I have been thinking a lot about trees lately, probably because we are in the throes of harvesting walnuts. As near as I can tell our walnut trees were planted sometime after 1914, because I have a photograph from that year and they are not present. I believe they were planted in the late 1940’s and there are quite a few walnut trees of the same variety and size on several of the neighbor’s farms. I suspect that it was a trend coming out of WWII. All the trees that I can think of in the valley were more akin to homestead plantings as opposed to production or grove style plantings. Our valley does not grow many nut trees, although there are a few Filberts in production now.
Where the walnut trees are planted belies their intention as a multi-purpose tree for shade, firewood, and food. Our trees are English walnuts and were probably grafted onto a Black walnut rootstock. These trees must have some amazing stories to tell over the last 80 or so years.
I know in the brief time (18 years) we have lived and farmed here we have added to its memories. One memory is Chaps, our beloved Golden Retriever who moved with us to the farm. And as you would anticipate, he was a ball loving and undeterred retrieving machine. He would pester you till you threw the ball, which was a mistake, but it was the only way to get any work done. Chaps had us right where he wanted us. The children figured out that if they put the ball a few branches up in the walnut tree, it would keep him busy for a while. The operative phrase being “a while.” Doggone if he did not figure out how to climb that tree and retrieve that ball. From that time on it was just fun to see Chaps climb the tree.
It was also common for the kiddos to wave down at Joelle from perches 30 or 40 feet up. I tried to discourage this practice, but some trees are meant for climbing.
One of the most precious memories that these trees offer us is the wedding of our oldest son, marrying the love of his life in front of our home nestled under her majestic branches. Ironically, when they asked if they could get married on the farm and began to make plans all the branches were high off the ground. But by the time August rolled around those branches had moved several feet lower with the weight of the leaves, new branches, and walnuts. It was as if she wanted a closer look at all the festivities. And of course, all the groomsmen and our son had to have a picture suspended off the ground hanging from one of “her” branches.
Not only did that tree greet us and our six kiddos when we moved to our farm, it has since looked over the 3 more that were added to our ranks under her tenure. And now the 3rd generation is climbing those same branches, and swinging from the tree swings, just as their parents did. The pure joy on a child’s face when they greet you from her branches is so precious.
The only thing strangely missing from these old trees are some initials with a heart surrounding them. I am sure she has seen a quiet kiss or playful game of tag under her watch.
…And then I would be remised to not mention the years of enjoying their fruit! Nothing compares to freshly harvested nuts!
I look forward to continued enjoyment and more memories being made every season and every year.
Tristan for Joelle, Alaina and the Box of Good crew