|Not-so-perfect tree planting weather|
Over the past 20 years we have planted well over 100,000 trees on that 80 acre farm. Most of this was very fertile corn and alfalfa land that provided a livelihood for my parents while they raised seven children. When my father finally stopped farming - in his early 90's - my parents rented the land to a neighbor. This barely paid the taxes and when my older brother and I proposed putting it into trees nobody objected. Government programs would virtually eliminate the taxes and we would be investing in the future; banking both equity and carbon.
But, as I said, I have returned from a tree-planting trip. The 1000 Pines are in the ground along with 600 White Oak seedlings from my own nursery. But this isn't about planting trees. They get in the ground one way or another. We've learned how to do this over the past 20 years. This is about people. And this is about change.
The first thing I did on this trip was to stop in at my neighbor's farm and visit with a friend who grew up on that farm at nearly the same time I grew up at the farm just down the road (the farm I currently own). His wife died a couple months ago and I wasn't able to come up for the memorial because we were on a cruise, somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, at the time. This is the first time I've been "home" since then and we had a long talk about the terror and loneliness that he has endured - and is enduring. And about the kindness and caring of friends, relatives, and even strangers at these times. And about the peace that comes from our Faith (yes, that's capitalized intentionally).
"It gets a little better with time." He says; "At least I'm,getting to where I can talk about it without crying." So he did talk about it. I was thankful for this. He thinks I'm worth putting himself through the experience again by re-telling it to me. He didn't cry.
I have tried to stop in and visit these good folks at least once each time I'm in the area. I have grown accustomed to a warm welcome.
"Leave your shoes on - this is a farm house."
"Come in and sit down. "
"Will you have some coffee and cookies?"
His wife always had a plate of cookies and the coffee pot was either on or; "It will only take a minute." One time she was out of cookies and it became a running joke on Facebook. I think she had some store-bought cookies for us but, of course, they weren't as good as hers. So on this visit - after the offer of coffee - he pulled a tupperware out of the freezer and put a few of her home-made cookies on a plate. He assured me that he too could bake cookies but he still shared some precious examples from the master.
After you've planted 100,000 trees you might think there would be no room for more. Much of the farm is now thriving forest and the job now is to prune and thin for optimal growth and quality timber. But there are areas where there are not enough trees.
|Look closely to see transplanted Pine|
My brother is going through some rough times and is unable to get to the woods nearly as often as he'd like. He can no longer drive and he lives an hour from the farm (and his own woodlands nearby). So he has to depend on his family to bring him when they can.
|250 Red Pine, 250 White Pine, & 615 White Oak|
But then a friend arrived from Madison on Friday to help. So with his help the trees were all in the ground by noon on Saturday. This was good and bad. Good: I had the trees planted. And Good: I have a good friend who will drop everything and come to my 'rescue'. And bad: there were no trees left for my brother - or my son. You see, it's not all about the trees.
|Pruning - 2012 in foreground - 2013 in background.|
[[ If you look closely at this picture you can see a row of walnut trees growing between the two pine rows. Before pruning, the stand was so dense that you wouldn't have known they had survived (or anything else for that matter.)]]
We then drove to River Falls to visit with my Brother and some of his family. We then 'chased' each other back to Madison. All in all, a great trip.