The Giving Trees

Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel.

Aldo Leopold

Although nearly a week has passed, I would be remiss if I did not point out that last Friday was Arbor Day.

The notion of Arbor Day goes back to before Nebraska was even a State. J. Sterling Morton, one time Secretary of the Nebraska Territory, first proposed a “tree planting holiday” before the State Board of Agriculture in 1872. Morton saw the value of trees, saw that people needed trees, and recognized that nearly anyone could plant trees to support a better tomorrow.

Morton’s efforts saw the first Arbor Day take place on April 10, 1872. It is estimated that over 1 million trees were planted on Arbor Day in Nebraska that year.

The idea of Arbor Day caught on rapidly. Nebraska officially recognized Arbor Day as a state holiday in 1885, although moving the date to April 22. By 1920, 45 states and territories celebrated the holiday annually. Schools especially embraced the Arbor Day tradition, with hundreds of thousands of school children helping to plant trees each April.

For me personally, I vividly remember planting trees in elementary school. It was perhaps 4th grade when we gathered to plant a few ceremonial white pines along the schoolyard’s western edge. Sadly, nothing became of those few sapplings. But a seed was planted in my young head.

I’ve loved trees ever since.

So this year for Arbor Day we’ve planted 17 new trees on our homestead property!

Our trees came from two sources this year. Five silver maples are transplants from seedlings that self-started in our front flower beds. Last year was a banner year for seedlings from the front silver maple. When I cleared the beds out to make way for the new herb garden I made sure to pot up the young trees for transplanting. The rest of this year’s trees, ten in total, came from The Arbor Day Foundation.

For a donation of as little as twenty dollars, you can get a variety of trees appropriate to your growing area through The Arbor Day Foundation. For us that was a selection that included 5 Norway Spruce, 2 Eastern Redbuds, 2 Crape Myrtles, 1 Sargent Crabapple, 1 Washington Hawthorn, and 1 Flowering Dogwood.

Sure, the planting was hard work. But the rewards we will reap from these trees down the road will pay dividends for years to come. Something I am reminded of whenwe look at the epic silver maple that grows in our back yard.

Maybe one day the trees we planted this Arbor Day Weekend will bring someone else as much joy as our epic silver maple brings us now.

After all…

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese Proverb

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