Image of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure,' 2012.

Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure, 2012-present

Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure is a long-term living installation attempting to restore the historically-documented forest of Proton Township (now part of Southgate Township) to one acre of land. The land is ‘exclosed,’ that is, it has been fenced-in with re-purposed livestock fencing to a height of 8 feet to exclude white-tailed deer. It is also rabbit-fenced to a height of 2 feet.

Photo Credits: Mark Prier

Plans of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure' Image 1 of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure' Image 2 of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure' Image 3 of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure' Image 4 of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure' Image 5 of 'Grey County Pastoral: Proton Township Exclosure'
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Exclosures are fenced-in areas typically used to prevent browsing animals, such as cattle and deer, from grazing an area; in short, they exclude. Ecologists often use exclosures to reveal how an area would grow and develop without the presence of grazing animals. Typically, the area immediately outside of an exclosure is more heavily browsed than areas further from the exclosure. As a result, exclosure interiors can be dramatically different than their immediate surroundings.

In 2012, this one acre site, cleared of forest after 1855 and used for farming since then, was plowed and shaped using a tractor to re-create the pits and mounds of a forest floor. In the spring, vernal pools form in the pits, and the mounds provide places for seeds to land and germinate. Many of these mounds were also turned into ‘false treefalls,’ with old cedar fenceposts simulating upturned tree roots and unused logs from a mill site simulating fallen tree trunks. These ‘false treefalls’ will provide wildlife cover and re-introduce nutrients to the exclosed ground.

Once prepared, the one acre site was sown with over 70,000 tree seeds. The seeds were matched to the local ecozone, and were both collected from local stands and purchased from the Ontario Tree Seed Facility. The small forest areas surrounding the exclosure will also help to re-seed the site. The selected species were based on those recorded in David Gibson’s Field notes, Diary & Report of part of Proton, a land survey done Dec. 2, 1853 to Jan. 11, 1855. This survey recorded the pre-settlement make-up of the forest along the future concessions and sideroads. The trees documented were (arranged from most common to least common, listed by historically-documented common name / contemporary common name / and scientific name):

  • Cedar / Eastern arborvitae / Thuja occidentalis,
  • Maple / Sugar maple / Acer saccharum,
  • Hemlock / Eastern hemlock / Tsuga canadensis,
  • Tamarack / Tamarack / Larix laricina,
  • Beech / American beech / Fagus grandifolia,
  • Balsam / Balsam fir / Abies balsamea,
  • Spruce / White spruce / Picea glauca / Black spruce / Picea mariana,
  • Black alder / Willows / Salix spp. / Alders / Alnus spp.,
  • Elm / White elm / Ulmus americana / Rock elm / Ulmus thomasii,
  • Birch / Paper birch / Betula papyrifera / Yellow birch / Betula alleghaniensis,
  • Basswood / Basswood / Tilia americana,
  • Black ash / Black ash / Fraxinus nigra / Red ash / Fraxinus pennsylvanica,
  • Ground hemlock / Canada yew / Taxus canadensis,
  • Pine / Eastern white pine / Pinus strobus,
  • Balm of Gilead / Balsam poplar / Populus balsamifera / Trembling aspen / Populus tremuloides,
  • Ironwood / Hop hornbeam / Ostrya virginiana,
  • Cherry / Black cherry / Prunus serotina,
  • Soft Maple / Red maple / Acer rubrum / Silver maple / Acer saccharinum,
  • Butternut / Butternut / Juglans cinerea,
  • White ash / White ash / Fraxinus americana / Red ash / Fraxinus pennsylvanica.

As of 2014, the sown trees within the exclosure are still seedlings competing with other native and invasive plants.

“ some sense the pastoral is not about the country but about what the country means to the city and what the past means to the present.” (19)

Rebecca Solnit
As Eve Said to the Serpent. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 2001.

Grey County Pastoral is an ongoing project attempting to engage with the past (and present) of rural Ontario by focusing on Grey County. It aspires to deal with the area’s history as imagined, nostalgic, and ‘pastoral,’ and as heinous, dispossessing, and colonizing. It is not so much about revealing the true past as much as it is about revealing the imagined past that continues to affect the present.

Supported by the Ontario Arts Council
The Ontario Arts Council is an agency of the Government of Ontario.
Supported by Canada Council for the Arts
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts which last year invested $21.3 million in visual arts throughout Canada.

Nous remercions de son soutien le Conseil des Arts du Canada, qui a investi 21,3 millions de dollars l'an dernier dans les arts visuels à travers le Canada.