The place with all the trees: then and now
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Crack willow, fir, old-man pine, oak, elder, silver birch, pear, apple, plum: mature trees (and an established feature of Little Owl Gully when we settled here in 1992), that gave credence to the impression that this was the place with all the trees.
In a purely numbers game, they would barely figure when tallied alongside the number of trees we’ve planted over the last three decades. It’s the then and now comparison that hammers home for me the sheer scale of our various tree planting endeavours.
From our first major planting, thirty years ago, of hundreds of poplar tree poles pushed into soil above a clay pan ripped open by a mole plough, to the last major planting of a hundred mountain lacebark and ribbonwood seedlings. The decades in-between filled with shelterbelt, animal fodder, fruit and native tree establishment successes and failures.
You’re never far from trees on our ten-acre block. We have ample shelter and shade trees for man and beast; a sustainable supply of trees for firewood; willow and poplar for goat fodder; early, mid and late season pip and stone fruit trees; clumps of native trees to delight the senses and attract native birds.
Reflecting on a representative selection of my blog posts, I think to myself, now there’s someone who quite often can’t see the wood for the trees. But what I’ve also discovered, as much from writing about our way of life as by any other means, is that I am getting better, as the Collins dictionary puts it, at not getting so “involved in the details of something” that I fail to “notice what is important about the thing as a whole”.
As homesteaders, we need numerous trees for all sorts of reasons, and by this stage of our Little Owl Gully journey, we have more than enough. So now is the time to say enough is enough.
June has already said it: “That’s it. I’m not planting any more trees.” The “that’s it” is the shelterbelt of ribbonwood and mountain lacebark trees she singlehandedly planted out as seedlings three years ago and nursed until they were well-established young trees.
I wrote about it. That’s the point. You see, I’m working on Natalie Goldberg’s 50 percent rule. She wrote the popular and influential book on writing called Writing Down the Bones, and the only quotation I have on the wall of my writing room comes from that book:
There’s busyness, there’s monkey mind, and then there’s our true heart. What does our true heart want? We have to give it at least 50 percent. Otherwise we fill our whole life with busyness. I have to do this, I’m going there, I’m making that. Daily life is very seductive. Weeks go by and we forget who we are.