One of the worst blocks he had seen

One of the worst blocks he had seen said one of my supervisors. The blow down was everywhere. A wind event with big spruce that were aging.

I was in this block or forest rather, to assess trees for pathogen and timber volume. I had worked all over in this region for a few years now out north of Fort St. James.

The area had a dominant pine landscape which was mostly dead, with lots of pockets of nice spruce stands. This was the land that the term “moonscapes” comes to mind when a block is finished.

The ultimate challenge I think I encountered working for and with foresters when I moved north is that they can only see what they have been taught to see.

A Kansan with a family farm with a little 20-acre forest on the river see’s the forests up here differently.  My amazement never ceases. There is so much to take in with eager eyes.

I had studied some forestry in school in my Agriculture degree program and when I moved up I sought out as much knowledge as I could find on the local ecosystems. I sought out settler knowledge, and I sought out indigenous knowledge. I learned the value in lumber and it’s affect on the local economy, I learned of plants and of places that contained medicines and 15,000 + years of use.

It was a day when I walked a few hours into the bush off a new logging road that I got my chance to try a simple and well-known medicine.

After threading myself into the bush over blow down, through devil’s club and a whole pick-up sticks game, I arrived. I found my coordinate and was to gather data and begin a plot grid on the forest. I had a greenhorn with me that day. Green in the forest, green in forestry work but always brought chocolate for the end of the day. Chocolate for the end of the day is always welcome.


I started looking into the tops of trees from the  ground assessing for pathogen. I took a wrong step over an ancient log laying mostly absorbed into the earth below me. Beside it looked like ground but was hollow with only a heavy moss layer on it to keep one’s eyes to believe it be firm ground to which Antaeus could stand.

The sound was like a branch breaking at high pressure but it was how it felt that worried me. A shock wave went up my leg as my ankle and ligaments popped.  I knew the situation wasn’t great as I crumpled to the ground.  With a less than happy tone, I told my partner it was broken.  His face began to pale and kept saying “what do we do what do we do”.

I told him to cut me some crutches out of spruce saplings and then get me some willow. While he gathered the saplings and willow, I radioed the forester who was managing the development as he was in the area. We just made out to them and some of the other crews in the region and they began there rescue plan and headed my way.  We began the long journey out which took better than 6 hrs. I used the saplings as crutches and hobbled out through the spongy, blow down ridden terrain with devil’s club while chewing a giant quid of willow bark.

Willow bark can be an effective analgesic if the salicylate content is adequate and is literally what white settler aspirin originated from. The bark worked wonderfully and I hobbled out with not much pain. When my supervisor met me on our trail about half way out he asked if I was in shock because when I met him I spotted a nice hedgehog mushroom and picked it to eat later. I can see in his mind what is this guy doing smiling picking mushrooms with a broken ankle? I was smiling because I didn’t have pain what so ever, and if you don’t get excited about hedgehog mushrooms I am not sure we can be friends.

When we got to the truck my supervisor offered some asprin he had in the truck. I refused as I have any tablet pain killer for several years. The fear of somehow becoming addicted to pain killers and drugs like my brother always weighed on my mind. Once I took the quid of willow out the pain came back strong.

The forest contains many secrets hidden only for those who have been given the right eyes to see it. Willow is one of them. There are over 2,000 varieties of willow in BC and they are all special.

The orchard we are creating on our farm will look like none other and I assure you it will have lots of willow and with it all the habitat, moose food and medicine as well as the enormous carbon sequestration rates to bring our farm to a more sustainable future.

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