If you wanna be happy, plant trees

Todd Farrell teaches volunteers how to plant trees at Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by Mimi Chan)

Todd Farrell teaches volunteers how to plant trees at Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by Mimi Chan)

November 3, 2016 | by Mimi Chan | 3 Comments

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time was in fall 2016.” ~ my take on a familiar proverb

On this special day, I joined a group of dedicated Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) Conservation Volunteers at the “If you wanna be happy: Plant Trees” event in Ontario.

Our mission was to plant native trees and shrubs in the Happy Valley Forest in an effort to expand an old-growth forest in the making on Canada’s Oak Ridges Moraine.  

Potted trees ready for planting (Photo by Mimi Chan)

Potted trees ready for planting (Photo by Mimi Chan)

To give you some background on Happy Valley Forest, aside from the fact that it is a happy place to be, it is one of the largest remaining intact upland deciduous forests on Canada’s Oak Ridges Moraine. This 1,560-acre (631-hectare) area supports more than 110 breeding bird species and is an outstanding example of mature sugar maple and beech upland forests characteristic of the moraine.  

Under the guidance of Todd Farrell, a.k.a. our fearless leader and a conservation biologist with NCC, we hiked into the forest armed with shovels, plant pots, coconut mats and a wheel barrel filled with tree planting necessities, including toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We braved the rain and soldiered on until we reached a clearing within an invasive forest.  

Todd finishes planting a tree (Photo by Mimi Chan)

Todd finishes planting a tree (Photo by Mimi Chan)

“There,” said Todd, “is where we will plant our trees.”  

Conservation Volunteer Serguei plants a tree (Photo by Mimi Chan)

Conservation Volunteer Serguei plants a tree (Photo by Mimi Chan)

Before we started, Todd gave us an insightful demonstration on how to plant a tree, which included busting a few moves and ending with a stomping ceremonial dance around the tree. We were in awe and super impressed. 

We then dispersed and went to work on our hands and knees, literally. We dug holes, planted our tree and packed the soil in. We then placed down sodium- and potassium-rich coconut mats, which help protect the tree and promote growth, and struggled with (and swore at) the metal fork pins used to keep the mat in place. The rain started to come down even heavier and we got soaking wet. It was the happiest of times! 

Barnett plaque in Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by Mimi Chan)

Barnett plaque in Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by Mimi Chan)

As a bonus, Todd gave us a guided hike farther into the forest, where we learned about the heritage and biodiversity in the area. Did you know this area holds special cultural significance as a historic travel route called the Toronto Carrying-place used by native tribes?  

We also came across a plaque paying tribute to the late Dr. Henry Barnett* (1922-2016), whose vision of conservation benefits nature and all those that exist amongst it, including us.

We must all do our part in conservation. Thanks to the continued efforts of NCC and its volunteers, the world can be a happier place, one forest at a time!


* Editor’s note: Dr. Barnett was a long-time friend of NCC and a driving force in the conservation efforts at the Happy Valley Forest. We were saddened to learn of his passing on October 24, 2016. We offer his family our deepest condolences.

About the Author

Mimi Chan Mimi currently works in the advertising media as a creative director but is gradually metamorphosing herself to become a conservation biologist. Mimi lives on the Oak Ridges Moraine in Southern Ontario, a place which she cares a lot about.

Read more about Mimi Chan.

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