Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
It is a busy time for planting here. Not tomatoes, peppers, or squash, though. We got in our order of trees from the Missouri Conservation Dept. last week. In the past, we had planted mostly walnut, but we have a good enough supply of our own walnut seedlings that we are focusing on native trees that could use a boost to restore the forest to what it once was. So we are planting pecan on the bottom areas, shortleaf pine on ridge tops where the soil is poor, and burr oak on the better upland areas.
Another change we are making is an acknowledgment of the fact that I’m not a young man of 50 anymore, and certain body parts (most notably my right shoulder) refuse to cooperate with my ambitions. So we put a 4” auger on the post hole digger, and drilled holes for the trees instead of using the planting bar. This worked surprisingly well, and it loosened up the soil around the roots, which should help. It only took half a day to drill all the holes and plant the pecan trees. Even though we only live a mile from each other (as the crow flies), our busy schedules don’t often allow time for my older brother, Art, and me to work together often, so it was great for the two of us and my dad to work together on the digging and planting. At 87 years old, my Dad is remarkably active, but there is no way to know how many more planting seasons he will see, so it was good that the three of us could work together. In twenty year, we should have our first pecan nuts. In 100 to 150 years, the trees will be ready to harvest. That’s a photo of my dad standing next to one of our best walnut trees. It is nearing time to harvest this tree—probably within the next thirty years or so. No point in rushing things.
The only participant in the endeavor that may be around by then is “Henry”, the 1953 Ford tractor that provided the brawn to dig the holes. It is amazing to see the auger churn up rich loam, clay, and gravel, all in holes not fifty feet apart. No wonder there is so much variety in the Ozark forests. Each species of tree has a certain type of soil that favors its growth, or at least gives it an advantage over other species. It will take years to fill in the gaps, but at least drilling into the soil provides a clue as to where to start. The rains came at a good time, and should give the seedlings a good boost.
It is reassuring to see the ponds fill with water after last summer’s drought, though it is no guarantee that
we won’t see another hot, dry summer. The spring peepers are happy about the full ponds, too, and create quite a racket. Intermittent ponds actually work in their favor, since they can burrow under the mud when the ponds dry out, and there are no fish predators. I can’t imagine anything living under the dry pond in the summer, but every spring they joyfully announce another year of survival.
Logging on our tree farm has stopped for now. Mud isn’t much of a problem, because the ground is so rocky, but there is no need to intrude on nesting areas when there are so many other activities. It gives me the chance to clean up around the sawmill, and get caught up milling some logs that I haven’t gotten around to cutting. And I promised my very understanding wife, Becky that I WOULD cut some post oak for raised bed gardens this year (didn’t I post something similar a year ago?), and I need to mill some white oak for trailer decking. The sawmill has to work in around a regular job, but I look forward to firing it up on weekends. I recently cut some persimmon and hedge for a local woodworker, and the wood was so beautiful, I hated to see it go. But I have maple, cherry, walnut, and sycamore air drying, for some time in the future when I build a shop and do some woodworking of my own.
I’m looking forward to the Mother Earth News Fairs this summer. The one in Lawrence, KS is an easy drive for me. I’ll be demonstrating a Norwood sawmill there, and in Seven Springs, PA. Last year was my first time at one of these events, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.