Fruits of Our Labor (Fantasy)

Fruits of Our Labor (Fantasy)

The tree might be a hundred years old. It suffers from an old injury to its base. I consulted three arborists.

One said it was a hickory, and would never recover.

One said it was a locust tree. Trash. Not worth saving.

One confessed outright that he didn’t know what it was, but probably some kind of hickory, and it might live five years, might die tomorrow, but eventually, we’d have to take it down.

I have to confess, I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t look it up.

But I like its feathery leaves, and rough-textured bark. So I went with the guy who told me what I wanted to hear: maybe it would live. (I ignored the “five years” part.) We removed several Norway maples, and gave this big guy a good dose of sunlight, hoping it might thrive with less competition.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog, you might remember that Native American mortar we discovered a few weeks back. Well, we’ve parked it in a safe place at the back of the yard, not far from this tree.  And I wander back there at lunch time to check in on things, and sit in the lacy coolness.

I did so today, planning to count leaflets, examine bark, and identify this puppy once and for all.  I didn’t need to bother.  Thick on the ground, under the tree, dozens of walnuts lay in their fat green husks.  I love it when a tree introduces itself!

And somehow it feels like a blessing.

Once an important source of food and medicine for native Americans, Black Walnuts have become fairly uncommon. They don’t transplant well because of their deep tap roots.  They are not shade tolerant, so invasive Norway maples provide too much competition for them.  Some people dislike them because the fruits are messy, the husks stain, and walnuts can be toxic to certain plants. Tomatoes won’t grow under them, for example.

And, perhaps most painful for me to acknowledge, the tree has been over-harvested because wood is a simply spectacular furniture wood.  Easy to work, hard, beautiful grain.

I’ve lived in New England for my entire life. Even though the tree is native here, and I grew up stomping through the woods, even though I know its wood from twenty feet away, I didn’t recognize this once dominant tree. That troubles me. (And why would I take advice from an arborist that couldn’t identify it? That troubles me, too.)

When we get settled, I’ll make amends. I’ll plant some.  I’ll treat this one well.

And I’ll take photos for you when I can stand back without falling into a cellar hole!

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