Why “Butternut Creek”?

There are a number of springs and streams at the site that feed into Butternut Creek and eventually the Nation River. These natural waterflows have, over the decades, been reshaped by people for field drainage and other human activities. So the name is a reclaiming of the original spirit of these waterways.

What is the history of Butternut Creek?

This 135-acre property, on the edge of the Ottawa River watershed, lies in the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. Recently, it was settled by the Johnson family and run as a dairy farm until the mid-eighties. Much of its woods were drained and cleared, including its large sugar maple bush and the massive hemlock trees and cedar growing around the farm’s natural springs.

Later it was bought by Richard and Jean Warnock who raised horses and ponies and allowed much of the land to begin to return to its natural state.  Last year, the property was bought by Jeanie Warnock from her parents’ estate, and the Butternut Creek Nature Reserve was launched.

What do you mean by “rewilding” your Nature Reserve?

Rewilding means restoring areas of land back to a more natural state. It includes planting native flowers and grasses, reforesting with varied species of trees, and wetlands restoration—all as means of enhancing habitat and building biodiversity so that the animals that once lived there may return.

What is your wetlands restoration project?

Butternut Creek Nature Reserve is fortunate to have four natural springs—old timers say the area was popular with moose because the springs provided fresh water through even the coldest of winters. These springs create a naturally wet area that was drained in the mid-twentieth century to provide pasture for the farm’s Ayrshire Dairy cows. 

We are working with Ducks Unlimited to restore and enhance the natural habitat by building a half-acre pond below the springs and creating habitat for ducks, turtles, frogs, and other amphibians and reptiles. If all goes well, perhaps, one day, the moose and beaver will return!

How is the reforestation plan for Butternut Creek different from conventional tree plantations?

Many reforestation projects create a monoculture of one or two types of tree that does not provide the bio-diversity needed to support a rich range of life. Our project will be enhancing the existing woodlands by adding as many as 15 different species of trees through the South Nation Conservation Authority’s tree planting programs.  We are also working on designing and planting bird-friendly shelterbelts that will incorporate fruit-bearing shrubs such as service berry, mountain ash, wild apple, and highbush cranberry, as well as deciduous and conifer trees.

How does Butternut Creek fund these projects?

We have obtained some financial support, for which we’re very grateful.  We also offer a variety of products which are complementary to our goals (see below). In the future, we may offer membership in some form to people who support our projects and wish to be involved.

Is Butternut Creek a farm?

We do offer a variety of products which are complementary to our goals. These include specialist seed mixes for bird gardens, pollinator gardens, native grasses and other restorative uses; native shrubs and trees, organic maple syrup; organic dog treats (homegrown pumpkins);  and organic hay (small bales) for horses and other animals.

Does Butternut Creek sell produce or operate a community garden?

This site has some excellent sandy loam soil. But operating a market garden operation or traditional community garden would be distractions to our restoration projects.

However, we are inviting interested people to come tend their own gardens at the site. In 2024, we want to limit this to four garden plots, until we learn more about how to do this properly. We can support these gardens with some field preparation, water supply and organic fertilizer. If you’re interested, contact Jeanie (jeanie@butternutcreek.ca).

Is Butternut Creek open to the public?

This site is private property, and visitors are welcome by appointment. We do plan to host some exciting public events in 2024. Please keep an eye on the Events page of our website, https://butternutcreek.ca.

For example, there will be a number of volunteer events where interested people can come out to the site and take part in our restoration projects. These sessions will include hands-on workshops on topics such as tree-planting for habitat restoration; pond landscaping for wildlife; trail construction; birdwatching

Does Butternut Creek still have horses and ponies?

There are currently three horses and two ponies living at Butternut Creek. In the future, we may offer horse boarding and related services. Horses and ponies play a role in maintaining some areas of the site as open grassland and provide a source of natural fertilizer for plantings.

Who started this project?

Jeanie Warnock has a PhD in English Literature and spent many years lecturing at the University of Ottawa. Her partner John Ogilvie is a systems engineer working for a number of government agencies.

How can I learn more about the global Rewilding movement?

Please visit the websites of these global rewilding initiatives.

https://rewilding.org/ – Rewilding Institute

https://wilderinstitute.org/ – Wilder Institute (Canada)

rewilding.ca – Launching this summer – our educational website