Saturday, February 23, 2008

Arbor Day

My daughter came home from school a couple of weeks ago proclaiming rather emphatically "Mom! we have to plant trees this spring because in 20 years all the trees are going to be gone!". I had to bite my lip to stop from laughing. Now, I am positive there are places on this earth that this statement is absolutely true; the rain forests are disappearing at an alarming rate and there are places in the Midwest if you don't plant trees they just wouldn't have any. But in Northern Vermont?? Or even New England?!?!? Pshaw! Nice to see my tax money hard at work.

Let me explain why I find this amusing, albeit a little unnerving. I've lived at this house for 9 years. For 9 years we have tried to expand our workable land a little at a time. When our kids were really young we cut a clump of trees out back of our house to make room for a swing set, since we didn't have a brush hog, we had to cut around the stumps with a weed whacker as best we could. My husband is NOT a handyman. His brother got all of those genes. He tries, but really has no understanding of mechanics or building...its just not his thing. When the weed whacker stopped working and we stopped whacking around the stumps, the speed at which those tree saplings emerged from the soil is something that amazes me to this day. And not just in that area...oh no...they spread their roots down the hill and into the grass...and any time I let the back lawn go a little too long (I had 2 toddlers and newborn, some days..heck..weeks finding time to mow was impossible) I had a forest of little trees to attend with. It was like someone poured magical tree fertilizer on was crazy! Its the same all over the property, I can look out from my window right now and see 2 ft trees sticking up through the snow where we cleared last spring. Stopping this advancing onslaught of trees is nearly impossible. In some instances its been a blessing. I've been able to rip up pine trees (yes, with my hands and a small garden shovel, i must have looked like a mad woman) whose roots are really shallow, and plant them along the property line shared with our neighbors, but for the most part its a hindrance, I'd really like some open land for gardens and poultry.

Even the ornamental trees such as the lilac are prolific. I have offshoots from the one big lilac tree I have growing up all over my lawn. So...why would someone come into school and tell my 7 year old that all the trees are going to be gone in a few years???? Why couldn't they just say "All the trees in the Amazon Rain forest are going to be gone in 20 years" instead of generalizing it. Because I have a very hard time believing that all the trees in Vermont are going be be gone in 20 years. Even places that are clear cut grow back. My mother had her property logged back in the late 1980's, and she's having it logged again now. The state cut over 400 acres near her house in the mid 1990's, and its all grown back with nice, big, healthy trees teeming with tons of wildlife.

I'm not saying we should go in and clear cut the entire state. I understand that by cutting huge swathes of land you re displacing wildlife, big and small, from their homes. But, I do see the advantage of going through and cutting to help promote healthy, new growth. (I like the way the Scandinavians cut, they alternate their cutting; cut an acre long section, leave an acre long section, cut an acre long section..etc.. Then after 10 years or so, move back in and cut down the acres that they left previously, and leave the new growth. This promotes healthy growth, and saves the wildlife from being too displaced from their homes. )

And if you leave the forests to grow then eventually Mother Nature will take over. A well placed lightning strike will clean an old growth forest much more efficiently that man can. But I guess since she's been doing it for millennia it would give her a bit of an edge over us.

All and all I think Arbor Day is a great holiday. I think that if people want to plant trees that's great, especially in places in the mid west where wind screens are so important to the land. Or in the Rain forests, I would gladly donate money, time, TREES to reforest the Earths lungs. And truth be told, I even planted some trees here, Quince and Apple and Siberian Elm all of which are growing...and probably spreading. But please don't send my kids into an emotional frenzy by telling them all the trees are going to be gone in 20 years if they don't plant a tree. And especially don't tell them this in FEBRUARY in VERMONT! Children are all about instant gratification and although trees here are hardy, I doubt if i planted on in the snow and ice that it would grow. well, maybe not.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

That's true what you say about the location and the information being given. Growing up in the west we always were reminded of the importance of arbor day every year. The weather is more condusive to planting and as you said, without the intentional planting there would be less trees. In fact, as silly as this sounds....true story: When I first moved out here I was amazed and impressed at how many trees there are and asked my husband one day while driving in the car, "Who planted all these trees? It must have taken them a really long time. " Well, you can only imagine the laughter. But, once explained, it all made sense. I just had too much of the western city in me.