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Victoria, BC GreenFriends - 40 Trees

Baby Hemlock tree planted at a honey bee farm

Last summer on her summer tour, Amma encouraged us to plant trees. When I went up for a hug, I passed her a note asking her what I should do to help the world prepare for the difficult times ahead. She gave a long answer in Malayalam, and the translation I received was simply this: "Plant trees".

That fall, I planted a pear tree in my mother’s yard, and with the help of satsang friends I also planted a maple tree in my neighbor’s yard, a native oak tree at a local art school, and some fir trees on a barren hilltop by the highway. But then I stopped planting.

I had two problems: first, I had nowhere to plant trees. I live in BC, and there are trees growing everywhere. It is different than places like California, Ireland, or even India, where the landscape used to be forested but has now become mostly grass or farms. Our issue in BC is that we clearcut old forests and replant them as if they are “tree farms”, which means losing healthy biodiversity.

My second problem was how to get trees cheaply, so I could afford to plant lots. At the local nursery, most fruit trees and even evergreen trees cost $25 - $50 each.

In the winter, I contacted a local farm that housed and employed homeless people as part of their project. They told me I could come and plant trees, but on the day before I was scheduled to plant, they announced that they were closing. So, I prayed about what to do next. 

A few weeks later, I decided to try to contact small farm owners online.  

I wanted to plant mostly fruit trees, because they will help the city become more self-sustaining. I wanted to plant mostly on farms, because fruit trees need a lot of sun and space, and I wanted to plant more than just one or two trees in each location that I went to. I posted a free ad on a local Craigslist-like site (called UsedVictoria), titled "Free Fruit Trees, if you have acreage", and I included a photo of the pear tree that I had planted at my mother’s house. Within one week, I received almost 100 replies! Now, I had plenty of places to plant trees! The only problem was that I did not actually have any fruit trees!

After doing a long search online, I found a nursery on Denman Island called Tree Eater Nursery, that sold apple tree roots (called "rootstock", of a variety called mm106 which grew fairly large semi-dwarf trees) for less than $3 each, and some little plum trees for under $15. Plus, shipping was fast and cheap. So I ordered 40 apple tree roots and a few plum trees, plus some native crab apple tree seeds, and they arrived in a box within days. I grafted baby branches from my sister’s apple tree on to the apple roots that I bought (it was easier than I expected!)

I then heard about a local "community orchard" that was selling bare-root fruit trees. Fruit trees are cheaper if you buy them in the early spring as "bare-root" trees, before they get put in pots. I told the orchard staff about the tree-planting I was doing, and about Embracing the World, and they agreed to sell me their beautiful, 2-year old heritage apple trees for only $25 each. So I bought a few of them as well, and stored them temporarily in my mother’s garden. Now, I was able to reply to the emails I received, and tell them what day I could come, and what trees I could bring.

I started with the farms that responded first, or were the most enthusiastic, or which seemed unlikely to able to buy or transport their own fruit trees. Our first tree-planting day was very successful. We went to 4 farms and helped plant 17 fruit trees. There were just four satsangs members on this trip (Chris, Vijaya, John, and myself), and we were quite tired by the end of the day.

One interesting thing happened that I did not really expect. When you give someone a gift, they usually want to give you a gift in return. At one farm (actually just a regular property with a big, forested front yard), the owner told us that we could have as many fir and hemlock seedlings as we wanted, for free from her land. There was a big patch of bare soil by her new driveway, and hundreds of baby trees were coming up. We took a few, and will likely return for more.

Another farm was a permaculture demonstration farm, which gave us four dozen eggs plus an offer to come back anytime for a longer tour and discussion about permaculture. Another farm was essentially a farm animal refuge with a variety of ducks, chickens, geese, sheep, etc. They also had a variety of seeds to offer us, and taught us some permaculture techniques including the idea of piling stones around the base of young trees (but without letting the stones actually touch the tree) to conserve moisture. And that was just our first day.

We have since been on 3 more planting trips and have planted about 40 trees. I hope that some of these ideas will be useful to others in their own tree-planting efforts. Feel free to contact me anytime if you have questions: David Srikant Muncaster - ons108@hotmail.com.

Choosing seeds
It's a bed isn't it? Direct planting
Chris at a small farm outside Victoria
Vijaya and Chris with the Gary Oak we planted at an art school
David with a heritage apple tree we planted on a small acreage

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