On the edge of my property, well beyond where the grass turns to prairie and after the prairie turns to a forest, if you can call it that, I have a magnificent oak tree. It’s my oak tree. It might straddle my lot line with the neighboring farm, but because that farm likely doesn’t value the oak tree like I do, I’ve decided that it’s mine. I haven’t owned very many oak trees in my life, which mandates I place special importance on this one. It’s obscured mostly from view, it’s green leaves blending in with a deciduous mess of mulberry and walnut and maple, but I know it’s over there, regal and impressive. Important.
Yet for all of the cultural importance we place on oak trees, viewing them as some stalwart of strength and courage, they’re really quite terrible at reproducing. I have this massive oak tree and yet all around it there isn’t a single smaller oak tree to be found. This tree has, presumably, had decades upon decades to find a way to push out at least one acorn that would germinate and grow, and yet, here we are, 2022 and not a single offspring. Maybe that’s why we so prize an Oak Savanah. Because we know how hard it is for this ridiculous trees to give us what we really want: more oak trees.
Further away from the oak tree and closer to my driveway you’ll find the remnants of what was, at one time, a rather impressive clutch of silver maples. Before you think I’m keen on the names of various trees, just know that I only know this is a silver maple patch because of the distinct way that silver maples look like silver maples. They just are, silver maples. This once meaningful patch of trees that used to define the roadside of the old farmstead is now nearly finished. Years ago, the limbs began breaking off during heavy winds or otherwise unruly storms. Now the limbs break off in the slightest of breeze. If it’s too sunny in the afternoon a limb will fall to its rotten death. If it’s too cold, the limbs will fall. If the air is too still, they’ll fall. The trees are dying and they are messy and I rather dislike them now. I have urged them to live but they won’t. Maple trees like these are moody and fatalistic.
In between the oak and the maples and the tree line filled with aspen or something that looks like aspen, are the rest of my trees. There are many mulberry trees, which we know to be invasive here, but the sheer number of the trees led me to make a sign that announces the name of my sorta-farm. Mulberry Hill. It sounded nice and so I had a sign maker make the sign. Between the wildflowers and the vegetables that my wife plants and then leaves to rot and decay back into the soil before contemplating harvest, the birds should very much appreciate my commitment to leaving the wild things alone.
This time of year I spend a few minutes twice a day blowing off one particular section of my driveway. The section runs through my burgeoning walnut forest, and what a forest it is. The walnut trees drop their messy packages of seeds all over my driveway, each landing with a pronounced thud. Some splatter. The packaging of this seed is really quite impressive. The size of a small baseball, they only fall from the tree once the wrapping of the seed is beginning to rot. When they hit the ground the rotting package opens up to reveal a walnut seed. The seed, presumably, grows easily and quickly, fueled by these messy remnants, and like magic, a new walnut tree is born. I have hundreds of these walnut trees. Hundreds of varying shapes and sizes and ages, but still, hundreds. While my maples die and my oak tree suffers through a lifetime of impotence, my walnut trees thrive.
No one likes walnut trees. They’re too messy (see above). They’re too virulent (see above). But everyone loves oak trees, a symbol of strength and courage. Everyone loves maple trees, with their showy fall displays and sweet sap. Yet all I can grow in my soil are the invasive mulberry trees and these walnut trees. I imagine if I died in my home some day and no one was left to wonder about me, soon enough no one would even know there’s a house back in this walnut forest. Without my nippers and saw and watchful eye, the mulberries and walnuts would overtake my property and my house would be swallowed up by the the dark, damp ground. The walnuts would grow from the rotting boards that framed where I once lived. The oak would stand by, letting it all happen, the maples would be too weak to even object. Soon, my house would be but a memory and my property will sell to some developer who would need to purchase it at a severely discounted price.