When I was a child in elementary school I remember carefully creating a poster to celebrate Arbor Day, but for the life of me I don’t know what it is. This time of year I always get the Arbor Day Foundation’s mailings. I appreciate the free address labels, this year appropriately adorned with nuts, but I never make a donation. I read the information. I even filled out the paper work like I was going to finally pay for all those free address labels, but then I thought – I don’t want to plant all those silly decorative trees. I want to plant real trees. From what I can tell the Arbor Day Foundation’s whole purpose is to get people to plant trees. And I plan on planting 20 of them this April! I would have given them a donation anyway, except they never got around to telling me exactly what “Arbor Day” is and how it came to be. I did look it up on the internet, but I won’t bore you with the story (it’s no where near as exciting as Johnny Appleseed). Arbor Day is April 29 this year, in case you’re wondering.
Have you ever planted a tree? Planting a tree, especially a real tree (as opposed to a decorative tree or a fruit tree) is an act of hope and faith. It’s an investment in the future. Most of us don’t stay in the same place long enough to see an Oak Tree or a Hickory Tree grow to it’s full height. You don’t plant a tree like that for your own satisfaction. It’s an act of altruism.
I grew up in the woods. The trees surrounding my childhood home were enormous hundred+ year old trees. You could barely see the tops. The woods were so dense we were never able to grow grass although my father sure tried. He finally gave up and turned the front “lawn” in to a circle driveway around the trees. When my children grumble about helping me with some outside chore, I regale them with the tale of being forced to pick up sticks and/or rake leaves for hours every Saturday as a child. I loved those trees though, even if they did spoil plenty a play date for me. When you looked up, the canopy was so dense the sunlight sparkled like photo flashes between the leaves. When the wind was really strong those mighty trunks would sway ferosciously, and I was certain they were coming down momentarily. Trees like that speak to your soul. To my young heart, those trees were a thousand years old and I wondered what stories they could tell.
Planting a tree with your kids is a must-do parenthood moment that I haven’t had yet. We had great intentions of planting a tree when each child was born and then taking their picture next to it every year of their life. We did plant a tree for our first-born, but we pretty much forgot about it and it withered to a sad brown stick. Then there was the problem of moving around too much, so it seemed silly to invest in a tree I wouldn’t see grow. Thankfully, my mindset has evolved. I understand more fully that we are all on the same boat. (A fact Japan’s nuclear disaster is bringing home clearly).
I don’t know whether we will be here pushing a grandchild-filled stroller up this god-forsaken hill someday, but either way I’m ready to build some forest. This spring we are planting “real” trees – 10 white oaks and 10 Shellbark Hickories to be exact. We’re purchasing them through the Seedling Sale sponsored by the York County Conservation District. If you don’t live in York County, you should look up your own Conservation District because you have one. There are 3000 of them spread out across this country. You can find yours at http://www.nacdnet.org./
These nonprofit Conservation Districts were created in 1946 to protect the health of the land and the welfare of future generations. They sponsor all kinds of important projects (and are always looking for volunteers – another great thing to do with your kids!). Their projects involve protecting and conserving wetlands and wildlife. They also assist communities in planting trees and other land covers so that our soil is held in place, our air is cleaned, and wildlife have a place to safely co-exist.
Because Conservation Districts are non-profits they sell seedlings for cheap and offer advice for free. If you’re ready to order your trees you better get a move on, because our sale, at least, is ending March 28th, with pick up on April 15th. April is the perfect time to plant some trees and here are a whole lot of reasons to plant them. Share this information with your kids!
• filter pollution from the air (by absorbing carbon at a rate of 13 pounds per tree per year! They do the most good at about 10 years.)
• help recycle water
• prevent soil erosion/loss
• give shelter from wind and rain
• provide homes for animals/birds
• make food for humans and wildlife
• provide fuel for stoves and fireplaces
• provide lumber, plywood and other building materials
• reduce utility bills (by providing windbreaks which shield against wind and snow, reducing heating costs by as much as 30%)
• provide shade to cools hot streets and parking lots
• add beauty and grace to our lives
• provide ingredients for pharmaceutical and other medicinal purposes
• help reduce stress (research backs this up!)
• help us connect with nature
And without them there would be no life on this planet!!
I hope you’ll go outside today and consider where you could plant a tree (of any size, I was just kidding about that “real” label). Order yours now, April is a great time to plant and it’s just around the corner. Get your whole family involved. You could even plan a party around it. If you haven’t got land to plant a tree, consider volunteering with the Conservation District to plant trees somewhere else.
“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."
- Dr. Suess
"Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them."
- Bill Vaughan
"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."
- Warren Buffett
"The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"He who plants a tree, plants hope."
- Lucy Larcom, Plant a Tree
"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
- Greek Proverb
"A man does not plant a tree for himself, he plants it for posterity."