Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘planting trees

Planting Acorns

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When all around you the world appears to be unraveling in every direction, try planting a tree.

In our case, we’ve decided to take a crack at planting many. Last week we buried over a hundred acorns in a line outside the fence of the paddocks.

Since nature does such an amazing job of producing oak sprouts everywhere on our property, we decided to see if we could organize some of them to pop up right where we’d like to have them growing for the shade they would eventually provide.


Note: WordPress has done another update to their format, changing the look of my editing space and eliminating options that I previously used when formatting my posts. I do not have the control I once had, so things may appear different from what you were used to seeing until a time when I figure out a new way to achieve the results I desire.

Already, I miss the good old days of composing my posts.

Disgruntled-ly yours,




Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2020 at 6:00 am

Three Trees

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Cyndie sent me this image yesterday and what caught my eye was the combination of three of the trees we have planted in our time here were all in the frame.

On the left is a crab apple in blossom.

On the right is a hydrangea that Cyndie planted beside her labyrinth. When we moved the gazebo last year, that tree needed to be relocated to the opposite perimeter.

In the background is a maple that we moved from beneath one of our big old maples a short distance away to the east. That little maple offspring is now all by itself in the center of the labyrinth.

All three trees have gone through a lot in these new locations. The hydrangea is showing some green this spring, but we think it is a last gasp before the end. We were thrilled to see it didn’t appear to look shocked after the last transplantation, but then, later in the summer, a limb dropped off and revealed a spongy wound that showed little sign of healthy life.

I didn’t expect to see any leaves this spring, so what did sprout has me curious to see what another year might bring.

The most rewarding of the three is that maple. It was our fourth try to get a maple of that size to survive the trauma of the move to the middle of the labyrinth. I like to imagine what it will look like in a hundred years when it towers over the circuitous garden.

I hope to live long enough to see what a 20-year-old tree looks like in the labyrinth.

In the meantime, we are thoroughly enjoying all of them, just the way they are each day.



Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

Happening Now

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I’ve witnessed the evidence in my lifetime.

The trend is undeniable. Feel free to argue the cause.

I claim human activity is responsible.

For the time being, at least we still have trees.

I need to plant more trees.

I heard an ominous story on news radio during my commute home yesterday that highlighted the concerns of owning animals at a time when growing hay to feed them is getting harder to do successfully.

We have hay in our shed for this winter, but future years are not guaranteed. It pains me that our green grass is too rich for granting full-time access to our horses. We end up feeding them hay year-round.

It’s awkward. Like being adrift in the ocean, surrounded by water that you can’t drink.

It will be tough if we reach a point where there isn’t enough hay to feed all the grazing livestock.

It’s not a single issue calamity at risk, though. There are plenty of other aspects of the warming planet that are simultaneously having an impact. I’d sure hate to be in the insurance industry now that we are experiencing waves of increasing intensity severe weather events.

I can’t figure out how they will be able to cover the ever-increasing expenses for claims from the devastation of storm after storm.

I wonder what it will be like here six years from now. We don’t currently have a long-range plan worked out for the ranch. The initial improvements we put in place upon arrival have sufficed for a few years now. There isn’t a lot more we need to do beyond maintaining the buildings and grounds as they are.

Simply responding to the ongoing climate slide may become our main challenge.

I suppose I could always focus on marketing our paradise as a place to Forest Bathe.

I really should be planting more trees.



Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Spontaneous Transplantation

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Last night presented one of those moments that would unfold without us having a clue where it would ultimately lead. Thankfully, due to Cyndie’s willingness to run with it, we took a step that was long overdue.

She transplanted some volunteer sprouts of oak and maple trees.

It started with her walking the dog and me doing some work in the shop. I had the door open and some music playing. Suddenly, Delilah popped in to say hello. Cyndie paused to trim some growth around the vicinity.

While pulling weeds, she discovered the saturated ground made it easy to pull out the new tree sprouts.

We’ve been talking about transplanting trees for weeks, but never really formulated a plan on where they would go when we finally take action. Since she now had a stack of multiple beauties fresh out of the ground, it presented an urgency to decide on a new location for them.

I honestly have no idea why I didn’t come up with this before, but it hit me in an instant that planting them just outside the paddock fence would someday offer a natural shade for the horses inside the fence.

So, that’s what Cyndie did.

It will require some care to give these babies a fair chance at survival, but given the vast number of new sprouts showing up every spring, we will always have plenty of opportunities to try again, in case of any failures.

This is another thing that I would love to have done years ago, to have already taken advantage of that time for growth. The shade I’m looking forward to could be a decade away, to get the trees tall enough and filled out enough to cast a useful shadow.

It’s like our story about growing our own asparagus. People told us that it takes at least three years after planting to start harvesting stalks. For some silly reason, that information repeatedly caused us to not take action. Inexplicably, our response to something that required waiting a significant amount of time for results was to do nothing. Over and over again.

After three years, I mentioned that if we had just planted some when we first talked about the possibility, we could be harvesting already.

