Glenn and I begin to feel like farmers – you know, those sturdy people who have to brave all kinds of weather to plant their crops and feed their animals no matter what! Despite six (yes, 6!) inches of rainfall in Minnesota this past weekend we managed to plant 250 trees in a riparian buffer and 26 elderberry cuttings in our newly christened elderberry nursery near the barn.
I am sending photos that I took on the Friday morning after a night of thunderstorms, heavy rain and fierce winds. With the forecast promising more of the same and over 300 trees sitting in a truck in the yard, we had no recourse but to pretend we were farmers and wade into the sodden breach with our trusty spades and bare-root tree bundles.
In one of the photos, you can see Glenn with a yellow-handled garden spade sadly perusing the rain engorged waterway. Another photo shows my sister wading in and the farm in the background. The other one shows the waterway going north. Way off in the distance, several football fields away (or so it seemed), where the waterway bends to the left or west, is where we planted the riparian buffer on both sides: one row of legacy trees on the inside (honey locust, chokecherry,
hackberry, Norway spruce, oak and cottonwood) and a second row of shrubs (crabapple, nannyberry, dogwood and willow) on the outside.
Water swamped our boots and shoes as soon as we stepped into the field. Luckily it was rain-warmed, not icy. This year was the total opposite of last year when the earth was so hard and dry that we could hardly dig a hole. This time our spades came up caked with mud and wrenching our shoulders with their weight. Glenn and I got soaked to the skin while trudging back to the truck on Friday morning and again in the afternoon while planting elderberry cuttings, but worse yet was getting soaked to the skin while trudging OUT to the buffer
on Saturday afternoon knowing we still had to finish what we had started. Renter Cazzi joined us shortly afterwards and took over the digging or I think Glenn would have filed for divorce by now.
So, dear friends, thanks to prayers, God’s Grace, and our perverse stubbornness, the riparian buffer roots are in the ground! Oddly enough, we are both feeling slightly exhilarated today. When I close my eyes, I can still see water eddying around my shoe-tops and carving streams through the good black topsoil. I wonder how much soil ended up washing downstream on its way to the Mississippi Delta taking excess nitrogen with it. But soon that field will be covered with grasses, forbs, alfalfa and oats, all sending roots deep into the
ground to hold the soil in place and draw water down to a level that corn and soybeans never could. Some of the trees will grow and their tenacious roots will draw down carbon and their healing leaves will release oxygen in that timeless dance of reciprocity.
Be of good cheer, the Life Force is strong, and at least we won’t have to water.
Meg & Glenn
P.S. Time and our 74-year-old bodies being what they are, we had to bring 25 bur oaks, 25 poplars, and a smattering of hackberry, chokecherry and dogwood home with us to nurture and keep alive until we can go back to fill in the gaps of last year’s windbreak. Tree planting anyone? Anyone?