SONG News January 2010 no. 87
In this Issue...

Message from The ECSONG Chair

Dear ECSONG Members and Associates,

It is a both a pleasure and honour to be the 2010 Chair for ECSONG. I want to formally thank those who have accepted the executive nominations for the upcoming year and especially to the outgoing Chair, Jeff Blackadar for his leadership during the past year.

We have two goals in place for the 2010 season.

1. Grow the membership and planting trees. We will deliberately increase the potential for the broadest possible number of people to be involved in the promotion and planting of nut bearing trees. Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec is suitable for growing Ginkos, Pine Nuts, Heart Nuts, Butternuts, Black Walnuts, Hazel Nuts, Acorns and other nut bearing trees. Tell all your friends to sign up and get involved. The recent environmental meetings in Copenhagen noted that trees are good for the earth. (Go figure, members already know that!). One of our new Directors this year is Richard Viger who will be our Western Quebec liaison.

2. Commercial goals. The long term strategy for this region is to develop and sustain a viable nut processing capability. We will achieve this goal by working with the executive and stakeholders and in association with our friends and partners in Quebec. Our Vice Chair, Neil Thomas has been working closely with Ottawa's Algonquin College in developing the technology to make this happen. As our Treasurer John Sankey has noted, a suitable nut cracking technology solution is critical.

We have a number of ongoing projects and responsibilities in ECSONG. For the membership drive, as Chairman I will take the lead and set a personal target to introduce 20 new members to the organization for the 2010 season. I challenge each of our ECSONG members to bring in two new members this year.

Our ongoing projects include:

  1. the FRP Nut Grove Project,
  2. the Dolman Ridge Project,
  3. the Lavant Shagbark Project, (Len Collett, Murray Spearman and John Sankey)
  4. Submission of ECSONG materials to the National Library,
  5. Editing of the Nuttery
  6. Developing Black Walnut technology solutions in conjunction with Algonquin College. (Neil Thomas, Richard Viger)
  7. the Butternut tree Project,
  8. Collection of all archive material from all sources into one spot. (Dan Mayo, John Sankey)
  9. Members Capability Review Project (we will be delegating coordinator duties to do a full review of the interests and capabilities of all members in order to maximize their contribution to ECSONG).
  10. Quebec Liason Project, (Richard Viger)
  11. ECSONG Website Project
  12. New Members Recruiting Project (Chris Skaarup)

We have plans for three main meetings open to the membership for the 2010 season. Dates will be determined for the Pre-Season March/April meeting, the Mid-Season September meeting and the AGM to be held as usual in November. Other normal seasonal programs are still in effect including visits to nut groves etc. In addition we will hold/host executive meetings as required. iFathom Corporation is the newest business sponsor to ECSONG and will make their office boardroom and facilities available to us for our convenience.

Plant a nut tree and save the earth!
Sincerely,
Chris Skaarup
ECSONG Chairman 2010

Heartnuts in Eastern Ontario?
Gordon Wilkinson

Since 20011 have been planting heartnut seedlings on my acreage located about 10 kilometres east of Rockland, Ontario. Developing a heartnut orchard in such a northerly location has been an extremely challenging endeavour. Living in Vancouver since 1999 has added to the difficulties. Despite heavy losses from drought, slow growth due to competition or allelopathic influences from grass and weeds, and setbacks and losses due to late frosts in the spring or early frosts in the fall, I was beginning to see progress in some of my heartnut trees over the past 4 years.

Measurements taken in mid-September of 2008 indicated that the height of my tallest heartnut tree was 7 feet, two others were at 6½ feet, and 9 others ranged in height from 4 to 5½ feet - the outcome of several years of steady growth. Unfortunately, my dream of a heartnut orchard was dashed when I returned to my acreage for a visit this past July. I was totally heartbroken to discover that all but one of these larger heartnut trees were either dead or suffered severe dieback. Two trees, which ultimately suffered severe dieback, began to leaf in mid-May, but their leaves were subsequently scorched.

So what may have gone wrong in my orchard? Was it extreme low temperatures in the winter? Is there a problem with my orchard site, for instance, is it situated in a frost pocket? Or was the problem related to planting in soil with slow drainage combined with a wetter than usual season?

Only one of my large heartnut trees failed to show any dieback. Was this because of its lineage - an Imshu seedling - whereas all the affected trees were CW3 seedlings? Did the Imshu lineage give it greater winter hardiness? More resistance to light frost or tolerance to saturated soil? Or was its performance due to its location, which is 300 feet away from the other large heartnut seedlings and may have provided a slightly higher elevation or different soil conditions?

