An Affinity For Tree Groves


I have been cuddling up lately to the woodstove and giving thanks for my good fortune in being able to do so. When we could finally afford to buy our own land, my wife and I were determined to get a tract that had a woodlot on it and fortunately we were able to do that. My thinking, even in the early seventies was that I wanted my own source of fuel and in my mind, that meant some established woodland so I could commence staying warm immediately. But thinking about that while sitting by the fire, I was overcome by what I believe everyone refers to today as an epiphany. I realized that practical considerations about staying warm were probably not the real reason I wanted to live in the woods. It was suddenly apparent to me that I had spent almost all my life in or next to groves of trees. Even when I went to work in Philadelphia, we found, in the suburbs, a house that had a wild tree grove at the back end of it. And most mornings, by choice, I walked through woodland to get to the train that took me into the city. Even out my office window, there was Washington Square, a grove of trees for sure, smack dab in the middle of the city.

Before that we lived in an enchanting grove in a log cabin in the countryside near Indiana University. Before that, the seminary schools in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota were all located in or next to woodland. And before that, I haunted the woodlots on and contiguous to our home farm. I wasn’t intentionally picking out these places. I was not captain of my ship but just drifting along trying to stay sane in what was for me a rather insane world. Unwittingly, I think, I gravitated toward woodland because it was always my sanctuary, my retreat from human turmoil.

Then, as I sat by the woodstove, I realized something even more intriguing. Most of the people I know and admire, among them a few quite famous people, also have or had this seemingly seminal attraction to the forest. Mark Twain is my favorite writer, and all you have to do is read his essay about the tree groves on his boyhood farm to know how important woodland was to him. (It’s in the new Autobiography of Mark Twain on pages 214- 220.) Here is part of a sentence from page 220: “I was ashamed and also lost; and it was while wandering in the woods hunting for myself that I found a deserted log cabin…” etc. This very same exact experience happened to me! Andrew Wyeth, my favorite painter, loved the forests of Maine. He told me that even blindfolded, he could tell what kind of evergreen he was standing under by the sound the wind made blowing through it. I did not know Alfred Kinsey, who had owned the log cabin and woodland we lived in when I was attending Indiana University, but I much admired his resolve in investigating sexual matters few others had the courage to consider at his time. Not many people know this but his hobby was filling his grove with wildflowers from all over Indiana. Wendell Berry, my friend, is a great lover of woodland. He does most of his writing in a cabin in the woods. My other hero, Harlin Hubbard, lived in the woods along the Ohio River in a house he built from the trees around him. Also I much admire Scott and Helen Nearing who not only lived in the woods but made a living from it. Current heroes and champion market gardeners, Andy Reinhart and Jan Dawson, live in the woods and a make a living from a clearing on the edge of it.

So I venture to ask: how many of you reading this live in or next to woodland? Or would if you could?  Can you articulate your affinity for trees? Is it something that is in all humans, but perhaps stronger in some than others? Is it practical security or philosophical sanctuary that draws us to the woods? If pioneer diaries can be believed, when Americans were clearing the forest primeval, lots of people, perhaps most, disliked the gloom of the deep forest and could not wait to clear it away. Then, at some point, something in us said we were going too far.

Give me something to think about. Make me come down with another confounded epiphany.


We have two spots of woods, and my husband occasionally says we could clear that out and have more pasture, but I always object. I don’t mind if he wants to cut a few trees, or just leave them to grow old and fall to be homes for beetles and feed woodpeckers. One spot is surrounding a pond with mainly willow and popples. The other is planted pine. Both are good for walking and looking at wildlife. A few times I have almost been hit by a woodcock that flies up suddenly from it’s hiding place.

I’ve been out back at my parents place lately. Tupelo, sassafras, oak, maple and holly- that’s what’s there, along with the Clethra and Arrowood. I built a tree-house for my daughter and son in a multi-stem maple. Sometimes you can sit up there, quiet and listen to the turkeys rustling about in the undergrowth. To see them, it’s a treat. My parents are getting older so I’ve been over the stone wall harvesting wood from the big, blown-down maple and the nice oak that split at its weak spot half-way up. Nice wood, good burning wood for Mom and Dad next year. My stack of wood- I’m proud of it. It marks time for me. It’s got an array of browns in it that make me pleased. When I’m done with the cutting and splitting for the day, I go around our holey first shed, pass the cottoneaster that my Dad stuck there years ago, stop and look back. That stacked line of cut maple and sassafras and oak sure looks special in the afternoon sun. The middle of my cord tumbled ever so neatly to the ground recently. I put it back together.

