Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Giants of Good Hand Farm

I believe that planting a tree is an act of faith.  And even love.

Here at Good Hand Farm, we thank God frequently for two massive Sugar maples that shade our home during these long summer days.  And in addition to summer cooing, they readily welcome the sun’s warming rays through their leafless winter canopies.

Maple shade: The farmhouse is cool at noon.
While we thank Him for creating these spectacular trees, we also thank Him for an unknown man – or woman –around 200 years ago, who had the faith to plant these giants. For a couple of decades, they protected them from deer and drought, with little or no payback in syrup or shade.  Two centuries later, our home is pleasant in the summer because of their faith in unseen blessings to come.

Of course, trees also absorb CO2.  But the math isn’t all that compelling, taken in isolation.  A 25-year-old maple absorbs 2.4 lbs. of CO2 per year.  Let’s say that on average, our ancient giants have accounted for 10 lbs. per year, or one ton each since they were planted in about 1800.  That sounds great, but the average American generates about 20 tons of CO2 per year.  These giants are working hard, but they can never keep up with the effects of our carbon binge.

But let’s not write off the trees too fast.  Unlike almost everyone we know, we hardly ever run the AC at our house.  The first rays of the summer sun hit our roof around noon, and we capture the nighttime breeze as much as possible.  The maples are contributing to sustainable living, even without the magic of photosynthesis.

Dying maple now threatens motorists & wires
Today, however, the searing summer heat that regularly grips the Northeast is killing off Sugar maples by the thousands (millions?).   In fact, we’re losing another one this summer.  We have to take it down before it falls on the electric lines along the road.   Early this spring, we had to cut down an ancient apple tree before it did the same.

The fact is – whatever the cause – trees die.  That’s why we plant so many around here.  Seven tall poplars planted ten years ago give us a gentle rustle on breezy days.  An oak tree from 2004 is just beginning to cast afternoon shade on the house.  A Colorado spruce from 2005 adds that distinctive powder blue to our roadside.
Two Norway spruces have stood sentry in our southern yard since 2006. Four Fraser firs are just reaching waist height here and there.  Four Red maples are casting bits of dark shade after four years in the ground.  Four young Red oaks are clinging to life in their protective cages in the pasture, despite our horses’ craving for their leaves.  The world’s largest weed, the Weeping willow, now shelters our chickens from the summer’s heat, after only four years.  And this spring, we planted a young Sycamore for eventual morning shade on our southern roof.

New Oaks (l), Spruces (c), Poplars and Maples (r) replace inevitable losses
Most fun of all, however, is our seedling nursery.  Every fall, we collect acorns from favorite trees when visiting parks, forests and campuses.  And in the spring, we dig up the sprouted seedlings and plant them in pots, to be tended for transplanting.  For now, our chicken yard has been pressed into service as a tree nursery, although the chickens are not always the best arborists.  But soon, we hope to have young oaks lining our farm lane, pasture and roadside.

Oak seedlings to be set out this fall
So, if you come by Good Hand Farm, ask us for an oak seedling.  We’d be glad for you to find a home for a new tree.  In a century or two, someone just might thank God for your faith.  And your love.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

“For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.  Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Gospel of John 4:37

More images of Good Hand Farm Trees

Colorado spruce (l) and Fraser fir (r) with solar panels beyond.
The oak nursery:  Little trees for you to raise?
Midday Willow shade for our layers and their rooster
Gain and loss: old applewood pile, and new Sycamore.


  1. my daughters always ask me to plant seeds from their apples, plums, or pears that they have just eaten. how do i do it so that they (or acorns) turn into seedlings? i have enjoyed your posts thoroughly.

  2. I love this. I am so thankful for the old trees shading the house and I enjoy seeing so many more young ones growing up so fast.

  3. Pilgrim Family: Thanks for the kind comment. Sprouting seedlings from fruit seeds isn't that hard, though I'm not an expert. For plums and peaches, the hard stones can just be shallowly planted in a flower bed. Dig out the roots when the shoots are up next year, and replant where you want the tree. But beware: most fruit trees are grafts: a poor-fruiting variety for the roots, and a bearing variety grafted on above ground. Your tree may not produce as your daughters expect.

    For apples and pears, I fear that the core alone won't offer you much success. Though I haven't done it, I'd plant the entire fruit, very shallow, but where animals won't eat it.

    Acorns are too easy. Bury a dozen or two in a small space away from the lawn mower, and next year, carefully dig up the seedlings (bare root). The roots go deep, so use a shovel to loosen the ground when removing. Give them a year in a 9-12" (or bigger) pot with lots of black leaf mold mixed into the soil. A bit of shade will help, in case you don't water frequently. Then set them where you want, with a stake to protect them from footsteps. You might plant 2-3 for every one you really want.

  4. Thank you for your work with trees, which are so important to humans and other creatures as well.

    You may enjoy this article on the ecological benefits of planting trees and shrubs native to one's region, titled "To Feed the Birds, First Feed the Bugs":


  5. Ruth: I really enjoyed the article. It paints a vivid picture of how interconnected the creatures of this wonderful world are; and of the impact of our choices on the world around us. Next year, I'll add some of the flowers suggested in the article. Thanks!