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I am a Tree Hugger!

I can proudly state that ‘I’m a tree hugger’.  In Wyoming, that can be considered name calling and a put down.  But why?  I love trees and really, everyone else should.  Without them, there would be no shade, no cover for wildlife, no food nor shelter for so many animals.  Our trees high up near tree line provide protection from massive erosion and mudslides in the spring when the snow melts.  Limber, Pinyon, and White Bark provide nuts that we can eat too.  Trees impress and awe us.  Stand in an old growth Redwood forest or amongst ancient Cedars and feel their Presence.  Its is a humbling and quieting experience.

The future of our forests, in general, is in question with warming temperatures.  Yet I attempt to be an optimist when it comes to conifers.  Conifers were around before flowering plants evolved.  That’s a long long time.  Even with the planet warming, I suspect they’ll find places to retreat to and survive.  But for now, I’m doing my little part on my little patch of land,  planting trees for, hopefully, future wildlife.

This year the CCD (Cody Conservation District) had no Limber Pines (the species indigenous to my property) so I went ahead and ordered Pinyon Pines (Pinus edulis).  Its a gamble.  My forester friend says that they are out of their latitude and if they live, won’t produce nuts.  The University of Colorado says that they are reliable to 7500′, and maybe even to 9000′.  I’m at 6800′ but a higher latitude than Colorado. We don’t get the cold temperatures we used to so I’m counting on global warming to help them along.  It will be at least 20 years or more before they produce nuts, if they do.  Its a long term experiment!

Pinyon pines and Douglas fir seedlings--can you tell which is which?

I worried when I was planting them and wished the CCD had Limber Pines.  Its so rocky up there.  Probably 2/3 rock to a tiny bit of soil for each hole (these are small holes too just the size of tree liners).  And although I’ve seen Pinyons many times, I haven’t noticed them in granitic and limestone soils. But the UofC said they can take lean, dry soil on sunny slopes.

After I remove the rocks from the hole, I don’t have any soil to put back in. That’s why this year, in addition to my moisture crystals, I purchased some top soil to add in.

This is top soil? Very poor quality though its all that's available here

Yet I discovered another wonderful place to get soil, especially since we’ve had so much moisture this year–pocket gopher tunnels!  These wonderful little creatures tunneled under the snow and left nice rock-free dirt for me to use in my holes.  They are the rototillers of the Rockies!

Pocket gophers make these tunnels, not moles

Another thing I learned from last years planting is that the Limber Pines especially want a little shade.  Tree seedlings like the cover of nurse trees.  Since I’m trying to plant in the open where I had to cut trees down, I’ll use a bit of shade cloth on my pines.  The Douglas firs, for some reason, were a lot hardier.

I did good last year.  I figured if I had 50% loss then I was beating the odds, but after reviewing my seedlings today, I’d say I had more like 25%-30% loss.  That’s great!  I watered every 2 weeks last summer, but skipped a lot toward the end.  There’s no water up there and I was carting it up by hand.  That’s probably when I lost some, although a few were nibbled.

cages and moisture crystals

This year I’ve caged every tree (to prevent nibbling), and last years’ trees I’ll water maybe once/month.  Then, after that, on their third year, they are on their own!  I’m also going to feed last year’s trees with some nitrogen this spring.  I really like Maxsea 15-15-15.  Its a natural fertilizer that will never burn, but it’s not available around here.  So Miracle-Gro will have to do.