13' long and will be made into oversized natural edge dining tables that will seat up to 16 people. There are currently two five-foot slabs available.

  After the trees were cleaned up light hit the ground for the first time in many years and some of the nuts that had fallen were now sprouting. Jack did not want a forest there so he started spraying weed killer, when I realized this I asked if I could remove these baby trees. I spent many evenings after work digging up black walnut and butternut trees and planting them on my parents' farm, I am still to this day very thankful that Jack and Maggie let me take all the trees that I wanted.

I planted rows on 24" centers between my driveways as well as some between my firewood shed and wood bard, basically anywhere there was space not being used. I think I transplanted about 1800 trees over a few years time.

 I was checking on my trees on the hill and found they were logging within 20' of my walnut trees. I asked Mike if we could do some logging as the forest was mature, the equipment was there, the softwood trees were blowing down and I thought this could be a nice spot for me to transplant my hardwood trees as they were growing quite quickly. Mike said if I took all the responsibility I could do what I wanted.

I talked to the logger about my plans, that I wanted to leave the small conifer trees so as not to clear the land completely. We needed to buy gravel to build a short driveway so that we would be able to remove the logs, the softwood went to sawmills while the birch and maple went to my place where I cut, vacuum dried and made some of the wood into flooring for Mike & Wendi and my Mom & Dad's new homes.

  I started planting trees that winter: a row along the freeway on our farms' north side as well as on the hillside a border of butternut and a few hundred walnut scattered around the property. Some of those trees were too small and were lost due to brush overgrowth and a dry summer; the trees near the freeway were doing better as I could control the weeds easier. My little nursery was growing out of control once again as each time I removed trees the remainder grew faster with more light and water per tree. So I asked my parents if I could plant 2 more rows of 114 trees per row along the freeway," it wood eat the smog and make a nice hedge to block the sound of summer traffic" I said. Dad reluctantly said that I could plant more trees on the same farm that he cut trees from years ago because they shaded the grass that the cows needed to produce milk. My brother Mike dug the holes for me with the backhoe, which made the job much easier for me.

  Unfortunately he was not able to dig the holes in the forest behind his farm for me a few years later, I dug them with shovels and moved another 250 plus trees using my friend Comey's four wheeler and a tree transporting sled in the spring of 2004.1 am grateful for permission from Jack & Katherine Flemming to cut through their front lawn with the four wheeler and sled as some of these trees were 18' tall and the root weighed as much as 100 Ibs. It would have taken its toll on my back if I didnít have the best neighbors. They joined the other hundreds of trees that I have planted but this time I watered them the first summer using the four wheeler and four 75 litre garbage cans, it was a huge investment of time and water but well worth the effort, as the survival rate was better than the other plantings.

  I have to thin the nursery one more time this winter (2005), I plan to use a tree spade this time - It's a small tractor that will move each tree with several cubic feet of soil so that the trees now 25' tall will have a much better chance of survival. These trees will replace some that I've lost near the freeway and possibly plant some in memory of friends that have passed away.

  My next tree project will be to start germinating the nuts my trees have been producing for the last few years; this will enable me to continue to grow "Reeves rainbow walnut" for the third generation.

  If you want to grow some of the most valuable trees that grow in North America please call or email me, I'll be happy to help you get started. I'd like to change the provincial governmentís status of black walnut from non merchantable to the most valuable tree in B.C.