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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Quest for Yard Trees

Way back when, I wanted to go into horticulture, but the Lord led me into the education field instead. (Which I have also grown to love.)  From early on, however, I loved working with plants, dreaming up landscapes, and looking forward to the time when I would have my own property that I could dabble with.  I always thought that this landscaping would be worked around tall, graceful trees on the property, or at least some kind of trees.

7 years into our marriage, the time came for us to purchase our first property. We bought our farm . . . A blank slate . . . Literally.

When we purchased our farm, it was 23 acres of prairie grasses on a hill with a 17 acre woodland bottom.

We built our house on the hill- the bare, treeless hill. 

The wise thing to do when you purchase a treeless piece of land is to plant some trees and get them growing.  After all, trees take time. We were very blessed that first spring to have been gifted an orchard, but much to my disappointment come fall, those were the only trees which had roots in the ground.

Okay, so one year won't make that much of a difference in establishing trees, right? Over the winter I began planning my landscaping layout so I would be ready to go once I could start planting.

The following spring I tried some saplings from our local NRCS spring tree order. The livestock tried those too.  The next year I thought that I should just purchase some taller trees that the livestock couldn't destroy.  After shopping around, I realized that idea would destroy our budget.  Although I did snatch up a couple $7 end of the season close out trees, I never thought that 5 years down the road I would still be dreaming of establishing trees on our property.

So this year, I changed my plan of attack. I managed to find a couple oaks and maples in the woods to dig up and move to the house. Two of them pulled through.  I was also given a gift to purchase some trees, so I placed an order for some smaller trees from the National Arbor Day Foundation and have tried to fence around them well for protection from livestock on the wrong side of the fence.

Even so, we are pretty treeless and a long way off from any sort of shade, as I don't foresee us purchasing any larger trees to plant.  Most likely, our children will probably be taller than the majority of the trees on our property for their growing up years.

The longer we are on the farm, however, the more Ethan and I both realize that this farm might be less for us and more for the generations that follow (if we continue to feel called here, are able to continue on that long, and here is where they wish to be).

So I am now planting my trees with, and for the next generation.

I found a wonderful source of seeds online at the DA Tree Store.  They are very reasonable and have a great selection.  I have ordered seeds for various evergreens from them, many of which will be for a windbreak. The kids and I learned about stratifying seeds (a cold treatment to mimic nature and break down the seed coat to allow the embryo to germinate) and started these seeds both indoors and outdoors this way. 

Last fall we brought home a bucket of walnuts from my parents, dumped them in the garden, covered them with mulch, and waited for spring.  The walnut trees that grew were then moved into various places in our woods, which is pretty void of walnuts.  Hopefully they will take off for the livestock and wildlife to enjoy down the road.

Since our walnut experiment went so well last fall, we have been collecting various nuts throughout the year this year.  The kids have helped me plant hickory seeds, buckeye seeds, various maple and oak seeds. and many other types of seeds and nuts we have collected.  We have even kept back some hardy fruit seeds from our area to stratify inside or start along the fence line of the garden.

To be perfectly honest, I would love to have trees to cast a cooling shade during the hot summer days.  I'd love to have a tree swing to sit on and overlook the pasture, song birds perched close by serenading our family, leaves for the kids to make nests in during the colorful crispness of fall, bare outstretched branches to collect the contrasting flakes of newly fallen snow.

Right now, however, our budget allows for some seeds. Some purchased, most collected. So I am trading my dream of tall, graceful trees for our family to enjoy for a dream of trees for the next generation to enjoy.

While doing this though, I am gaining.  I have gained precious and enjoyable times with our children as we have gone through the summer collecting seeds at the zoo, on walks with grandparents, visiting my home church, friends houses, parks . . .

Each of these nuts and seeds holds a story, and each of them are carefully marked as they are placed in the ground by little hands that are learning. Learning about stratification, learning about transplanting home grown saplings, learning about nuts and seed identification . . . about time together, about patience, and about investing in the future of others.

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Tools of My Trade
This is a great resource with wonderful illustrations.  If you are interested in starting your own plants with seeds, divisions, cuttings, layering, grafting, cultures, or more, this will be your go to book. When I first started propagating plants, I found much of my information on the internet.  I got a good start this way, but having this book on hand helped fill in the gaps for me.  Copies of this book can be found used or you can purchase a new copy from the link provided.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. Just the sort of stuff I am currently looking for.
Were those black walnuts seeds?
I am going to try that.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Thank you. :) Yes, they were black walnuts. For them, I just raked the soil to loosen it up, dumped them in, and put a nice layer of mulch over the top, maybe 4-6 inches of chopped corn stalks. I think every single walnut grew!!

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