Consider giving a gift to posterity – to your future self, to your family and friends, to unknown heirs and successors.
This Fall I have eaten hundreds of apples. Literally, several hundred apples. These apples came from numerous places. I bought them from the farmer’s market, from Barthel’s Fruit Farm and from Pleasant View Orchard. I foraged them from a few wild trees in prairies. And I worked on a vegetable farm that had an acre of unsprayed apple trees, so, over the course of the late Summer and Fall, I indulged in a dozen varieties or more on my drives home from the farm.
I ate hundreds of apples, and have a hundred more in the refrigerator, but a fact that I would like to change is that I am responsible for bringing exactly zero of these apples into existence. I picked a number of them and put them to human use instead of the windfall deer, squirrel and soil food they would have turned into, so I did bring some of the fruit into our human world. What I would like to change, however, is my participation. Instead of merely pulling the fruit from the tree, I should be responsible for helping more trees to exist in the first place.
I did plant 2 trees this year – a Golden Delicious and a Honey Crisp – on a lot that I think will be in my life for many years, and in a spot on that lot that I think will remain undisturbed by future building or landscaping plans. I bought them in early-April at Home Depot as 3-ish year old grafts on semi-dwarf rootstock. They might start bearing fruit next year or the year after.
I should have planted dozens more. Apple trees, yes. Pears, too, another long-lived and cold-hardy fruit tree. I thought about planting an asparagus patch, another edible perennial, but I didn’t have the “right” spot, a spot that I felt reasonably certain would remain in my life for years and decades. And I thought about, but again, did not have the “right” spot for raspberry bushes. And blueberry bushes. Strawberries. Jerusalem artichokes. Shitake mushroom inoculated oak branches. Chives and mint and thyme. Rhubarb. Grapes.
The fear: What if I took the money to buy these plants and seeds, took the time to plant them, put in the energy to weed and water them, and then moved away after just a year or two? What if the perennial plants weren’t in my life forever, after I had poured in my life energy to help get them planted and established?
This was some selfish, fearful and faulty thinking.
It seems likely that you will continue to want to eat apples, pears and other local fruit each year. And you can be reasonably certain that people in general will continue to eat food. Make the investment. Take the time now to give nourishment and joy to yourself and the community for years and decades down the road.
This is an easy way to spread good and beauty. Aesthetically beautiful fruit trees, bushes and vines should permeate our land and our yards. There is no reason that an array of apples and other fruit should not be in wild abundance each Fall. Yes, a tree or other perennial planted today will not bear a harvest this year. But posterity will be grateful – maybe it will be you, maybe your neighbors, maybe future generations of owners or even future generations of deer, squirrels and turkey. The world will be grateful and richer for your efforts.
This year, I put in some perennials. In future years, I plan to be Johnny Appleseed of Zone 5 hardy fruit trees, bushes and perennial vegetables. A single tree in the corner of a property, a line of a few bushes, a 1,000 square foot mini-orchard – these are all great. Today’s typical property buyer might state, “Wow, cool! This property has a few fruit trees!” I hope, and will contribute toward, a future where fruit trees and other edible perennials will be so pervasive that the next generation of property buyers will expect an edible landscape. “Quarter acre lot, newer roof, city water/sewer hookups, radiant heat, eat-in kitchen, established fruit trees…”
Wisconsin Hardy Delicious Perennials
Oak (not for humans)
Grapes – Wine, Jam, Fresh Eating
Mulberries (more of a tree)
Oyster and Shitake Mushroom Inoculated Oak Logs