Gene, you really struck a chord with me this time. I have slowly but surely been developing a love for woodland, and it’s only getting stronger. The woods provide a sanctuary, harmony, and, for me, a certain spirituality. One of my best experiences came during a hike with friends. We separated for a bit, so in the meantime I sat down next to a hillside stream and relaxed. It was one of the best feelings I have felt, suddenly content and at peace. Thank you, Gene, for another great essay.

B Dub wrote: “I love my trees, except for about 2-3 weeks in the fall when the leaves have fallen, the color is gone, and I have to rake all the (*&^%&(( leaves.”

What do you do with them after you rake them? I hope you’re using them for mulch, in which case, I wouldn’t grudge such a gift too much!

And if you’re bagging them and putting them at the curb, I hope you can find someone besides the garbage man to come and take the soil health you’re exporting!

Stop raking. Be happy.

I love my trees, except for about 2-3 weeks in the fall when the leaves have fallen, the color is gone, and I have to rake all the (*&^%&(( leaves.

I, too, love trees. I am fortunate to work at a state-run veteran’s home that was originally opened in 1886. We have an amazing oak grove out back. Every morning I make sure to come in the entrance that takes me along a stream and beneath the trees.

Gene, you asked us to give you something to think about. Well, I’d suggest checking out the blog Laudator Temporis Acti. Today’s post (Friday, 28-Jan) is titled, “Vive Bidentis Amans,” (live in love with your two-pronged hoe.)

Here is the blog’s description:

Roots and branches: observations on trees, languages, lexicography, etymology, etc., by a “laudator temporis acti,” a “praiser of time past” (Horace, Ars Poetica 173).

And from his profile:

Michael Gilleland is an antediluvian, bibliomaniac, and curmudgeon.

I see that I confused the names Farmer Deb and Deb Wengert.That is so like me. Sorry. And thanks for sharing you song lyrics, Jim.
John Wilcox, I never have to cut a live tree down either. Always plenty of dead ones coming along. Gene Logsdon

We have been living small and saving for 10 years, and just this fall had the ability to buy 80 acres of forestland in southwest Oregon. It’s been logged before, no undisturbed old-growth here… but it’s the only private land in the entire township. Surrounded by hundreds of acres of unbroken BLM forestland… and once you reach the end of the to the west, you enter the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. We could leave our front door and walk for days without seeing another building. No one in my set of family or co-workers understands why we’d want to do such a thing (buy forestland, with no roads or electricity or plumbing, and away from all the shopping malls and city conveniences), but I think many of you would understand. My husband and I are looking forward to spending the rest of our lives tending to our spot of forest, protecting one piece from greed.

I love reading everyone’s comments.You can see history here on the North Calif. coast, flat land became pasture for animals. Animals were more valuable then trees then.Even though they had to clear the land of redwoods(selling them to rebuild San Francisco after the earthquake)dynamiting out the stumps.Turning the flat coastal plain into pasture.
We are pioneers, having bought some flat land in our area.We and more of the local farmers here, have hacked out an area in the forests, we can’t afford to buy the cleared plain area, owned still by old farming families in large tracts.We’ve had to build up this forest soil with manures and compost to be able to grow food for our local economy.
Our wood lot’s all around us. It’s beautiful and sometimes a lot of work.

