In awe of the trees

When I began to do a little research for fruit trees just a few short months ago, I came across the book, Integrated Forest Gardening. My birthday was around the corner and it was the perfect gift to go on the wish list. My vision of a few fruit trees and expanded veggie garden soon turned into transforming the entire yard to an edible landscape. Listening to all the permaculture podcasts I could find took me further down the rabbit hole. It just made so much sense. Why did it take me so long to get to this place? If there's one good thing to come out of the coronavirus pandemic for me, it might be this. With little time to focus on the pottery business and lots more time to be outside gardening with my boys, it’s been easy to fall into the permaculture path. 

But where to start? Help! I have no idea what I'm doing and I want to plant lots of trees!!!!! To the rescue came a fellow potter friend, Jess, who also happens to be a landscape designer. Jess is the owner/designer/maker behind Contour and Clay. She has her own pollinator garden and helps her husband with their own beehives. She raised an eyebrow when I said "integrated forest gardening" but agreed to jump on the band wagon to help me with a design. While we started to measure the yard and map out a plan, I reached out to another friend, Chad Cully. Chad also wears many hats in the plant world and is also a glass artist. I met Chad years ago when he took a handbuilding class from me at Queen City Clay (or maybe it was still Funke Fired Arts back then?) As fate would have it he started dating another potter friend and we’ve kept in touch. Chad started a mini nursery at his home and I bought a few plants from him this spring – an elderberry for my mom on Mother’s Day, and a native Chickasaw plum tree for me to maybe go where we were going to remove a chunk of ornamental grass. Later in the year he gave me another plum, swiss chard, mustard greens, and cherry tomatoes. We’re still enjoying the veggies and greens even in November. At some point he mentioned he was going to be doing an apprenticeship with a man who had food forests before that term was even coined. I had no idea what he meant when he said that, but it sounded interesting and it stuck to some part of my brain. Chad is also studying at Cornell University. As part of his capstone project he is working with a few individuals to help them plant some trees and observe the growth of the plants as well as their relationship to the individual/household. Luckily for me, I’m one of those people. Chad hooked us up with quite an all-star list. Hybrid Chestnut trees, river birch, bald cypress, native paw paw, the Chickasaw plums, peach trees, elderberry, gooseberry, goumi berry, Jerusalem artichoke and ground nut. He started everything from seed or cutting. 

Site design by Jess Thayer/Contours and Clay plus lots of additions from me after we got more trees from Chad

Through my online permaculture research, I came across Doug Crouch, the man behind TreeYo Permaculture. He has a wealth of information on his website from his experience all over the world. We went to visit his site in Petersburg, Ky, and bought the rest of our trees, shrubs and plants from the Growing Value nursery there. That list includes north American pecan, Asian pear (Olympic and Shinseiki), jujube (Autumn Beauty and Black Sea), pluot (semi dwarf dapple dandy and flavor heart), sorbopear shipova, cornelian cherry dogwoods, quince, medlar, American hazelnut, witch hazel, button bush, and comfrey. 

We planted our first trees this past Sunday. It’s sad to say, but I don’t think I’ve ever planted a tree. I’m still trying to rack my brain to come up with something… surely I have at some point. I do remember getting a tree for Arbor Day when I was maybe in second grade. My dad planted it in the back yard. I remember thinking it was really cool that he actually planted it. It’s absolutely incredible to see it now 25 or so years later. It towers over the yard at maybe 60 feet high and is quite beautiful. I can still remember the twig that it started from. It’s kind of crazy to think about how my life has come and gone from that yard to different schools, to traveling all over the world, to starting a career and then a family…and that tree has been there the whole time. Steadily and quietly it grows and grows. It stands proud, stern and strong, taking up space as if it doesn’t have a care in the world. Yet most days while I visit my parents, I don’t give the tree any thought, even as I chase my kids under its branches. But here it is taking on so much responsibility and giving us oxygen to breathe. How can I not stand and stare in awe? Everything on our planet is so interconnected. A simple statement that is way too often completely overlooked and left out to dry, quite literally. It is our responsibility to protect the earth and all of its components that rely on each other to survive. We are one of those components – not the one, but just one of many. How we live on a daily basis (what we buy, how we eat) can either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. I’d like to be part of the solution. I truly believe that if we all take steps to grow our own food and plant trees where we can, we can have a major impact on our earth and bring some long overdue healing. If I can help you get started or continue your journey, please let me know. I certainly am not a scientist, and don't have all the answers, but we can work together to find those answers.

Here are some images below from our first tree planting day.  Keep in mind that I'm posting as we go and we are so new to all of this.  I'll continue to share as we learn through our successes and failures.  If you have any advice or tips, please share!    

Jake planting an Asian pear in the front yard

We started to create a mini earth work around each tree to help with water drainage


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