My dad has a tree farm in southern Virginia and asked that we help plant some longleaf pines. Just about 2,000 of them or so. Easy!
I told my dad I was going to blog about it and asked for a quote or summary. He said it would be a very long quote and started by telling us that there used to be 93 million acres of longleaf pine in the South, but now it’s down to 3 million. Then he cut himself off and said, “the quote you want is this: trees are more than wood and a forest is more than trees.”
It’s not just preserving the tree species or the wood itself, but the ecosystem that comes with the forest. My dad says some people really like the “critters” that come with the forest; he doesn’t care about the critters in particular but enjoys the ecosystem the forest creates. That said, he did mention that he hopes the quail come back like five times, so I think he’s secretly into the quail.
The way to plant the seedlings is to poke a hole and drop the seed. Pretty simple (and ripe with “that’s what she said” hole-related jokes), and the pros can do one tree every seven seconds. We would not be so efficient. There weren’t enough pokin’ sticks or tree pouches for each of us, which actually worked out OK because we were perfectly content to break into teams of pokers and planters (except my brother’s friend, who was a one-man team).
The Virginia Department of Forestry had come by the day before and created some furrows for us, but it turned out that this actually made the work harder because the ground was so packed in certain cases. The work was not particularly difficult but was very tedious and “relentless,” as my dad put it. The most difficult part was the fact that the difficulty of poking the hole was unpredictable, so you couldn’t really get into a rhythm. In parts where the earth was not so tightly packed it wasn’t so bad, but some parts were like concrete.
My dad conveniently disappeared with his hoe and hoed around until there were only 45 minutes of daylight left. We worked for six hours and planted approximately 1,700 seedlings – just shy of our goal, but not bad for a bunch of unprofessional tree planters.
Boomer hung out by the fire with my mom. Boomer is a fat city dog who probably wasn’t psyched about sitting in the woods all day, but reportedly was very well behaved – especially when he figured out that he could still see me from where he was sitting. So, he was protecting me all day. Good job, Boomer.
We did have some adventures trying to leave the forest at the end of the day. My brother’s friend’s car battery died, so we were still out there when the sun went down. Even my dad had never been there at night and didn’t realize how truly dark it was out there. 100000% horror movie intro material. Luckily we got out of there before all the serial killers that are no doubt hiding on his land came out of their secret bunkers.
There is also not much cell phone reception out there, so although we were told which hotel we were staying at, we realized (too late) that we didn’t know how to get there. We vaguely remembered how we entered the forest so we at least were able to get back to the main road, but then started going east when we needed to go west. Horror movie sequel.
We were rewarded for our efforts with a Cracker Barrel dinner. I even went off my dairy/gluten-avoidance thing and had some damn mac n’ cheese.
In addition to the work needing to be done, my dad said he also wanted us to plant the trees so we would appreciate and/or feel somewhat connected to the land and maybe consider not just turning it into a parking lot after he takes the glory road. I’m looking forward to keeping this particular patch of forest un-paved so I can see how my personal trees grow up. I don’t care about the trees the other guys planted. Eff those trees.