What an outpouring of response! I love you all. W.A., you guessed it correctly, I am starting a book about woodland, which is what prompted me to ask readers what their thoughts were on the subject. As to your question about planting seeds or transplants, my experience is that in four years or so, you can’t tell the difference as far as growth goes. But the transplant is more apt to die in the first year or two. On the other hand, the seed is liable to get eaten by some wildling. But planting seed is much easier than transplants.Brad Brookins: I prefer living on the edge of woodland too, not in deep forest. The years we lived in a log cabin in the heart of a tree grove, we sometimes felt the days were a bit on the gloomy side or that we needed bigger windows. If it had been my property, i would have cut down more of the trees in the yard to lighten up the scene. Granny Miller: I am burning some cherry now too, for the same reason. The timber buyer didn’t want it. It seems criminal to burn such beautiful wood. SECook: I too am watching a woodlot being born on an old pasture. It is very interesting. Where there are oak trees nearby, little oaks are coming on strong. But out in the middle of the field, the only trees and bushes so far are the ones you mention. I am grateful for the trees already growing because in many places deer are so numerous they eat all the acorns and any little seedlings as they come up unless protected with plastic tubes. On the one I watch, multiflora rose is so thick in some parts that you can’t walk through it. I am hoping that keeps the deer away until the oaks and hickories etc. come in. I am starting my own new woodlot too, and will have more to say after I have some more experience. Roof, I think there’s a poet hiding out in your heart. Robert R. I must get that book, Global Forest. Thanks. Thanks to all of you so much. I have had experiences almost exactly like the ones all of you relate— like that errant pear tree, Deb Wengert. You have helped out tremendously in convincing me that a book on this subject is in order. Gene

I love to lose myself iny woods, sit still too long and the wild things forget you are there. One night at my chapel in the woods, I was sitting too still, just praying at dusk in mid summer, listening to all the birds sing away the final beams of sun. I was suddenly aware of a shadow getting bigger and closer, to the point that it startled me. I looked up to see a (barred) owl about to land on my head. My movement surprised him and he instead landed about 6 or 7 feet above me and stared down at me as if I had done something rude to him. I, of course proceeded to tell him that I was a live person. He sat there a minute and was off. I have surprised fawns, been surprised by does, and all sorts of other wildlife like raccoons, possums, fox, rabbit, and coyote.
I heat with wood, mostly scrap or cull lumber, I take advantage of my locust grove for both fence posts and honey production, and I love to look out my windows in the winter and see deep into the snow covered woods, which seem impenetrable at the peak of summer.
I have one section of woods and wetland that I allow my goats and sheep to graze, and I am regularly complimented on the beauty of that piece of land.
I like to think that my woods, my stream, my meadows, and my wetlands have a simbiotic relationship. I would like to include man in that relationship, but I don’t think they really get anything from us!
Hey Gene, are you ever near Akron?? I would love to meet you some day.

We have a very small {1/2 acre} wood plot which separates our house from the old graveyard. I do not feel all these trees give gloom but more isolation from others. Maybe the poineers longed to take away the feeling of isolation which they possibly associated with being surrounded by the woodlands. More sunshine touching the land and less shadow cast by the tall limbs. Being surrounded by trees has given me a feeling of security as well as a feeling of being surrounded with my own rustic world.Feeling closer to Mother Earth. Possibly it has to do with modern society over populating. Housing so close together, a car would barely fit between. That we yearn for the trees to surround us. Giving us space and isolation we are often deprived of in modern society.
I am not a philosopher but see the lack of connection many have lost by leaving the wild unknown behind. As they say, the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence.

I live on not just quite a quarter of an acre in a smallish town south of Portland, Oregon, and while I can go see trees anytime I want to, I still want my own woodlot. There is a patch of ground to the right of the driveway as you’re facing the house that has, mmmm…, four oak saplings on it and a native filbert, AKA hazelnut. Hazels can be coppiced, and this is the tiny part of my little homestead (I’m trying) that will be my part-time woodlot- the plan is get a couple of black locust trees, which can also be coppiced, and use this for firewood every once in awhile. I hope to plant mountain lilacs, AKA ceanothus under the locusts to remind me not to mess around the roots, which will sucker if disturbed. Between the locusts and the lilacs, I should have good bee forage. My only hope is that I don’t have problems down the road with the driveway, or the neighbor’s lawn.

If I had a couple acres, I’d let’em rip, but as it is, I have to plant and hope that I can keep my little woodlot under control. If not, it’ll should make for a pretty grove anyway!

