Notes from Windward: #68


Walnuts in the Woods

Sarah describes our first planting of English walnuts

     We've had four English walnut saplings growing in buckets in Vermadise for the past few months, and recently I helped to transplant them to their permanent sites. We picked up the trees at this year's Earth Day celebration in Portland, and this planting marks the beginning of a walnut grove from which we expect great things.

Chestnuts growing tall in Vermadise

     Starting the trees in Vermadise's rich, worm-filled soil allowed them grow into strong little saplings before we exposed them to the open woods. After several work parties we had all the trees planted, mulched, and fenced in at their shady new home up the hill. The fences will protect the trees from hungry range cattle wandering through later in the summer.

     Jen, our water master, has set me to watering the trees using the drip-bucket method, and all seem to be doing well. Like the fruit trees growing in the main garden area, these walnuts are another key step in the move towards no-till agriculture. The more food we can produce from trees—for ourselves and for our animals—the less we have to struggle with depleted soils, water shortage, and the other issues we face in traditional gardens. Producing food within the context of a living forest is essential to our integrated sustainable systems.

Jen places one of the tree identification signs

     Excited by the prospect of raising up new nut trees and the walnuts' serendipitous planting in accordance with the four cardinal directions, I suggested we name each tree. As they are English walnuts, Jen and I conferred and christened three of them with Elizabethan names: "Salman of the South," "Eldren of the East," and "Winwick of the West." Walt contributed "Namu of the North," a name which may or may not have Inuit origins. So that visiting lizards and humans might be greeted warmly and know the breed of tree before them, Jen and I installed handmade signs for the trees, and thus our walnut grove in the woods has begun.

the tanker delivers water for the transplants


     One of the hard lessons that have to be embraced in building sustainable systems involves the fundamental need for consistency--if you fail to water the transplants for a couple of weeks, all the work put into that project is lost. As we work to expand our use of our forest for food and fodder, a key challenge we face involves the need to consistently get water to the new trees as they undertake to establish themselves during our dry season. This is actually a good time for them in that the long summer days enable them to generate the resources needed to put down a strong root system--assuming that they have the requisite supply of water.

     It's common sense that the easier a chore is to do, the more likely it is to happen on a regular basis. In order to insure a handy supply of water for the trees, we located a 300 gallon poly tank uphill from the transplants. It's filled with water from our dug well making it easy for anyone to use the hose to fill up the drip buckets and give each transplant its daily quota of water.

     As you can see from the picture, we're also taking time to put a ring of fencing around each of the new trees. It won't be long before the woods become so dry that the range cattle start having a hard time finding things to eat, at which point they annually head for Windward to raid our hay barn and munch our young, tender fruit trees.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68