Archives for category: planting forests

Spring? A.V. Walters–

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter. But we’re nearly halfway through April. We’re having a blizzard. There’s no point in posting a picture–it’s all just white. In less than a week, 100 or so trees will arrive for planting. They ship on a schedule rooted in season. Sigh.

I’m ready for sunshine, and the smell of fresh dirt, and bees, and watching the tiny new leaves on the trees.

I’m eternally grateful for a snug new home, and a lovely fire in the wood stove. But Spring! Is it too much to hope for?

Advertisements

161 Trees…

A.V. Walters–

And counting.

Dear readers, I will return. But there are still bare-root trees to plant, and until they’re all in the ground, these aching bones will not be blogging. The oaks and tulip poplars are in, the hazelnuts (almost, just five to go) The service berry, black elderberry, and redbuds are almost in (I’m saving just a handful for the end, when I’ll put in a mixed berry hedge. Most of the trees were selected to make the bees happy. Right now, getting them all planted, will make me happy. Another day, maybe two. Then I have to make cages for them to keep them safe from the bunnies and deer. And then we pray for rain.

 

Musings on Planting Trees–

A.V. Walters–

IMG-3

And that doesn’t even include the trees we bought from Benzie County!

Professional “re-foresters” can plant hundreds, even thousand of trees each day. Depending upon the terrain, they use dagger-like tools, either hand or foot powered, and can put in acres of trees in short order.

I am not one of them. I am too fussy. Each tree gets an actual hole, not just a slash with the roots jammed in. Each tree gets a shovel-full or two of compost, which must be blended into the natural soils, so water doesn’t “perch,” causing root rot. I layer in the roots, so they’ll have a stable start. This year, I’m loading up a little on the compost. They’re predicting a hot, dry summer and the compost helps to hold moisture in the root zone. I cheat a little, and soak the roots in Terra Sorb (or work a pinch of it into the hole), also to give them the moisture advantage. If no rain is predicted, they get a starter sip of water, (though spring soils are pretty moist.) Sometimes, we give trees a cage, to protect it from deer or rabbits during its infancy. There’s only so much you can do.

Professional tree-planters work on a scale that allows for a relatively high failure rate. From my perspective, there seems to be little point to doing all that work if the trees don’t survive. Sure, there are losses from natural forces, deer, bugs, and the like. This past year we lost two baby trees when other trees fell on them. There’s nothing you can do to protect from natural hazards. The best you can do is to give them the best start possible. Do I sound like a parent? I’m pleased to report that we have a good survival rate for last season’s seedlings.

In the forest, you need to look for a good spot–a hole in the canopy for light, not too close to existing trees, not near an obvious deer path, not in the “fall-line ” of any existing afflicted trees, and hopefully sheltered from strong winds. Of course, you’re carrying a bunch of seedlings in one bucket (with some water) and another bucket of compost and a spade. I spend a good bit of time, wandering in the woods, finding those good spots. I couldn’t be happier, even with the load–what a lovely way to spend time.

We don’t celebrate Earth Day. We spend a couple of weeks each year, planting. So far this season, I’ve put in 98 trees (including 3 orchard trees.) I’m over the half-way mark. I hurt like hell, but things are moving right along.

 

Ah, Spring

A.V. Walters

In our minds, our little house—our work in progress—is picturesque. All winter, we could hardly wait for spring to get back to work on it, in earnest. I’ve been asked to send photos of our progress. Then, earlier this month, the snow finally melted. It was like waking up after a bad drunk.

Construction is a messy thing. Just before the snow, we finished up the septic system, and sealed the log exterior. Somehow, in my minds eye, things under that snow were peachy. Spring has been an awakening.

Installing your own septic system is like buying new underwear. You’re happy to have it, maybe even proud of it. But it isn’t something you show off. It is, in fact, an ugly scar on the scenery. It was time to do some reconstructive landscaping. With any luck, after an enormous amount of work, you won’t be able to tell that we dug there at all.

We added this to our annual spring planting schedule. We take a fervent approach to diversity, adding dozens, if not hundreds of new trees and plants, every year, to fill in what climate change takes. I don’t mean that lightly. The forest is suffering. We are losing our ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, and the beech trees to Beech Bark Disease. Last summer’s “freak” wind-storm took out over 35 trees. Changes in the environment are accelerating. We have to hustle just to keep pace. We select our plants emphasizing climate tolerance, and, hopefully, outguessing the next blight. At least diversity should serve us there.

So, every year we purchase baby trees of many varieties to diversify the forest. This year, in trees, we will plant white oaks, hemlock, tulip poplars, witch hazel, dogwood, and redbud. We’re also planting shrubs and bushes for soil conservation and wildlife habitat (a hazelnut windrow and a mixed berry hedge.) To the forest trees, we add 100 hazelnuts, red osier, elderberry, serviceberry, blueberry and high bush cranberry. And then, to fix the scar over the new septic we have clover, native knapweed and various wildflower mixes. Needless to say, we are not putting in a lawn.