I spent much of my youth about 20 feet up in a huge maple in a platform my Dad built for us kids to play in — when I wasn’t about 50 feet up the same tree in the “crow’s nest,” a shipping crate I hauled up there and nailed in. I used to love to fall asleep there, moving gently back and forth in the wind.

Now we’ve got a dozen-acre woodlot, but it’s a half-mile walk from the house. But we’ve got a dozen or so hundred-year-old pear trees around the house that I cherish — there’s 30 gallons of “perry” fermenting in a barrel right now!

But there’s another dimension that I cherish and wouldn’t want to be without, something more rare than a tree, or perhaps even more rare than a small forest: a stream. The youth I didn’t spend in a tree (or school) was often spent at the bank of a stream with a fishing pole, or skating on one in the winter.

David Holmgren, co-founder of Permaculture, wrote that “In the future, the wealth of nations will be measured by the size and health of their forests.” I can’t agree more, but fear that as fossil energy declines, most nations will cut down all their trees, rather than live within their solar budget. If you look at the history of settlement of North America, the only reason we have any forests left at all is because coal (and later, oil) gave us something else to burn besides trees. One need look no further than the Mediterranean to see what prior civilizations did to their forests.

Wow! Lots of great comments. I am surrounded by trees, in body and spirit. I walk in them, cut ’em down, heat with them, and plant ’em. I planted about 1.2 million back when I was a tree planter. Mostly, I like to walk my dog through the woods these days. I think that you have touched a deep part of our collective psyche, Gene.

There is only one tree here that has a name…la abuela…grandmother. She towers over the other trees along her part of the skyline. She doesn’t dominate the entire skyline. There are many others of her stature around the compass. But right now, for me, only she has a name. I don’t know why she’s told me her name and the others haven’t yet. I believe it has to do with listening. Perhaps I’ve listened to her more than some of the others, and she’s allowed me to know her name. I do know that the only way to have a relationship with any tree is to listen. Other than acknowledging my respect, if I’m humble enough to have any, there’s nothing I have to say to the trees that the trees give a shit about. But oh my, what they can tell me and teach me if I listen well.

Trees and flat open, lands are not in contradiction but in balance. The creator does not want all of one thing but a balance. Even this simple wisdom escapes us much of the time. We fail to listen and the trees and the grasses laugh at us. Though I imagine it is mostly a bitter laugh rather than a merry one.

There were not always trees. In earlier times there were the flowers and the grasses and the clovers, and the cattle and sheep and buffalo grazed indiscriminately. The grasses implored the creator for respite, and the creator put trees into the soil. Seeing the trees, the flowers and the others said to the buffalo and his kin, “these trees are our brothers and sisters, given by the creator”. Seeing the trees towering over them, the sheep and the cattle and the others said, “we acknowledge the creator’s wishes and we will graze more carefully, helping to restore the balance that is the creator’s intent.

I didn’t have the fortune to be born a tree. The creator, in her wisdom, placed me at the foot of these elders and bid me to learn what I can. Its not easy, and I wish for those in similar circumstances that they are able to listen well.

I too love forests, and I think a mature woodlot can be a forest, at least in our imaginations. Why do we love them? They are giants, life operatic. They are dramatically productive. They sparkle with beauty. Forests manifest both life and death. They have eternal peace we can sense. We can harvest amazing wealth, or let it be, to marvel in wonder. When we cut and manipulate, we see and feel a loss afterwards, like remembering our youth and missing loved ones. Forests don’t need us, but we need them.

Our place is only 1.25 acres, but it’s in WA state, so we got trees. The tribal land across the road was logged over some time ago, but has cedar, big leaf maples, cottonwoods, vine maples, and some up & coming doug firs.

Our place (Seven Trees, after the 7 fir trees) is set in the middle of 7 old growth Douglas firs. The biggest one we call Grandfather Tree. It’s about 6 feet across near the base, and maybe 500+ yrs old. The smallest is maybe only a couple hundred. The amazing part is that our house is an original homestead, built in 1920 by old-school Norwegians. And they made a conscious choice to leave these trees as they cleared the surrounding land. There are stumps of other trees, too close to the house, that must have been taken out when they posed a threat. But the ones left shade us in summer, block wind, rain & snow in winter, and provide habitat for owls, songbirds, bats, native squirrels, etc.

