By West Wind’s Danny Schaftlien
These beautiful photos were supplied to us from our milling manager, Danny. Crystal clear, aquamarine water and ancient Ottoman ruins. What a fantastic locale for boating!
This wood is my absolute favourite of favourites. Quite simply, it has a richness that speaks to my senses like a fine cognac long-aged in French oak barrels, or perhaps your preference is Grand Marnier. My kitchen cabinets are made from yew, as are many of our doors here at West Wind Hardwood, and upon returning from time away, I am always struck by how extraordinary this richly coloured, unique wood is.
There are many, many species of yew; one of the more common is English yew. The name “Yew” comes from the Proto-Germanic “īwa-“and with a possible origination from the Gaulish “ivos” referring to the colour brown. Our local species is known as Pacific yew, western yew, American yew, Oregon yew, bow-plant, mountain mahogany.
Long associated with magic, death and rebirth/eternal life; attributed with magical and psychic abilities, yew was one of the ‘nine sacred woods’ used in the ritual fires of the Celts, and as a ‘totem’ tree by Celtic tribes. Reincarnation has always held a fascination for me; multiple lives and such. I hold the concept lightly having had no first-hand experiences but I was recently informed that I have lived three previous lives; my first as a female warrior in Pre-Roman Britain which I find curious considering the importance the yew tree held in these times. Perhaps some heed should be given to Hamlet’s words: ‘…There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’
On our annual Mexican road-trip inland, we were drawn to the beauty of the mesquite tree. The traveler sees twisted, crooked limbs, sharp spiteful thorns amid flowers looking like long spikes of yellow catkins and delicate feather-like leaves; as yet, seasonal pods have not matured. There is a delicate fragrance perfuming the arid landscape.
Mesquite (from Nahuatl mizquitl) is a plant found in Mexico and upwards through Southern US; some species are also found in Central and northern South America. It is a deciduous tree reaching heights of 20-30 ft; depending on the particular species and environmental conditions, it can exhibit more shrub-like tendencies than tree. With long deep taproots making it an extremely hardy, drought-tolerant plant, ranchers consider this a nuisance tree because it competes with rangeland grasses for moisture.
Native Americans relied on the mesquite pod as a staple in their diet; the bark used for basketry, fabrics and medicine. Today, the flowers provide a nectar source for bees producing wonderfully flavoured honey. It made, and continues to be, a significant element in the natural and cultural landscape.
Giant Western Red Cedar discovered while bushwhacking in some pockets of old growth forests around Nitnat Lake!
Photo and Bushwhacking by Danny Schaftlein
Fagus sylvatica, the European beech or common beech, is a deciduous tree belonging to the beech family Fagacaea. It has a natural range extending from southern Sweden though to central Italy, west to France, northern Portugal and central Spain. Although oft regarded as a native in southern England, recent evidence suggests it did not reach here after until after the English Channel was formed in the ice ages.
It is a large tree, capable of reaching heights of up to 49 m and 3 m trunk diameter. It has a typical lifespan of 150 to 200 years, though sometimes up to 300 years. The appearance varies according to its habitat and forest conditions; it tends to have a long, slender light-gray trunk with a narrow crown and erect branches; in isolation with good side light, the trunk is short with a large and widely spreading crown with very long branches.
The leaves of beech are often not dropped in the autumn and instead remain on the tree until the spring. This particularly occurs when trees are are clipped as a hedge (as commonly seen in Denmark).
A Communal Resident
It’s a given that my mission, when on holidays, is to take tree and/or wood-related pictures for our newsletter…and what an opportunity Strathcona Park gave us. This past September, found us on our annual tenting holiday; just before the park closed its gates for the winter. We came prepared, both mentally and physically, for full-day hikes of 5-6 hours; weather permitting. And thus we made a 6-hour round trip trek to Bedwell Lake; bringing us into the sub-alpine; home to the yellow cedar tree.
Although comfortable at lower elevations especially in the mid or north coastal regions, the yellow cedar is most common at higher elevations.
As we walk along, I’m constantly asking what tree is this or that. Of course, I never remember and why should I? I have my handy-dandy walking reference………..better than an IPAD or smart phone; don’t have to worry Wi-Fi hot-spots!