Then Cyndie came across the brilliant idea of not planting from seed, but buying a 2-year-old plant and burying it in the ground.

We are learning to get out of our own way.

In this regard, the spontaneity becomes our secret weapon. We will always get more progress if we just do it, and not wait for the “perfect” plan. We need to not worry so much about the possibility of failure.

My old mode of thinking involved not wanting to work hard on planting trees if they are just going to die, but I’m getting over that now. Maybe the four tries to succeed in the center of our labyrinth have softened my resistance.

We transplanted this group yesterday without any planning or preparation.

I have no idea what the result will be, but at least we have taken the required first step, thanks to Cyndie’s adventurous spontaneous effort.



A Chance

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Have you noticed the lone lopsided tree left standing to the right of the ones we took down over the weekend? A number of people have suggested it would make sense to cut that one down, too.

There are plenty of reasons it would be a logical choice, but who am I to let logic get in the way of my emotions?

One key reason I am letting it stand is that it isn’t dead. Not yet, anyway. It has carved out its meager existence and endured despite the shadow of the larger tree. Now that it is no longer crowded out, I’d like to see how it will respond.

I want to give it a chance to take advantage of the unobstructed afternoon sunlight and the uncontested space to spread out in every direction. It is very birch-like, but I haven’t specifically identified it. Black birch, maybe.

What does it cost me to wait a year or two to find out if it shows signs of renewed vigor? Just some ongoing questioning of my decision-making process, but that’s something I can tolerate.

Cyndie and I were surveying the space left after the trees were removed and discussed whether it would make sense to transfer some of the multitudes of volunteer maple seedlings that sprout all around our place each spring.

It’s an odd little corner of our property. The primary drainage ditch that nicely defines the southern border for most of the span of our open fields takes a little turn inward and orphans a fair-sized triangle of grass up to the road. The neighbor to the south is more than happy to tend to it, and he cuts that grass when cutting his adjacent strip along a cornfield there.

Honestly, I have reasons to believe he would consider it madness to plant new trees in that spot. He once offered to come cut down trees behind our house to create a larger space of lawn for us. Our opinions of what is more valuable are in stark contrast.

If we plant new trees, we will start by placing them along, or close to, the drainage ditch. I’m happy to work slowly and give him time to adjust to our changes.

The chickens show no sign of needing time to adjust. They showed up instantly when we drove to one of our trails to distribute a load of wood chips. I think they wanted to help spread them around.

In reality, what they were really doing was, scratching away the chips to get down to the dirt below, which was comical. They could do that anywhere. In fact, it would be easier to do it where we hadn’t just laid down a new cover of wood chips. Instead, they looked as though the new chips were a real bonus.

I’ll give them the benefit of doubt. Maybe there were bugs in the chips that dropped to the dirt below as soon as the chips got tossed on the trail.

There is a chance there is a logical method to their madness.



Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

Third Try

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I have not been mentioning the sad lack of progress toward my dream of having a transplanted maple tree growing in the center of our labyrinth, in large part because I’m choosing to avoid framing the previous two tries as failures. Basically, if I don’t talk about them or write about them, it becomes as though they didn’t exist.

However, failure is what happened, and I am obviously now writing about it, so it is not as though I mean to pretend it didn’t occur. I just haven’t been dwelling on it publicly. The attempt we made last year involved pulling a tree up by the roots and transplanting it “bare-root” to the hole in the center of the labyrinth. The shock of the transplant caused it to lose all its leaves, but before the summer was over, it had sprouted new leaves.

I’m not sure what went wrong, but after a while the new leaves drooped and then shriveled, and I figured we lost it. I held off on ripping it out of the ground last fall in the off-hand chance all the energy was being put into the roots so it could sprout leaves this spring in a return to the normal seasonal pattern.

That didn’t happen.

When I was mowing the labyrinth last Friday, I spotted the bark on the trunk was dried out and split open. Snapping off the end of a branch confirmed it was all dried out. No visible signs of life at all. I yanked the tree out.

DSCN3406eLast fall, in preparation for the possibility I would need to try again —and while the trees still had leaves— I located another tree I liked in our woods. Following advice I received from my helpful landscape adviser, I flagged it for future reference. Yesterday we dug it up and transplanted it, taking as much dirt around it as we could in hopes of keeping as many of the small roots intact as possible.

So, number three is now in place at the center of the labyrinth garden.

I have a plan to bury a water line from the house down to the garden, where I will install a valve and a hose spigot. The length of tubing required was not stocked at the store, so I had to order it. I sure hope it comes soon, so I don’t have to lug a half-dozen hoses out on the hill to string together like we’ve done for the last two years.

I’d like the third time to be the charm, so I certainly don’t want the poor thing to go thirsty for any length of time. It’s feeling too dry around here already this spring, which is a sad problem to have since our main complaint for the two previous years has been that this time of year had been way too wet.

Thunderstorms rolled through last night, but we barely received a measurable amount of water in our rain gauge. It’s going to take more than that to satisfy all the growing things currently sprouting forth with gusto, reaching toward the sun.











Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2015 at 6:00 am