If pragmatic Scandihoovians felt it important to leave a grove of trees on their otherwise-cleared stead, how can we modern folk not have even more respect for the grace that trees bestow on our everyday life.

Another comment-I went to a lecture a couple of weeks ago in Ft. Worth-Diana Beresford-Kroeger-I bought her book “The Global Forest”-she also has a couple of talks on Youtube- an amazing woman. I wish you could meet her Gene- she is as fun to read as you are! Her message resonates with yours.

My trees make me happy.

We heat(and cook)with wood too. Nothing keeps your warmer – except maybe coal.

About 40 acres of our 74 acres is in hard woods and soft woods. We have enough wood to last 5 lifetimes. Sadly the bottom fell out of the hardwood market here in western Pennsylvania and we can’t hardly give the wood away these days. Without regular harvesting the woods and the animals suffer.

Now days we heat and cook with premium Pennsylvania cherry – such a waste really. The cherry and maple would make beautiful floors and furniture.

I love my woodlots.
But don’t think I’d miss them if they disappeared tomorrow. I would do just fine with an occasional stand of trees and hedge row here and there to break up the landscape.

What I would miss about my home is the rolling green hills with the sporadic outcropping of rocks
(…well maybe not when I’m brush hogging).
I have an affinity for undulating green and sometimes soggy pasture land.

I don’t know how people who live on the plains can stand it – the landscape seems so flat and exposed me – the sky is too big. I would feel like a rabbit waiting for a hawk to find me.

I grew up in Granville, Ohio, a small town with tree lined streets. We were surrounded and covered by trees while growing up and I use to be amazed at my grandfathers farm where there was so much open pasture and you could see so far! We now live on my grandfathers place, farming, near the Flintridge area of Ohio. The old house is still there, occupied by my cousin and his family, still surrounded by some of the old trees that were there when I was just a child. We live at the top of the hill across from the old house, in what used to be crop land. Below the crest of the hill is a woodlot in progress. It used to be crops, but was left fallow for the better part of 30 years as it became too much for my grandfather to do it all. It grew up alone in dogwoods, wild cherry, crabapple, sweet shrub, and multiflora rose so thick you only had to look at it to be caught by it.
I’m amazed that there are no other hardwoods started in the woodlot and wonder if you or anyone else can give me an idea why?
I love being under the trees and feel safer with them as opposed to being out in the open.

Great challenge, Gene. I agree with Mark Twain; usually when I go into the woods, I’m hunting for myself. It’s a great place to meditate. I live in a small valley that I call Serendipity, because we were looking for another place when we stumbled onto it. Real estate agent was just putting the signs up. It was home at first sight: old growth 80 foot tall poplar, ash, walnut, hickory, even a small paw paw patch. Creek runs through it, spring fed. 90 acre state owned woods to the east. 100 feet north of my property is one of the best fishing lakes in Ohio; the state of Ohio stocks it, and doesn’t allow motors of any kind. On the east end of the lake is a fen where we built a two mile trail fifteen years ago. I’ve seen birds there I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I was walking with my mother at my father’s burial, and she asked me if I went to church. I told her that I was in a church when I left my house. After about fifteen seconds she smiled, and said that was a good way to put that.

My woodburner has glass doors, and in the winter evenings serves as a nightlight. Watching blue flames leap from the coals and thinking about what that tree had witnessed is a great way to spend a cold evening. History channel indeed.

Here you go:
“Spending time in nature makes people feel more alive, study shows”

It’s not just you, Gene. You’re probably right that being in nature affects different people differently, but it seems to work with just about everyone.

“Across all methodologies, individuals consistently felt more energetic when they spent time in natural settings or imagined themselves in such situations. The findings were particularly robust, notes Ryan; being outside in nature for just 20 minutes in a day was enough to significantly boost vitality levels.”

