EOPISODE 172 WETLAND ROCOVERED…AT A COST
Our farm is not a good farm. My grandparents managed to make a sketchy
living on the 25 acre farm. They had no car…no horse and buggy…no way to
get to town except with their sun, Uncle Frank who owned a neighbouring farm.
Both farms are glacial dumps. Rubble from the Canadian Shield pushed down
by ice two kilometres high. Ice that scoured the bedrock making indentations in
the flat surface wherever possible.
Those indentations filled with water when the ice sheet melted 10,000 years ago.
Ponds. Lots of ponds were scattered across the rock surface of ancient Ontario.
Plants eventually got a grip on the rocky soil. The ponds became hubs for
And eventually over the 10,000 years a great number of those ponds became
swamps…thick with spongy mosses and other watery plants. In some cases
the pond water totally disappeared and was replaced by wetlands.
A third of my grandparents farm was wetland that drained in two directions.
Some of the swamps drained into the Credit River drainage basins. The rest,
the larger, drained into the the Grand River basin. Lots of water.
HERE IS THE STORY…IN OUR FEW YEARS OF OWNERSHIP
About 20 years ago Marjorie and I decided to hire JIM Sanderson’s family to
bring their big excavator to open up one of the large swamps. This was no small
task. Jim had to remove the plant life that had taken 10,000 years to
pile up…living plants succoured by their dead predecessors.
The excalator got caught in quicksand and slowly sank into the swamp.
So deeply that Jim’s son had to abandon the cab as the huge machine
slipped deeper and deeper into the pond. Much excavation had been done
successfully and the swamp was now a pond as it had been long ago.
A pond with a huge iron, steel and rubber dinosaur slowly sinking deeper
and deeper into what had once been a sandy beech.
“How will you get it out, Jim?”
“We’ll have to float the machine out?”
“Need to bring in truckload or two of giant timbers to encircle
the excavator then use another excavator to lift it up…a giant raft, if you will.”
The project took a long time. Days and days. The fifth line in front of our farm
was lined with machines and truckloads of timbers. Eventually the excavator
was recovered. I offered to help with the costs but Jim would not accept help.
“We got it into this mess, so we will get it out.”
The new pond was a bit of an embarrassment so we sort of forgot about it.
The pond was surrounded by large ancient white pines and a line of immense
spruce trees planted by my grandfather. The pond was invisible.
Wild animals knew that. One summer a bank beaver moved in and chomped down
a grove of small poplars. It was an old beaver. Almost tame. But it was really dying
so we left it alone in its small watery world. Other creatures came and went. A pair
of muskrats burrowed into one bank and have been raising a whole bunch of young muskrats
that we hardly ever saw. A family of mud hens had lived in the former swamp and
now lived in the pond. Deep dear tracks were incised into the mud now and then.
Sadly one summer we saw a doe with a crippled fawn emerging from the piece of wetland.
Shrubs thrived forming a veil of low life that made the pond
more and more invisible.
Just one giant spruce…felled by a windstorm…was enough to reveal the pond that we had forgotten.
Then, last spring, a big windstorm brought about a major change. The pond suddenly
become visible. The tree carcass was down flat…we could now see the pond
clearly. Work with the Bobcat and a brush cutter revealed a wondrous patch
of open water surrounded by all kinds of plant life the had been formerly shielded
from view by the giant spruce tree.
A wetland that we had forgotten for years was now visible.
The muskrats were rearing a family of four in the pond. They did not
like the improvements one bit.
P.S. Milkweed plants seem to like the pond margin. If they have their will they will take over a wide swath and maybe…just maybe…we will get our Monarch butterflies back again.
Farmers hated mllkweed. Poisoned cattle. So the plant was condemned for years. But now, in 2020, there are only a few cattle grazing on the Fifth Line and the milk weed
has returned. Not as much as in the past though. Why? Because corporate agriculture has “improved” Ontario farmland by removed so many fencerows where wild plants
and song birds once thrived. The same is happening to wetlands. They are being drained. Not on our property though. We are doing the reverse.
P>S. The Excavator looked like this…and it finally rested
about deep in the pond. How would you get it out?