Whenever I look around my cottage property I always feel a pang of regret as I realize that in my exhuberant youth I cut down too many trees. Especially trees between the cottage and the lake, replacing them with grass.

That’s because back in those days, it seemed like the thing to do. There seemed to be a mindset shared not just by me, but also many of the neighbors to cut down the trees to make the places look more like suburban homes, and of course to improve the view of the lake.

What we failed to realize was how wonderful the view of the lake is through the trees and conversely, how good the cottage looked from the lake when it was tucked in among some trees.

Those trees provided shade from the hot sun, protection from some cold northern winds, and added privacy. In addition, the trees were a buffer between the lake and the land, protecting the water from run off and pollution. They also hold the ground back discouraging erosion.

The grass that replaced them adds little or nothing. And I have to mow it……

So, now that I have realized my mistakes, I am diligently planting trees and my chain saw spends a lot more time tucked away in the shed, rather than in my hands. Yes, I still cut down the occasional tree for firewood, and yes I cut some to thin out the poor trees, but no more clearing indiscriminately and no more cutting around the lakeshore.

I’ve also started replanting trees around the cottage, taking care not to plant any too close, but strategically around the edges, and along the shoreline, and they are gradually growing back, but will never replace those I cut in my youth, at least not in my time.

There is something attractive about a cottage seen from the lake through some trees. The trees add a little mystery perhaps, or perhaps they conjure up a picture of a wilderness cabin, which, when you think of it, is what we want from our camps and cottages.

I breaks my heart to see new cottages going up around the lake where the builder has cut every tree off the property. Not that I am blaming the builders, it’s just the way it has been done for years and years.

We need to start discouraging this kind of activity, or at the least, encourage positive actions by demonstration. Plant trees in front of the cottage, along the lakeshore, and tell others why you are doing it.

Hardwoods like maple, birch and poplar, will grow fairly quickly, although around my place, birch seems to grow the slowest. As hardwood trees grow you can limb them as necessary to maintain a view of the water. Softwoods, fir, spruce, juniper, don’t seem to grow quite as quickly, but add much more privacy and wind protection than hardwoods. My reforestation plan around the cottage calls for a mix of both, at about 60-40 in favor of softwoods.

I am pleased to report that since I started to plant some trees they have started to grow quite well, and many are starting to be trees as opposed to shrubs, reaching heights over my head and more. Someday, I hope the only way to see my cottage from the lake or the road, will be through the trees, not over the stumps….

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