Dale and Eileen Schaefer

by Briana Binkerd-Dale

Dale Schaefer is a retired city of Rochester police officer and current town judge in Canadice, where he has lived for the past 35 years. His wife Eileen is from Victory, NY and is the Canadice town clerk and tax collector. After Dale’s son Justen earned his PhD, he moved with his wife Tania to Pennsylvania to accept a job; Dale’s daughter Lindsey and her husband Dustin live in Kentucky with Dale and Eileen’s new grandchild Hudson, where Lindsey teaches school.

As a young boy growing up in Rochester, Dale and his brother and sister used to go for hikes along the Genesee River with their father. “Cooking hotdogs on an outdoor fire, and skimming stones in the river, I became addicted to the outdoors,” Dale said. Years later, Dale helped a freind move to the hills of Canadice and could see clear across Canadice Lake to the other hillside. No one lives on Canadice Lake — it’s one of two undeveloped lakes in the Finger Lakes. He decided some day he would like to live out there.

Dale purchased property between Honeoye Lake and Canadice Lake about 40 years ago, and has acquired additional parcels over the years including his and Eileen’s home. He currently owns three woodlots totaling over 150 acres, plus an additional 11 acres with an 1860’s bank barn with a gambrel roof that has been beautifully maintained. The majority of the land is in the town of Canadice, with one parcel in the town of Richmond. The woodlot in Richmond was subdivided from a property that Dale kept an eye on for the family that owned it; when they sold, Dale purchased the woodlot.

The woodlots consist of northern hardwoods including red and white oak, hickories, red maple, ash, poplar, sassafras, cherry, some remnants and sprouts of American chestnuts, and many wild apple trees that Dale has released. There are conifers as well, mostly white pine and spruce plantings with tamarack and red pine volunteers. The topography is fairly well balanced between level areas and slopes. There is a pond at their home property, with a frog pond and another small pond at other sites.

Dale is an active Master Forester Owner (MFO) volunteer through Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), having attended the first training they held in 1991. Charlie Mowatt, who worked for the NYSDEC and was a big advocate for NYFOA, brought Eileen and Dale into the NYFOA family and advised Dale on many of the early forestry projects. After joining NYFOA approximately 30 years ago they continue to participate in woodswalks, forestry workshops, seminars and webinars. Both Dale and Eileen have been members of the Board of Directors for NYFOA’s Western Finger Lakes chapter over the past 25 years. Dale feels confident in making management decisions for their woodlots, prioritizing for sawtimber, firewood, and wildlife. When he does have management questions he will get a second opinion from CCE, the NYSDEC or his personal forester, Bruce Robinson.

“I had a large timber sale done, which was put out to bid, and received over three times the price that was quoted to me by two different loggers that came knocking at our door,” Dale said. The sale consisted of 110,000 board feet of timber 180-200 years old, which Dale estimated after counting the rings on the red and white oak. “Heating with an outdoor wood furnace and cutting firewood after the sale for 10 years, you can’t tell there was a sale on the property other than some remaining oak stumps.”

Forest management has definitely been a family affair; Dale’s children often accompanied Dale and Eileen on woodswalks and other NYFOA events in their early years. “NYFOA is a family friendly, family oriented organization,” Dale said, “And the kids always have a great time when they get into the woods.” Outside of the loggers that handled the two timber sales Dale and Eileen have held, Dale does the majority of the management work himself. He has taken Game of Logging courses on three different occasions with instructor Bill Lindloff, and speaks very highly of them. Equipment acquired over the years has grown to include a 4WD tractor with a Farmi skidding winch and a poly skidding cone, 4WD UTV club car and many chain saws, pole pruning saw, wood splitter, plus several wagons for hauling split wood and of course a pickup truck. Dale did hire a cutter, Stanley Stek, to help with a timber stand improvement (TSI) project. And Dale and some MFO and NYFOA friends trade off work time in the woods, as well.

Eileen and Dale both estimate their biggest challenge to be deer pressure. A project Dale started several years ago after their first timber sale was to take an open area about 50 feet by 100 feet and put up an eight foot high deer exclosure with plastic deer fencing attached to pole sized trees and aluminum poles added as needed. “Amazing what sunlight and no deer pressure will become,” he remarked. “It is so thick with hardwoods that you cannot walk through it.” It was so successful that he now has five deer exclosures, including one approximately 50 feet by 300 feet installed to block an undesirable view shed. Initially planted at the recommended density with Norway and white spruce, so many spruce, tamarack and oak have sprouted that it will need thinning at some point. The first deer exclosure has been up for over 10 years now and is about ready to come down; undesirable saplings were cut out several years ago.

Family and friends join Dale and Eileen for recreational activities periodically; hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, fishing and swimming in the pond, and nature watching. Forest management practices support all of these endeavors; for example, cutting trees in the winter in preparation for firewood cutting allows food for deer from the tree tops and cover for small animals as the tops lay in the forest. Dale hunts deer, turkey, squirrel and coyote, and has seen bear on the property as well. His favorite recreational activity, however, is timber stand improvement, which he finds to be refreshing of strength and spirit and to create great satisfaction and peace of mind.

Eileen and Dale have many words of wisdom to share that they have acquired over the years, beginning with networking with other NYFOA members as you decide how you want to handle your property; taking a chainsaw safety class if you are using a chainsaw; and hiring a consulting forester for any major project especially a competitive bid timber sale. Additionally, thinning out spruce stands to keep lower branches for cover is a needed component for wildlife including birds — and apple trees are important too. “In the beginning I lost several wild apple trees not knowing ahead of time to save and preserve them by releasing around them and pruning, especially if wildlife is one of your goals,” Dale noted.

Also, sometimes it pays to try something new. “I didn’t want to, or have the time to get involved in measuring trees, but thanks to MFO Dean Faklis for talking me into entering the timber growing contest,” Dale said. “After the second year I am looking forward to measuring my trees this year — it’s fun, not to mention knowing exactly which trees are growing and to what extent!”

A clear love of nature is what prompted Eileen and Dale to get involved in forest management, and their dedication to sharing that with others is apparent. “Being a Master Forester Owner since 1991 I enjoy visits with forest owners and I always learn something of interest (besides, I like to talk),” Dale laughed. Several of their neighbors have joined NYFOA. And while they have been recognized multiple times for their contributions, they send that gratitude right back to their community — Dale wanted to end the interview by taking the opportunity to thank NYFOA, CCE and the NYSDEC for “all they have done in educating and motivating me.”

Briana Binkerd-Dale is a student in Environmental Biology and Applied Ecology at Cornell University.

If you are interested in being featured in a member profile, please email Jeff Joseph at jeffjosephwoodworker@gmail.com

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