Anyway, the trees are your tax dollars at work: the Prairie Shelterbelt Tree Program is a Government of Canada Agroforestry project that provides seedlings free of charge (well, we paid $7 for shipping, but that's it) to individuals who hold more than 5 acres of rural land.
The seedlings provided are an incentive to producers adopting beneficial management practices and environmental stewardship. The aim of the Prairie Shelterbelt Program is to improve the performance and sustainability of the agricultural sector by helping to achieve the social, economic and environmental benefits of agroforestry.
Agroforestry systems such as shelterbelts conserve soil and water, manage snow and wind, improve air quality, protect yards and livestock, provide income for landowners, stabilize crops and enhance habitat for wildlife.
This year, we applied for and received 125 trees and shrubs to create a shelterbelt along the west border of our property. The winds howl through here from the west, and having a windbreak at that point should ease the force somewhat, as well as providing shade and shelter to the sheep in those pastures come summer. This is just the first step to properly protecting our little farm yard, but it's important to only order as many trees as you can plant and care for in a given year and one side seemed like more than enough work for starters. :)
The mix of trees we received is really quite interesting. Most of the shrubs have edible fruit, which provides food for birds and deer as well as fruit for our use. The tallest trees we received are green ash, which grow to 50 feet (15 metres). Of course, right now they are about twelve inches, but in time, they will provide a nice solid line of shelter along the west border. The ash trees are spaced out along the row with hedge plants in between: choke cherries (which make a lovely jelly), sea buckthorn (which is very thorny and has a strong tendency to sucker, so it should thicken up quickly), silver buffaloberry (also very thorny), and hawthorn (which has medicinal properties, apparently, it is used for high blood pressure and other cardiac ailments).
Many of the trees were planted with my sister's tree-planting shovel, a tool which walked with her through three summers of intensive silviculture work ... I'm still in absolute awe of my sister for taking this on as a summer job. She survived months of fascinating things like bears attacking her tent, daily mosquito and black fly barrages, trench foot (yes, the infections that soldiers got when their boots stayed wet too long), and nerve damage to her feet from slamming steel toed boots into shovels and dirt hundreds of times per day for months on end. She also managed to get a degree without any student loans. I am in awe.
So, of course, when planting my little Government of Canada seedlings, I used my sister's shovel. :) Dad used a spade, as there is only one Tree Planting Shovel, and some of the trees needed a fair bit of space so that their roots would not be squished.
Each tree was planted, watered, and mulched with almost-finished compost. They'll need to have water hauled out to them in the next day or two if we don't get a good soaking of rain (which we need very badly, and don't seem likely to receive), and we'll keep an eye on them and hope they grow up nice and strong.
Next year, we'll tackle the north fenceline!