We dug a lot of holes!
By Lydia Jones
I made several grievous mistakes while advertising our first official farm event. I said there would be burgers, but they were actually hotdogs. I said it would be rainy and muddy, and it wasn't at all. I said we were planting 300 trees. Well, we definitely did that, but our friends accomplished 162% of the project and helped us put almost 500 trees in the ground!
Despite the misleading invitations (or perhaps because of them), 19 stalwart diggers, planters, babies, hippies, farmers, parents, toddlers, and even one dog and one horse came together to bring healing to this piece of land.
Most traditional Midwest farmers would have a heart attack if they saw what we did with a perfectly good corn field. First, when we turned it into pasture we intentionally planted "weeds" in it- species that had been carefully removed and discouraged from that acreage for generations. Now, just a few years later, we are planting hundred of trees on the same piece of land. Isn't that taking everything several steps "backwards"? Yes, in some ways it is. That's the restoration piece of this project.
Our land and much of this region was originally an oak-hickory savanna, a grassy plain with plenty of trees and shrubs, providing shade and forage for the large mammals that roamed the prairies back then. It can be compared to the African savannas that support their own diversity of large mammals. By modeling our agricultural system on the natural biome we inhabit, our job promises to get a bit easier as we work with creation's tendencies instead of constantly battling them.
With trees playing such an integral part of the savanna system, our windbreak/silvopasture project has been on our minds since we first began studying agroforestry in 2014. No matter what the neighbors think, these trees can provide huge value in modern agriculture.
Shade for livestock
Habitat and nesting ground for birds and small mammals
Foliage, nuts, seeds and berries for humans, livestock and wildlife
Firewood and building materials
Shaded, sheltered and grassy area for recreation and fellowship
Shelter from winter winds and damaging storms
Nectar and pollen for native pollinators
Beauty and diversity in a monocrop culture
If you think 500 trees is a lot, think again. In my view we can't plant too many, and if you're disappointed you didn't get to participate in this exquisite activity be not dismayed! We are just getting started. Join us next spring when we plant an orchard. Just make sure to expect 62% more trees than advertised.
What species did we plant?
White Pine: Year-round wind break, cones for wildlife, timber
Red Maple: Autumn foliage, shade, timber, sap collection, tolerant companion to pine
Red Oak: Mast and forage for wildlife, timber, shade, good coppice species
Black Locust: Nitrogen fixer, pollinator habitat, edible flowers, livestock forage, dappled shade for good pasture growth beneath, coppice, high BTU's for firewood
Chinese Chestnut: Large, edible nuts, timber & woodworking projects
Hybrid Willow: Very fast growing, preliminary windbreak and shade
Preparing the rows the week before. The bare ground is now seeded with clover to restore forage value, hold the soil in place and minimize competition from taller plants around the trees.
The all important watering process
The "Party" portion of the Tree Planting Party: food, tree-climbing, swings, mushroom foraging and even impromptu pony rides.
Finishing the day just in time with a beautiful sunset