When we moved back to Thistledew Farm in 2001, the first thing Sara did was hand plant a 5 acre pasture into a woods with a first planting of 3000 seedlings. My little finger is still permanently bent from spray painting the 8 ft. distance of many rows and we’ve replanted deer and vole nibbled spots over and over again. The young man from OSU who came out to check our work (dressed in a thin windbreaker and tasseled shoes in March) asked us why we wanted to do so much work for something we’d never live long enough to see. My first inclination was to bury him next to a hawthorn, but we patiently explained that it would bring happiness to someone who probably hadn’t been born yet. (A little bit of book learning is sometimes worse than none.) The trees will continue long after we’ve disappeared.

Great article, I am from just down the road from you, Gene, in Marion. I grew up on the west side near the now defunct Edison Middle School in the 60s when there was still a woods next to the school that extended over route 739 to what is now Sawyer Ludwig Park.

The woods next to the school are long gone, chopped and bulldozed down in about 1971 or 2 I suppose because of a couple of reasons, one to remove the one place we could not get caught smoking and the other to open up the ditch known as Shit Crick that used to meander from Sawyers around behind the school and on to the Scioto somewhere west. Of course, they also bulldozed the perfectly functional school too and now bus the kids across town.

The crick no longer meanders through woods; it is a blighted 40 foot wide, 20 foot deep, treeless scrape in the ground. The shit runs freely now I suppose?

The whole system used to drain the Marion Power Shovel that was a sprawling 2 mile long factory that employed thousands including my grandfather and father. They closed that when the Erie railroad went out and the Shovel was sold off in 1976 I suppose.

The point being even a small wood was something magical to us kids. We lived in those woods in all seasons having BB gun battles and ice skating on the pond in the park. Even with the industrial sludge water it was wilderness to us.

I have had an affinity for the woods ever since. Though I have not lived in Ohio for 13 years I still go look at the woods to see if they have destroyed the rest yet every time I visit.

I also spent a lot of time around Prospect, Oh growing up as my parents split when I was a small child and my dad lived outside Prospect in the woods. Those woods were full of sugar maples that an old farmer had been tapping for decades. He had an old sugar shack in a clearing that was completely full of buckets. It sat next to about a quarter acre pond. He also ran about 50 sheep in the woods so all the trees were clear of brush up to about 6 feet so you could walk through the whole hundred acres without getting caught up in brush. Those woods have been split in two getting ready for a new sub-division that was postponed due to the latest tank in the economy. The shack is long gone and the pond was filled in by the new farmer who plants it in corn or beans and wonders why it always washes out. You can see where it used to be on google maps.

I have read all of your books, Gene, as well as Nearing’s, Berry’s, and Hubbard’s. You are my favorite writer. I have followed all of you for years as I have moved all over the country and have tried my hand at homesteading in the TN woods in 1982-3 using your books as guidance.

Unfortunately, as all your readers know, it is difficult to drop your source of income and raise kids and live above poverty in the woods so I have tried to live the best that I can raising a garden wherever I go and hiking in the woods every chance I get. I fully intend to move back into the countryside once my kids are out of college and on their own.

I really appreciate your local stories having grown up there; some of my family were founders of Morral, OH so I recognize names and places. It really makes me want move back at times but then reality sets in and I remember I am stuck in the rat race. I am still in TN but live in a city. I am sorry but I don’t really share your love of winter.
Keep up the good work.

I built my small house, deliberately, in a small clearing within a circle of trees. In the summer trees are all I see on the perimeters of the property. A couple of red oaks are about 6-ft in diameter, “the old girls.”

Harlan Hubbard is also my hero, my extended family actually helped pull his boat out of the ice in Daviess Co. Ky on his epic voyage. I also see Wendell Barry speak every chance I get. I bought about a hundred acres of wild land in eastern Ky several years ago and am just getting around to settling there in fits and starts. It is very hilly and remote and it can be isolating to stay there. I love getting lost in the woods. Losing time, losing care. It’s great to explore again, to look at all the tiny wonders. It helps me find my place in the world and calms me. I have trouble sometimes leaving all the worry behind. I worry about what we are doing to our planet and about my own security in the world. I admire Harlan Hubbard for his courage and belief in his own abilities. I am now about the same age he was when he built his boat. I’m about to take my own plunge.

Thanks for a great article.

I grew up in the UK next to woodland and spent much of my early childhood wandering around in the woods. From the age of 20 to 45 I lived in central London. I now live in the French Pyrenees at 2,500ft surrounded by deciduous forest. There’s definitely something in the DNA that calls us to the woods.

