Walking the dog along the edge of the pond, I paused to look around at our place. We moved to this 5 acre plot almost 25 years ago when it was essentially an old farm house surrounded on three sides by empty cow pasture. There were a few trees, most very old and on their way out. Now there is a house on either side of us.
I have planted, through the years more than 40 trees here. Some were replacements for old trees that had died or become so fragile that removal was necessary, but most were just because we like trees. Brenda reminded me that when I planted them, I typically said “I’ll never live long enough to see this mature” but I was wrong. Several that were not as thick as my arm nor as high as my chest when planted are beyond my hug’s circumference and too tall to see the top without more back bend than I can now manage.
The list includes:
2 willow oaks
2 Tulip trees
2 River birch
7 white pine (3 were Christmas trees)
3 redbuds ( 2 now gone)
2 Schumerd oaks
2 Pin oaks (plus 3 volunteers)
Recently we sold off the upper field, half of our property, so that the neighbor can use it for his horses. It had been a pasture up until we bought the place and now it is again. Trees never did well up there with the thin topsoil covering a layer of limestone rock that roots just never seem able to penetrate. His gorgeous animals enjoy the good grass that base provides, I no longer have to mow it and they give us the pleasure of their presence.
Down here on the rest, our trees are doing pretty well. When I compare old photos to what I see now, it is amazing the transformation that trees can make. There is shade nearly everywhere with birds of many species constantly calling, going about the business of making and surviving another generation each year. The brush pile composed of each season’s fallen limbs and other trimmings is by the pond, giving shelter to whatever needs it. In the last few years, since the various oaks have begun producing a bumper crop of acorns, red and gray squirrels have moved in, much to the dog’s chagrin and our amusement.. Other animals, rabbits,opossums, groundhogs, a fox or two, herons, turtles and terrapins, muskrats, raccoons and even a mink (just passing through, we think) have made their homes here, taking advantage of the tree cover and the contributions each of the others make to the ecology of the whole. In spring and fall we have a visiting flock of geese who stop on the shaded pond for a day or two on their migration. For a quarter century I have watched the yearly progression of nature through its phases, knowing that I am just a small part of the overall scheme. (I am reminded of the apocryphal story of the elephant and the Mayfly regarding an acorn on the ground. The elephant says, “One day that will become a mighty oak tree”, and the Mayfly replies, “That is ridiculous. I’ve been watching it my entire life and it hasn’t done a thing.”)
We’ve lost a few of the trees to bad weather and some have succumbed, as must we all, to old age, but most are thriving, doing what trees do: making oxygen and storing carbon all while being beautiful. If only I were so useful.