So far, the 27 white oaks are in, and we’ve prepped and seeded the front with a mix of clover and over 3,500 square feet of wildflower mix for the bees. I’m trying to keep them closer to home with a delicious variety of safe blooms that haven’t seen pesticides. (I can’t account for what the neighbors, or local farmers, plant.) Rick says the bees will go wherever they want, but I’m like the frantic parent, putting in a swimming pool so the teenagers will stay home. (Rick says that just means you have to feed their ill-mannered friends, too.) That’s not lost on me because I know we may lose many of the new wildflowers to the deer and the bunnies. Bambi and Thumper are no longer cute to me.

By this time next month, we’ll have used all of the 45 tons of composted manure that we purchased last year. Rick can hardly believe it. He thought I was crazy.

I’m exhausted and we still have 158 plants and trees to go. Until the front area heals, there’s no point in pictures, it’s just sorry looking. The next few weeks will be all about planting. The first waves, fruit trees and oaks, are in. Next week the big shipment will arrive. And after that, we should be frost free enough to put in the garden. Ah, Spring.

 

 

The Ugly Tree

A.V. Walters

Tom Tree

Even before I was born, my parents moved their young family to a new home on a site that had been a farmer’s field. Not one to miss a trick, the developer first scraped and stole all the native topsoil, and cut any and every tree that he could. (Then he sold the topsoil back to the new residents, at a premium, knowing that they couldn’t grow anything in the heavy clay he’d left behind.)

My parents immediately began planting trees—any tree they could get on their meager budget—knowing full well that they were planting for a future that would likely exceed their stay on the property. We had an area just northeast of the house that we called “the forest,” though it was really just a collection of hopeful, spindly saplings. The forest was visible from the kitchen window, where my mother did dishes. It was her view. There were cherished trees, (mostly hardwoods) free trees, and then “filler” trees—planted too close for the long haul and whose only task was to make the more desirable trees grow straight and tall. From time to time, we’d thin the fillers and then add more trees to the outer edges of the expanding forest of sticks.

My father liked the oaks. My mum favored the hard, red maples. Most of the fillers were soft maples, but there were some others in the mix. One was an unruly locust that my mother called the ugly tree. I thought all of us knew which tree she meant.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Decades later, my friend, Tom, emailed me a photograph he’d taken on one of his “walk-abouts.” Whenever Tom was blue, he’d disappear out into the wilds to recover his equilibrium. His photo was of a misshapen, “flag” tree in the foothills of California. He loved that tree. It had been topped and was leaning and bent by the winds. He saw its scars as a tribute to its survival. That battered tree spoke to him. I had the photo framed for his office, to serve as inspiration in tough times. Not everyone saw the beauty that Tom saw in that tree.

Tom and I had a falling out. It started as a misunderstanding—but Tom was bruised by it, and he gave me the cold-shoulder and cut off all communication. I had no idea why—I tried calling and emailing, to no avail. Later, I learned that he’d cut me off because of a rumor he’d heard—inaccurate, as it turned out; but hurt, he’d wasted no time in spreading it, and others. Then I was angry. Though I fully understood his emotional state, I was flummoxed that someone who was a true friend (and he was) wouldn’t come directly to me with his concerns. Clarity and communication would have completely avoided our pain and distance. Still, even when we cleared the inaccuracies, Tom would not apologize or acknowledge his role in the problem. He was too deeply entrenched in his hurt to see my position. Though I was angry, I thought about our falling out in the context of that tree in the picture, and figured he’d come around in time. One doesn’t walk away easily from a decades-long friendship.

We didn’t get that time. Within a year, Tom died suddenly of heart failure.

Clear, direct communication is a gift. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes, clarity is undone by our assumptions. One day, as my mother pondered the forest while doing dishes, she called out to my brother, who was mowing the lawn.

“While you’re out there, could you chop down the ugly tree?”

Chopping down a tree, even a spindly one, is a lot more fun than running a lawnmower. He got right to it. In fact, my mother was still standing at the sink when my brother came out with the axe, and in one stroke, severed one of her cherished trees. She cried out, but it was too late. She knew, in the flash of the axe blade, that she had not fully communicated. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

Since then, in my family, the expression “the ugly tree” is code for miscommunication. That’s all you need to say to fully explain whatever the bollix.

After Tom’s death, I spent a good bit of time looking at the picture of the Tom tree. It was Rick who pointed out that that lovely, twisted, solo tree was the lone survivor of a clear cut. I’m left to ponder the meaning of that observation.