Both land and trees seemed to breath a sigh of relief as roots met earth. Ground that is starved for air and water and trees ready to let their roots take hold, free of containment at last! Watching the truck and trailer pull onto the property brimming over with trees made me feel like a kid in a candy store at Christmas! This is a dream that has been a long time coming.
Let the unloading commence!
Regeneration starts with trees to begin the process of shading some of the bare ground. It’s so hard for anything to grow when it’s fully exposed to the harsh sun here. These trees are strategically placed in and around the paddocks with the horses. Those are my largest areas of exposed ground. I remember reading somewhere a long while back that for the earth, exposed ground is like an open wound and something is always trying to grow there to cover that wound. Its why bare ground is prone to growing weeds. Anything to cover that exposed earth! Exposed earth loses its ability to absorb water too, so the trees help bring water into the ground.
I finally watched the film “Kiss the Ground” the other night. This happens to me all the time with horse related things, that science finally catches up with what I’ve always known from spending my life with horses. The same holds true for this film. I’ve always felt that we needed to be focusing on the soil if we wanted a healthy climate. When I lived in the mountains the soil was rich, loamy, and easy to grow things in. The hay, the animals raised on it, and vegetables grown in it were all healthy and vital. When I moved here, I got to see desertification in action. Heavily tilled and fertilized land that is totally dependent on irrigation and amendments to grow anything. I watch people move onto properties, cut down all the trees, and scrape all the ground flat, bare, devoid of plant life. It’s no longer soil, it’s dirt that washes away with a good rain and blows away in the wind. An erosion friendly heat sink where nothing can grow.
My strategy in planting in and around the paddocks is aimed at making good use of some of the water that accumulates there when it rains. Over the years, between the horses compacting the dirt, breaking it up when it’s dry so that it blows away when the winds kick up, the overall level of the paddocks is lowering as compared to the perimeter. This makes for some pretty impressive puddles when it does rain. I planted trees in the depressions the horses have already created so that the water will support the growth of the trees instead of just making a mucky mess for the horses to stand in! But also, these trees will provide some shade to this hot, dry area. Over time, and the incorporation of an under story, these areas will provide a much-needed wind break. And if my vision comes to pass as it rests in my mind’s eye, there will be plants the horses can nibble on through the fence that provide variety, medicinal herbs, and the like. A food forest for horses!
The trees arrived a week ago today. Giant root balls that I realized Zach and I could not handle on our own. The awesome delivery guys agreed to help me get the wire cages off the roots and place them in their holes. It took all morning for 3 strong guys to wrestle these beauties into each hole. Thankfully all the holes were big enough, though some just barely! Susan, Dad and I were just amazed by how much different it felt on the property to have them there. It changed everything, even before they were fully planted, and the photos really don’t do it justice! Dad came back in the afternoon and between him, Zach and myself we managed to get the 5 remaining trees planted and the fence to keep the horses away from them built. What a day!
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of the place with these 7 new lives joining us. We all appreciate the bits of shade even the young trees provide. But there’s more to it, a sense of burgeoning life, what’s possible… The beginnings of something fantastic!
On Thursday my vet was here to float teeth all day. When I caught up Huey and headed down there, he became increasingly nervous about what was coming. This is par for the course for Huey, he can get himself pretty wound up. I walked with him for a while as we waited for his turn. Finally, taking him into the paddock where we were doing the teeth floating, turning him away from the vet and the truck so he wouldn’t watch too much and get even more nervous. I let him take me where he wanted to go. He circled as though he would go back out the gate, but when he came parallel to two of the new trees, he stopped dead in his tracks. I could feel him connect to the trees and the trees connect to him. He sighed, lowered his head, and got very grounded. Before I knew it, he was yawning, licking and chewing, releasing all the stress he’d been building up. He was amazing for the vet after that. These trees are already part of the place.
My next step in restoration is to lay down composted manure and straw in the large areas between and around the trees. I’ll plant a fall/winter cover crop full of plants that fix nitrogen in the dirt, some that have large tap roots to punch holes in the compacted clay to let in air and water, plants that will turn this dirt into fertile soil to plant the next layer of trees, shrubs and grasses in next year. The botanist has been back to take a detailed catalogue of the plants that are already growing here. The utilities survey has been done so we know where we can dig in future. Research is being done on the patterns of prevailing winds, temperatures and annual rain fall. Soil samples have been taken. I’m doing homework to fill Val in on things like microclimates I’ve observed where it’s generally cooler, or warmer, or windier. Slowly, the vision for restoration is coming alive in my mind.
And meanwhile, words just can’t describe how much the property is changed already, just with the addition of these trees!