Our first planting season we ordered 1000 fraser firs, 300 white pines, and 300 black hill spruces. We planted one acre of fraser firs, three rows of white pines lining the entrance and exit of the "T", and three rows of black hill spruces. This year, the best way I describe the experience is planting between. Planting between flag football and birthday parties. Planting between family events and trips. Planting between, quite literally, stumps and growing trees.
We prepped three acres and over a dozen rows for the next few years of planting. The preparation began with clearing diseased trees, cleaning up from the chopping and mulching, establishing new rows for trees, and eventually creating a grid to indicate the exact location for each tree. It was a sophisticated method with baler twine, wooden stakes, and spray paint. The boys enjoyed hammering in the wooden stakes as well as spray painting the points where the lines intersected to indicate the spots for trees. If you look close enough, you can detect the places where our middle son was spraying, tripped over the strings, and caused the rows to get a bit out of line. Kidding, I think we straightened things out, but something about him running through an empty acre of land, giggling as he lost his footing, and happily getting back up to try again and get the job done feels comparable to our overall planting experience. Lots of movement, laughter, and uncertainty, each time trying again and celebrating our accomplishments.
We planted all of the trees by hand with the help of our parents - sometimes physically planting, other times helping with the boys. It was hard work and our hands and backs were sore by the end; however, it felt exciting to move forward and begin growing trees of our own. There has been a huge learning curve and planting trees was something we anxiously awaited. We want to continue being tree farm people, and we need to figure out how to successfully plant trees each year to sustain the farm.
As we reflect on this planting season, we are aware of ways we can improve next year. We are also proud of what we accomplished. It will be 8 to 10 years before any of these trees make it into your living rooms. It's inspiring to be a part of something bigger than us and longer than the day to day, week to week challenges we all face. We're in it for the long run. There are critical components of each season that are bringing us closer and happier together.
We are anticipating less than a 50% survival rate of the trees, which is lower than typical or what we desired. Already we have ideas about how to do better next year. We are strategizing how to replace the trees that didn't make it and move forward into the second and third acres. Planting was a big hurdle that we are still clearing. But, we jumped! And you can find us somewhere between feeling grounded and feeling like we're flying.