The Last Windrow: Planting thousands of trees is no small feat

It's satisfying to look at those trees standing 60 feet tall all these years later

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Planting trees. 30,000 is a big number.

Our local Lions club had many money raising endeavors over the years, but none more remembered by me than our annual tree planting project.

The month of March appeared this past week and it spurred my memory of those days the club planned to plant Norway pine, balsam, spruce, tamarack and even jack pine into the soil in and around our community. In all the years that followed, the club ended up planting more than 435,000 trees.

I like to think we added a little to the betterment of the environment in our part of the country.

Each spring around this time I would contact the state of Minnesota to find out the locations of the available tree plants in the area. Each area required a bid from the organization or person wanting to take on the task.


I remember bidding in the neighborhood of 6 cents per tree on average. The Lions' bid would normally be accepted. In fact, I don't remember one of the bids being turned down.

I, not knowing a blessed thing about the process of tree planting, entered our first bid. The area covered about 42 acres and a total of 30,000 trees were designated for the site.


Some of our club who had experienced tree planting winced a bit when they heard we had received the bid. All I knew was that if we planted that number of trees, the treasury would receive a whopping $1,800 for the job.

You have to sell a lot of pancakes or hot dogs to make that much money, I thought.

And so it was with some trepidation that I stood out in the field waiting for the DNR truck to pull up with the seedlings. The yellow truck arrived with its box full of cardboard boxes marked "this side up." You could smell the aroma of pine wafting out of those boxes.

Each carton held a thousand plants, and the Lions crew assembled was made up of men, women and kids who eagerly stood by with their tree spades in hand. Four days later we pulled ourselves out of the planting ground, making a solemn oath under our breaths that we would never take on that many trees again.


You do learn by doing.


But this was a great bonding time for the club. Most people I've found don't like to sell anything. Trees don't talk back to you as you stab them into the ground.

The only negative sound comes from the planters as they do thousands of "bend overs" as they move across the field. Being in the great spring outdoors produces a balm to the soul that overrides the back pain and blisters.

And, 30 or 40 years later, one can pass by those pine plantations and see the fruits of their labor. I've marked all the lands that the Lions have planted over the years in our area and my wife and I drive by them quite often to see our handiwork standing now 60 feet high.

And we did have fun. Although I'm still trying to figure out the team that "mistakenly" planted my garden behind our house with a bunch of trees with the wrong side up, roots pointed skyward. I think I know who did it, but I can't prove it.

And there was one of my friends who made the mistake of wearing a pair of double knit slacks to the planting grounds. As he stumbled out of the brush with sweat dripping from his nose I saw that now his brightly colored plaid slacks had turned into something resembling a mohair sweater.


I had to bite my tongue.


I don't know if tree plants are still continuing as in the past. Modern forestry seems to be taking the tract of taking the mature timber off and leaving the land to itself and aspen. I'm sure tree planting still takes place. I'll have to look into that.

I also wondered what the pioneer farmers who with brute labor cleared the trees and stumps from these acres to make farmland back in the early 1900s would think to see us planting those cleared acres back to trees?

All I know is that those first 30,000 Norway pine seedlings will forever rotate through my memory. And I'm sure the same could be said to all those planters who joined in the fun. It is a north country spring memory none of the planters will ever forget.

See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!


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