Explanation #1: Extreme Winter Temperatures

Heartnuts, which are recommended for zone 6 or higher, are clearly vulnerable to the extreme cold temperatures of an Ottawa winter, which is in zone 5. Some individual heartnut trees may be hardy enough for the area, but given the genetic vulnerability of the species to severe winter cold, winter losses can be expected. The lowest temperature this past winter was the coldest since the winter of 2004 (see Table 1). Did most of my large heartnut trees succumb to this low temperature extreme? Was the steady growth in my heartnuts from the summer of 2004 to the autumn of 2008 due to the absence of low winter temperatures potentially detrimental to their survival?

Table 1: Extreme Low Temperatures as Measured at the Ottawa International Airport
YEARExtreme LowMonth
2009-30.3CJan.
2008-24.5CJan.
2007-26.3CMar.
2006-21.3CBoth Jan. and Feb.
2005-28.0CJan.
2004>-30.7CJan.

Explanation #2: Frost Pocket

Typically orchard trees are planted on higher terrain because cold air descends like water. Cold air collects in low spots, which are known as frost pockets. Such spots tend to have frost events later in spring and earlier in the fall, shortening the growing season. Moreover, winter temperatures can be colder in such spots than in the surrounding higher terrain. Given that elevation differences on my acreage are very slight - no more than 10 to 15 feet between the highest and lowest points - I did not consider this to be an important issue in the setting up of my heartnut orchard in 2001. However, I began to reconsider my disregard for even slight elevation differences during the Thanksgiving weekend in October of 2008. Upon my return that weekend I noticed that the leaves of all my heartnut seedlings had been browned by frost (which I estimated to have occurred on September 18th). One exception was the Imshu seedling tree furthest away from the rest of the larger heartnuts. It sported a full head of healthy green leaves. The only other exceptions were the topmost leaves of two other heartnuts. While I never would have thought that the almost imperceptible change in elevation would have made a difference, this outcome suggests that the slight difference in elevation may have been sufficient to cause variations in the movement of cold air. If this is the case, the heartnut trees in the "frost pocket" could have faced somewhat colder winter low temperatures than the Imshu heartnut seedling tree much further away. Were these colder temperatures in the frost pocket simply too severe for my larger heartnuts, causing mortality or severe dieback? Or did the early frost in September make the trees less prepared for the rigours of winter?

Explanation #3: Saturated Soil

Ideally, heartnuts, like many other trees do best in well drained soils. Trees in soils with slower drainage may suffer dieback if waterlogged conditions restrict oxygen supply to the roots, causing them to die, which curtails water and nourishment to the rest of the tree. Unfortunately, the heartnuts in my orchard are set in soils that are clay-based and slow draining. These soils were considerably more saturated than usual this past spring, presumably due to higher than normal precipitation and cooler than normal temperatures. Soil drying around my larger heartnut trees would have been delayed further as a mulch of woodchips laid over a thick layer of newspapers was placed around each of them in early May. In mid-July, I was surprised to discover that the soil around the trunks of my heartnut trees was still soggy (something I had not seen before so late in the season), so I removed the layer of newspapers from within 8 to 12 inches of the trunks of several of trees to improve soil drying and warming. Was the mortality or severe dieback in most of my large heartnut trees due to their roots rotting in saturated soil? Were the roots of the heartnut tree with the Imshu heritage more tolerant of saturated soil or was soil drainage better at its site?

Where do I go from here?

If explanation #1 is true, the only solution is to keep on planting to stumble upon individual heartnut trees with the hardiness of the thriving Imshu seedling tree. I have already ordered new heartnut seedlings for planting next spring. The survival of the Imshu seedling may be indicating that this selection has greater winter hardiness. If it continues to grow well, it'll be interesting to see whether it will produce nuts of acceptable quality.

If explanation #2 is true, then it is important to transplant my heartnuts out of the frost pocket to sections of my acreage with the highest elevations. I have begun the slow process of transplanting my heartnut trees from lower to higher elevations on my acreage.

If explanation #3 is true, then it is important to use the various techniques available to improve soil drainage. I have started to build mounds of top soil about 4 feet by 4 feet and about 8 to 10 inches high to accommodate the heartnuts that I have started to relocate.

