Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

A Hedgerow Project

Photo courtesy of Chris Goode and Dick Ashdown
This morning I’m writing with that happy spring feeling small children get. I’ve just completed an initial proposal for the first large-scale landscaping plan I’ve ever helped make. Later today I’ll put in the order to Possibility Place Nursery in Monee, Illinois to contract grow native shrubs and small trees for the first phase, restoring a remnant hedgerow that separates part of the property from an adjacent field planted to corn and soy in rotation.

Some background: I am a member of the Environmental Concerns Committee of the Illinois Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers). The Yearly Meeting Campus is in Putnam County, Illinois, about two hours south and west of Chicago near the Illinois River. The land has belonged to Quakers since the mid-19th Century and has long served both as a retreat center for the Yearly Meeting, and as the regular Meeting House for the Clear Creek Meeting, composed of local residents. I’ve written more about it here.

Until two years ago, the property was three acres that included a historic Meeting House and a camping area with cabins and a shower house. Then the opportunity suddenly came up to purchase nine acres of adjacent land that included a farmhouse, barn and several other buildings. This land had belonged to an old Quaker family, which wanted the land to go to the Yearly Meeting. During the past two years, the house has been renovated for use as a year-round meeting place, and other improvements have been made.

Consideration is now being made for what to do with the property so as to best serve the needs of the local Clear Creek Meeting, as well as the Yearly Meeting, whose members reside in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.

Photo courtesy of Chris Goode and Dick Ashdown
Naturally, the ECC, whose members have long been involved with site maintenance and landscaping, was asked to develop a landscaping plan. Our interdisciplinary group includes an architect, a tree farmer, an ecologist, several environmentalists, a U. of I. Master Gardener, two local residents and myself. My job has been to facilitate idea generation, to research various things such as local history and ecology, and to organize and write up our proposal, which is centered in the philosophy of reconciliation ecology: we are planning as much for ecosystem health and non-human species habitat needs as for human use.

Now that we have written the proposal, we will begin the next stage: making drawings and developing a timetable for projects. Luckily, while we are doing that, we can restore the existing hedgerow, a remnant of old-time land management practices.

This is the first part of an occasional series, about this hedgerow project in particular and about hedgerows, fencerows and mixed shrub borders in general. 

Related Posts:
A Day in the Country

Comments

Dave Coulter said…
Adrian, this is just fantastic. You must keep us informed!
Judy E. said…
What a great plan and beautiful photos! I'm excited about the future of this bit of earth. It will be an oasis in the surrounding desert that allows only two patented life forms.
Hi Dave. Definitely. I'm looking forward to your hedgerow exhibit at the Chicago Wilderness conference.

Thanks Judy. It's really exciting for me, as well.
Don Moorman said…
Hi Adrian! I saw your comment on The Archdruid's catabolic collapse article, and thought I recognized your name. I'll be at ILYM again this year.
Hi Don,

I look forward to seeing you there.