I grew up on the Great Plains where areas of trees can be few and far between. There are trees in windbreaks and a few in clumps around farmsteads but there are miles of land with no trees at all. If you have ever driven across the Dakotas, Nebraska or Kansas you know what I mean. That is somewhat the nature of the area; flashback two hundred years and think vast acres of tall grass and buffalo. Now and then a fire started by lightening would burn out all the poor trees that happened to sprout there. The grasslands persist to this day in some areas. Much has been converted into farmland and grows wheat, corn and soybeans. The photo below is probably a harvested cornfield. Even though I still feel that the plains states are lacking in trees, it was much more barren some 150 years ago. This all changed when J. Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska.
In 1854 J. Sterling Morton, a journalist from Michigan, brought his family to the Nebraska Territory and became editor of Nebraska's first newspaper. He and his wife were both nature lovers, and their new homestead was quickly planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Through his newspaper, Morton spread his enthusiasm for planting trees. Many other pioneers missed the trees of their homelands and embraced his ideas for agricultural plantings of windbreaks and shade trees. The pioneers also grew trees for fuel and building materials.
Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called "Arbor Day" to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture. The first "Arbor Day" took place on April 10, 1872 and over one million trees were planted in Nebraska! Originally April 22nd (Morton's birthday and now Earth Day) became the official date for Arbor day. Now it is typically celebrated on the last Friday of April. As Arbor Day spread around the world, it is celebrated on different days to coincide with the optimum planting time for trees in that area.
Morton's home still exists and is now the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Arboretum and is located in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The surrounding area also includes Arbor Day Farm, Lied Lodge and much more.
More Trees Please
My husband and I have lived in several different parts of the country and over time decided that one thing we wanted was a home with trees. Not little stick trees that you see in all the new housing developments, but big mature trees. Years ago we built a house on a lot that had large mature trees. I was a plant novice at that time and did not realize until a few years later when they didn't leaf out in spring that they were American Elm trees. I cried the day they came and cut them down.
Now many years later I have a home with beautiful mature trees. We made sure none were elm trees this time. We have enjoyed them and nurtured them and admired their strength and beauty. Our trees have brought us joy because of the all the wildlife they bring almost within our reach. A friend once said our house was like living in a tree house, because when you look out you are up high where the squirrels and birds live! We have sugar maple, ash, silver and Amur maple, spruce, pine, birch, mountain ash, mulberry, oak and willow on our property. They are not completely leafed out yet but here are a few pictures of some of our mighty trees.
|Looking up the trunk of a large silver maple tree under the squirrel house.|
Natasha in Oz
Earth Day Spirit at the Heart of a Wizardess