By responding to all three possibilities, it is my hope that I can avoid the kind of disaster that struck my heartnut trees this past season. Only the passage of time will vindicate the soundness of my responses to this season's misfortune. In the meantime, the large heartnut trees that suffered severe dieback are recovering, offering some hope for eventual success.

Presidents Message

Happy New year to all and to all a good year.

We can only hope, or we can make it so by doing all we can, to keep our planet a good and healthy place to live. Plant more trees, lots of trees, as the tree inventory in Ontario is waning and is much lower than it should be. They don't have to be nut trees, but if they were the extra food value would be huge. I believe I heard there needs to be about 4 billion trees planted to keep our environmental systems going properly. That is a huge number of trees and SONG encourages you to plant all that you can, wherever and whenever you can.

I live in the St. George area and one of the local residents here has committed to replanting the area roadsides of Brant County with sugar maples to replace the thousands that are dying and or dead. He has spent over $40,000.00 dollars of his own money to buy the trees and with the help of the local garden clubs and schools to plant them. This making a real difference when you see the ones that have been there for 4-5 years. It's projects like these that can make a big difference to where and how we live.

SONG in conjunction with the University of Guelph has several research projects on the go involving hazelnuts. We have two planting trials on the go with one being at Simcoe research station and the other at Vineland Centre for Excellence Research Station. These are varietal trials to test hardiness, flowering, nut production and blight resistance.

We are also trying to produce hazelnut trees by micro-propagation (tissue culture) and hope to have these available to members or other interested parties for planting. We need to hear from people who are interested in putting in about 10 acres of hazelnuts. The exact details on timing and costs have not been finalized, but some of these questions could be answered at the February meeting in Simcoe on February 23.

At this meeting we will have several teams of students from the University of Guelph to present some interesting products to market hazelnuts. Dr. Adam Dale will update us on all of the research being conducted for developing a viable hazelnut industry here in Ontario.

Experts from the Ontario Government will also be there for new updates on pesticides, others on irrigation, propagation, and grower reports, all good things to help make your nut growing experience a fun and profitable one. So I hope to see you all at the meeting.

The next item is the subject of dues. This is never a good topic, but dues are what we exist on, as do many small interest groups. We only have 257 paying members. There has not been a dues increase since the mid nineties and with the cost of everything increasing (postage .03 this month) it was voted on, and passed by the executive to increase the dues to $17.00 for 1 year and $45.00 for three years. This will be in effect at the receipt of this newsletter but if you have already paid your 2010 dues you will be considered paid in full for those years.

In this issue we have a story from Gordon Wilkinson and his valiant efforts to establish a heartnut plantation in eastern Ontario. It is stories like this from individuals that are trying to make a difference by planting nut trees. If you have any like minded stories of your nut planting experiences we would all love to hear them as I would like to make this a regular item.

In closing we all should try to as urged in Chris Skaarup's letter to bring in new members. This brings in new and fresh ideas that can only enhance our group. We have a lot of very good people to work with and share their experiences, so do not be afraid to ask questions.

So go plant a nut tree, and don't forget to check out the annual SONG auction coming up on May 4th.

Moved by Ernest Grimo that we increase the SONG fees to $17 per year with a special rate of $45 for 3 years to begin immediately on receipt of the January newsletter. Those that have paid for years in advance at the old rate will be considered paid for those years.
Motion seconded by Bruce Thurston.
Passed by the Executive.

Wicked Walnut Cookies
Zel Allen
Yield: 3 dozen

2 cups raw walnuts

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup well packed brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large)
2/3 cup dairy-free margarine
1 tablespoon liquid lecithin
11/4 teaspoons black walnut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 large jellyroll pans with parchment paper.
Measure 1/2 cup of the walnuts, break them into small bits, and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, raisins, soda, and cinnamon and mix well. Break up any brown sugar lumps and make sure the raisins are well coated with flour. Set aside and prepare the wet ingredients.
Place the remaining 11/2 cups walnuts into the food processor and pulse and process until the walnuts become a creamy walnut butter. Add the bananas, margarine, lecithin, black walnut extract, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will become quite firm. Form heaping tablespoons of the batter into 2-inch cookies, placing them about 2 inches apart on the baking pan. Flatten them slightly and press a tiny cluster of the reserved walnut bits into the center of each cookie.
Bake for 13 to 16 minutes or until nicely browned on the bottom. Cool about 5 minutes before removing to a dish to cool completely. If the cookies on the top rack need browning,

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.