We recently visited a nursery to research what kinds of trees we might plant in the pasture to grow a little shade for the goat and sheep. It has to grow fast and do well in full sun, dry stretches in summer, and cold winds in winter. They pointed out some interesting options, such as a Kentucky Coffee Tree. They also suggested more common Michigan trees such as the Tulip or Catalpa. Either way, it will be a significant expense to buy the trees and have them delivered and planted for us. We said we were just doing preliminary research and they reminded us that it is better wait and to plant trees during the dormant season in late fall or early spring.
Coming home, I began wondering if we could just find little starts of trees around the farm and nurture them along. I had seen a sweet little tulip tree sprouted among our bushes that I hadn’t weeded out yet. Perhaps I could pot it and put it into the pasture in the fall. I walked about the fields this afternoon and came across a good size catalpa that has probably been mowed down each spring and then pops back up when it is safe to reappear.
I dug around the catalpa to see how deep the roots were. The ground was dry as a bone, but the tree was growing vigorously. As I loosened the sandy soil, I found a network of thin horizontal roots about six inches down and quite easy to shake loose. In the center, though, was a big tap root going straight down as far as I was able to dig. I worked on it until I hit what felt like solid rock, about twenty inches farther down. I chopped the end of the root and pulled out the tree, hurrying to the barn to find a pot tall enough to cover both the tap root and the surface roots.
I don’t know if this will work, but if it fails and dies, we are no worse off than when we had to mow it down every spring. If it does survive, I will feel like the savior of a useful tree who found a safe haven after all these years. A win-win.