That’s what I’m planting this year. All by hand. No mechanical devices involved. That’s not counting the 500 or so that I already moved from road ditches and places where they will never be left alone to grow and planted where they will get lots of sunshine and space.
This is how I spend my vacation time, planting trees. I’ve been doing it every year for a long time. I get lots of questions and strange looks. People think I’m a little crazy at best. They may be right.
I’m not young anymore. This is a lot of hard work (and expense). I won’t be here to see these trees grow up and get harvested. The land I am slowly turning into forest could be farmed and provide some income. The look people give me tells me they are trying hard to figure out why?
The easiest explanation is that we raise beagles. It’s our business. Hardly a way to get rich (or even break even) but better than, say, milking cows or raising beef cattle for a living. There are still a few people around here hanging on to the family farm way of life. No one wonders why they work so hard baling hay and doing chores.
Beagles need rabbits like cattle need hay. Rabbits need young forest. In this area where every kind of hungry predator spends all it’s time trying to catch dinner, rabbits need escape cover more than anything to survive.
I can get up in the morning and turn a pack of young dogs loose in the yard and they will soon have a rabbit going behind the shed in the pines I planted a few years ago. We can sit at the kitchen table and watch the rabbit run down the road and turn in by the mail box and then watch the dogs as they try to figure out what happened to the track.
That’s the main reason I plant trees. But there’s more to it. Seems like I just like planting trees. Spending hours doing hard physical labor that doesn’t require much brain power is something I enjoy. I don’t get that in my real job.
It’s quiet where I spend my days planting trees. No trains or blacktop roads. Some days the only car that comes down our road is the mailman. Human noise is replaced by drumming grouse and the ancient call of cranes.
This is hardly a wilderness, but we do have long stretches of time without any man made noise. Places like this are going the way of the family farm. No room in the modern world for quiet anymore.
And yet quiet is something I have a hard time living without. The background noise of a busy, man made world that we all live with adds a level of stress and anxiety to your life that you don’t realize is there, until you live a few days without it.
Working up and down the field between the river bottom woods and the swamp with a few dogs keeping you company and watching the eagles and coyotes and deer can do a lot more for your health than Snap Fitness ever could.
When the trees are all in the ground the rest of the year is spent hoping for rain and trapping gophers and bud capping in the fall and making brush piles for the rabbits. And walking in the moss that comes up in the shade under the pines in what was a bare field with the sandy top soil slowly washing and blowing away not long ago. This forest is a landscape that I created.
Some people paint or make quilts or take pictures or make music or do woodwork. They don’t do it for money or fame, the reward they get from making something good from nothing is more than enough to keep them going.
I can’t sing. The only musical instrument I can play is the radio. I do my best, most creative, least profitable work raising beagles, and planting trees.