The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
The second-best time is now.-Chinese Proverb
I have always loved driving through old neighborhoods, yet I’m not really drawn to old homes. In truth, old homes themselves only really beckon to me on my happily held deduction that many a well-stocked cookie jar are likely to be found within. Butter and chocolate chips aside, however, and there is really only one reason why old neighborhoods speak louder to me than new ones, and that reason is TREES.
I think a lot of the time when people say they are drawn to the “charm and nostalgia of an old neighborhood,” what they really are drawn to (perhaps without even realizing it) are big, established trees. Sure, some people are really into old architecture, but I think trees play a larger role in curb appeal and even home value than many may realize.
It can be difficult to give an objective assessment of a home when a big, beautiful tree is breathing down your neck, casting dappled sunshine on the front deck and shading the eaves and shutters suggestively.
In my opinion, if clothes really do make the man, then trees take the neighborhood. Of course, our family doesn’t live in a neighborhood. In fact, we basically live in the exact opposite of a neighborhood on an out-in-the-boonies mountain homestead. Apparently, this just amplifies one’s need for trees. Well, at least for us. While a neighborhood without trees may lack on curb appeal, a homestead without trees doesn’t even qualify as a homestead in our minds. An unfruitful homestead to us just seems like an oxymoron. An oxymoron we moved to this past January.
Although our new home is surrounded by dense forest, the clearing itself is almost tree-less. Well . . . until three weeks ago, that is.
Since moving and beginning on our homesteading dreams, my hubby has had one thing at the non-negotiable top of his to-do list: plant fruit trees . . . and lots of them. In fact, similar to my book addiction (hoarding is ok if it’s in a home library, right?) my hubby has a serious fruit problem. “We have to have plums. Oh! Apricots for sure. And peaches, obviously. Can we fit in two more cherry trees on the side yard do you think?”
Where I am more focused on the beauty of adding trees to our clearing (you know, curb appeal . . . if we had a curb), Papa is just plum(b) hungry.
So, over the past month, we gave that old Chinese proverb mentioned above everything we had.
Of course, traveling back in time twenty years ago had to be ruled out (darn!) but we cheated the clock as much as we could by buying three-year-old trees and planting them, well . . . NOW, of course!
Seventeen years is certainly an improvement on twenty we think. Yes, mature trees are more expensive but not really appreciably so when you consider the prospect of fruit a whopping two or three years sooner. We think (and hope) the investment will be worth it. And since fruit trees don’t blossom until their second year, we’re already reaping immediate gratification for our efforts.
We carefully plotted out spots for 26 three-year old fruit trees. And that’s not even counting the younger trees, berries, nuts, and fruiting shrubs we squeezed in along the way. You may be wondering: “isn’t that a tad excessive?” It is indeed. I mean, how could anyone ever need that much fruit? 😆 Not to mention NUTS.
I personally blame our tree spree on the night we watched The Biggest Little Farm. Darn you, Todd! Leave it to a cute dog to ruin everything. Our entire family loves this documentary. Witnessing a farm’s transformation from dust to bounty is more than a little inspiring for wannabe homesteaders like us. We turned off the tv ignited with an insatiable desire to pick up our own paint brush and remake our little landscape. That “Fruit Basket” orchard with its ecosystem-focused farming methods had bewitched us.
The next morning, I went on to our local tree grower’s website and suddenly found my inner Shakira from Zootopia coming out, singing: “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! Try EVERYTHING!”
Suddenly, I was paralyzed to the urge of wanting to grow everything. What exactly do I mean by everything? Welp, I’ll tell you.
Here’s the list of fruiting trees and shrubs we have planted this spring:
- 7 cherries
- 2 Nanking cherries
- 2 chokecherries
- 6 apples
- 2 pears
- 2 mulberries
- 3 peach
- 3 nectarine
- 3 plum
- 2 apricot
- 2 butternut (white walnut)
- 2 chestnut
- 3 hazelnut
- 10 serviceberry
- 4 blueberry
- 13 raspberry
- 6 blackberry
- 2 grape
- 2 honeyberry
- 2 red gooseberry
- 5 buffalo berry
- 3 Aronia berry
- 5 rosewoods
Altogether, we planted 91 fruiting trees, shrubs, and berries. If it sounds like a lot of work, it was more. Our planting project included lots of digging, giant rock removal, feeding trough taxiing (pictured below), soil amending, bone burying, wood-chipping, caging, and praying (seriously). We averaged about an hour planting time per tree with overtime spent watering and chasing away Yeti whose newest hobby is digging out the bones we faithfully buried under each tree. Good thing he’s cute.
Our 10-Step Planting Process (high maintenance much?)
1.) Planned, plotted, and ordered an excessive number of trees (as it continued to snow).
2.) Suckered my dad into picking up our toddler trees, then stored them in the bathtub, of course!
3.) Augured and dug holes like there was buried treasure up in these hills.
*We dug our holes two foot by two foot.
4.) Removed stones, rocks, and boulders.
I am sore in places I didn’t even know had muscles.
5.) Placed bones in each hole. Yes, bones! Stay tuned for a post all about this creepy practice.
6.) Amended our crappy clay soil with coconut coir pith, aged manure, and broken-down mulch.
7.) Spread roots out and sprinkled them with mycorrhizal fungi.
8.) Filled holes back up with amended soil and mounded slightly to just below the graft.
9.) Wood chipped over base of trees (and still chipping).
10.) Caged and pruned our budding little orchard.
So, was it worth it?
Well, only time will tell. I’ll have to update you in seventeen years 😆 ! But so far, I would have to answer a happy, hopeful, exhausted YES. Already our little landscape is changing and not just in beauty. The woods seem to be taking notice of the newcomers as if we sent out an all-points forest bulletin. It’s amazing (and daunting) to watch the birds, bees, and butterflies pour into the clearing and adopt the new saplings.
I look up in the cherries and see hummingbirds perched among the bairn blossoms.
I look below and watch robins hunting for worms in the fresh mounds beneath the baby trunks.
I stand over little black mountain bees working on week-old apple blossoms.
I peer among the strawberries at frogs and chipmunks who have already set up camp among the emerging frills.
I watch butterflies flit among the infant orchard; a gentle christening over the clearing.
And I imagine our kids in summers to come, running barefoot through groves of humming fruit trees.
Trees heavy with life and rich in wisdom.
Trees giving food, shelter, beauty, and insight to all who enter this little forest within a forest.
Thus is my prayer anyhow.
Thanks for reading, dear friends! We hope you’ll visit ~Our Holistic Homestead~ again soon! And don’t be afraid to plant a fruit tree or twenty!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~