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Wednesday, 17 June 2015 15:14

It’s one tree at a time for Maple Creek man

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Harve Redick estimates he’s planted more than 144,000 trees.


The horizon above his farm northeast of Maple Creek contrasts the surrounding hills. Grass gives way to row upon row of shelterbelts.
Redick puts the staggering number into perspective this way: placed in a line two feet apart, the trees would stretch 28 miles or 45 kilometres. If you imagine you were driving next to these trees at highway speed, it would take nearly half an hour to pass them.
Family tradition spurred Redick’s interest. He recalls helping his father and brothers plant caraganas in the 1940s.
“I think that’s probably where I get it from,” he said.
If practise makes perfect than Redick knows a thing or two about planting trees,
“I can’t say they all grew, but I always kept them cultivated seven feet on each side.” He said that cultivating eliminates competition from other plants and improves the trees’ chance of survival. Typically, he keeps the area free of vegetation for five or six years. Ninety-five per cent of the trees he planted grew.
Another trick is to lay plastic around saplings. Not only does this stop weed growth, but it retains moisture and slows evaporation. According to Redick, trees planted in this manner will grow twice as fast.
Ideally, he leaves 20 acres between shelterbelts and chooses trees accustomed to prairie conditions.
One of the major challenges his trees face comes from animals, both wild and domestic. Redick explained that cattle tend to damage trees by rubbing them too hard and by eating any new growth.
Deer are fond of pine bark and will often strip young trees of all but the top and bottom of the trunk. Bucks will also thrash the branches to remove antler velvet.
Apart from the joy Redick derives from planting trees, he said his shelterbelts also serve a practical purpose. The rows of trees increase crop yields and prevent wind erosion. Snow accumulates over the winter and melts slower in the spring which improves the soil’s moisture content.
Over the years, Redick experimented with different species. If he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t plant any Siberian elm because their roots spread horizontally 50 to 60 feet and stay close to the surface. This makes cultivating difficult and is hard on machinery. Crested wheat and alfalfa can grow near the elms, but cereal crops struggle to compete for moisture. Redick prefers caraganas, spruce, chokecherry and green ash whose roots go straight down.
Redick bought his farm in 1968 and began improving the land. A black and white photo from the late sixties shows a barren yard with an Eaton’s house dominating the skyline. The home garners all my attention as I study the photograph. It seems to be the only thing in the picture. I stood near the spot where the photo was taken and compared what I saw to the past as it’s shown on the monochrome print. The transformation is striking. Today, the house is cloaked in lilacs, elm, spruce and apple trees. It’s part of the view, but the trees are the dominant feature. Harve Redick left his mark on his part of Saskatchewan.
(Dominique Liboiron is a speaker, author, teacher, journalist and photographer. To raise awareness about heart disease and to honour the life of one of its victims, Liboiron canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans. He is the first person to undertake that journey. He enjoys outdoor sports such as camping, hunting, fly fishing and canoeing. For more information about his speaking engagements, phone 306-661-8975 or visit www.canoetoneworleans.com.)

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Dominique Liboiron

Dominique Liboiron is a speaker, author, teacher, journalist and photographer. To raise awareness about heart disease and to honour the life of one of its victims, Liboiron canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans. He is the first person to undertake that journey. He enjoys outdoor sports such as camping, hunting, fly fishing and canoeing.