Living on the edge of a small town on the Canadian West Coast, looking E or W I see forest: N is a grove of trees; S is several open lots and then a treed lot. So yes, we’re in the trees here.

It runs in the family too: my mother was always planting (small) trees in her tiny yard in the UK, and at 80 is still planting them.

So the other day, as I walked back and forth across the snow among the trees in a local park, pretending to be in the woods, I realized my next goal is to live somewhere I don’t have to drive to get to the woods.

To walk out the door and walk easily to and into the woods…

Though my heart is drawn to edges, to ecotones, to savannas and riparian zones, not the deep deep woodsy places: those for visiting, not residing.

This only repeats your post’s insights, but those insights form part of my imagined story and perhaps that of many urban dwellers.

I am a tree lover. For sure. My house is surrounded on 3 sides by towering 100 yr old pines. Other side there is a grove of maples, birch, walnut that my children call “The fairy circle.” I have a couple huge oaks in the front yard, along with a few re maples.

I could not live where there are no trees. Never. I look at new houses being built, all naked without any trees around, and I wonder how anyone could live there.
Walking or riding my horse through the bush is the best way for me to find peace, be still.

Yep. Love trees.

I cannot afford to buy much land, but I find myself closer to that goal than ever before, not yet in my 30s. The piece on which I’ve made an offer is only 2 1/4 acres, and house and land need plenty of work. Not a tree standing on the whole site. Sure, I’d love to see a stand of mature hardwoods and nut trees, and especially a fruit orchard, but I’m also attracted to the blank slate before me. I’m excited and overwhelmed thinking of the possibilities and pitfalls, which is why I’m making an extensive guide of native tree species for my area.

If I buy this property, every tree that grows will have been placed in the earth by me, whether by seed or transplant. My dad seems to think seed mashed into the ground will take a longer time to mature than a transplanted seedling, as opposed to what you’ve written to the contrary. (All things being equal, will the seed outgrow the transplant in several years time?) But, I pointed out to my father that his transplanted, now-mature oak stands alone and doesn’t fight for sun and water. I wish my grandfather was still alive to settle this issue. I just want as large a variety of trees that the land will support and to see them reach full maturity (and in the meantime gather some pecans, walnuts, and peaches for snacks and pie). I love pie, therefore I love trees.

Having read most of your books, I don’t understand why you haven’t published one specifically on trees. I suppose a lot of people already have written tomes about the subject. But, perhaps the contrary farmer already has this book in the works? One can hope.

Our farm is as close to perfect as can be. It is 3/4s pasture and meadow surrounded by mixed hardwood forest. One grove is full of hickory and oak and the floor of the forest is park like from the shade the big trees produce. Covered with nuts and leaves it is a paradise for woodland creatures, large and small.

Another area is mostly walnut. It is steeply hilled there so gathering nuts is an adventure.

This year I discovered a pear tree on the fringe of one wooded area. I have tried to grow pears for 12 years and failed. I currently have 4 dead and one nearly dead pear trees around the homestead that need to be removed. But this pear tree, on the edge of locust, hickory and dogwood, thrives. This year it produced a good crop of pears, small, russeted, gritty. I have several jars of them in the pantry waiting for the day I’m brave enough to taste 🙂 Was it planted here by some homesteader 100 years ago or did it sprout from seed dropped by a bird or coon? Whichever, it seems not only to self-pollinate, but also to resist all the diseases that have set upon my domesticated fruit.

I don’t heat with wood as neither my husband nor I can handle the tools to cut wood. I envy those who do. Perhaps one day I will find someone who would stock us with wood in exchange for his or her own share. Then I will join you folks who toast over an open flame as winter rages outside.

Gene, like you, I love the trees. The only thing I love better is mountains–I would never be able to survive in the “flatlands”. We have a mixed conifer forest on our 165 acres: a wide variety of different oaks, madrone, Douglas firs, Ponderosa pines, sugar pines and cedars. Maybe our tree affinity is an ancestral memory of the arboreal forests we used to swing through:-). Or maybe it’s because trees give us so much: wood for everything from housing to warmth to furniture to spoons; medicines; shade; animal feed; wind shelters; warmth; beauty. Not to mention providing homes for a myriad number of birds, animals, fungi and insects. I don’t think the liking for trees is innate, though. Or maybe life experiences can suppress it; I have a friend who was abused as a child, and she prefers open spaces so she can see danger coming. Maybe that was the reason some pioneers wanted to clear it away–they were dealing with a lot more potentially dangerous situations. I love living in the middle of a forest!

We moved from our flat 20 acre farm in MI to the Ozarks and now proudly treasure this 120 acres with 80 of that in woods. Oak,maple,black walnut,sycamore,cedar,pine,river birch. Each year we try to plant more trees plus we have had the woods logged once and work with the state forester in management of the forest. We have made trails throughout for walking and are so fortunate to have thousands more acres of national forestland nearby. But my favorite tree is still the giant Chinese Elm that shades our barnyard…so big she started to split so we had her cabled–no cheap endevour but worth it to us. We are tree people,too! DEE

I’m from Mississippi, and for most of my life I thought I loved forests. Then we moved to Nevada, and I realized that while I do miss the trees, what I really crave is solitude, open spaces, and being away from people. A woodlot makes it easy to pretend that you’re alone – living in Nevada (or any of the mountain west states) makes it easy to BE alone.

With that said, I jump on any chance I get to go to the California Sierras and walk among real live trees. 🙂

I grew up next to woodland and spent a lot of my time playing there by ponds, streams, climbing trees and making dens. A don’t live by woodland now and increasingly miss, I always have to walk in the woods when we visit my parents.

Me and my 4 year old son had two great trips where we played by the streams I used to play in, making dams, making clays characters, etc… I’m a big fan of forest school education. Unfortunately my wife doesn’t seem to like woods at all, she didn’t grow up with them and seems to find it unnerving in some way.

I’ve just joined a woodland conservation volunteer group who work on the other side of town which is good for my soul. I would love to live next to and maintain a small woodland one day.

We have about a 15 acre wood lot…but I can’t stand cutting down a living tree. So far we have enough dead falls to see our way through. I love cataloging the different species and their characteristics, looking at how they have grown in competition with the trees around them, and what their defects are. I’ve identified a number of “defective” trees that will be the first to come down…when the need arises. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the trees and the wildlife (deer, red tail hawks, etc) that they support.

Maybe I’m the contrarian today, but I can’t breath easily in deep woods. I’ll take the forest edge looking out on a pasture or prairie, or better yet, the middle of an oak savanna. It’s certainly a character flaw, but I can’t walk through a forest without looking at all the firewood. Out on a savanna I listen to the tree stories that range as wide as the branches of the oaks.

Hi Gene,

Below are the lyrics to a song I performed at a 30 year celebration of Earth Day. I’m sorry I can’t send you a recording here, but I hope the lyrics stand on their own. I wrote it while having my own epiphany while sitting under a grove of sycamores alongside the Shenandoah River. Best wishes.

Standing My Ground
Copyright Jim Emberger 2000

I’m here between the earth and sky,
A home for all that climb or fly,
And shelter for those passing by where I’m standing.
Standing, standing my ground.

A sunlit day is all I need.
None must die so I may feed.
Others feast on my fruit and seeds where I’m standing.

I shape the earth though I have no hands.
I slow the rains and hold the sands
I am the steward of the lands where I’m standing.
Standing, standing my ground.

I battle winds and sweeten air,
Shade the soil from the sun’s hot stare,
Life-filled waters run cool and clear where I’m standing.

I never leave my patch of earth
My place of death is my place of birth
My lifeless body still has worth where I’m standing.
Standing, standing my ground.
Standing, standing my ground

So if our paths should cross one day
I cannot yield the right of way,
All I ask is you let me stay where I’m standing.

And in return I’ll save your dreams
Clean your air and clean your streams
Your act of mercy will be redeemed where I’m standing.

The floods will be held back by me
All this and more I’ll do for free
If only you will let me be where I’m standing.
Standing my ground.
Standing, standing my ground.

I stand, therefore I am.

Standing, standing my ground.

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