Trees appeal to us in every season at the Legacy Garden. Spring comes and they let us know that the long cold time is over. In summer, they are cooling while producing fruit and nuts for us and wild critters. In Autumn the bounty is in colorful leaves to photograph, turn into shelter for smaller perennials and to compost. When winter returns, we utilize their shedding branches to warm our home concentrating on the way they shed little extra branches and twigs.
We are fortunate to have many trees on Legacy land! As they are trimmed by our decision or by nature, we use the ‘trimmings’ as fuel to warm the house in winter. Some trees have been criticized because they tend to drop little branches on a yard — they are being ‘dirty’. We love our dirty trees because their shedding has become useful.
We take off a branch here and there to help a tree maintain balance on the slopes or to keep branches away from roofs. A branch on a huge Mimosa tree came off because it offered access to the chicken yard. An entire oak tree came off because before we came here, the branches all grew out on one side, leading the entire huge tree to lean toward the house — ‘engraved invitation to disaster’.
Nature, through maturity and wind, will bring branches down of all sizes. The larger ones are sawn into firewood pieces and the smaller ones are broken up for kindling twigs. When we are walking across the yard to take care of chores or enjoy some air, we always pick up the ‘sticks'; they are rough on the lawn mower and they make wonderful kindling for starting the fire in the fireplace insert. Every errand; walking the dog, going to the garden or mailbox and simply taking a stroll can result in at least one stick being brought back to the kindling pile reinforcing our appreciation for our dirty trees.
Last week’s unusually strong winds brought several smaller branches down and I have a nice supply of kindling. February through April will bring days when we need a fire and days when we don’t. Even some mornings or evenings when we appreciate the heat, but let the fire go out during the day. I’m amazed at how easy it is to become distracted and not keep the fire going when the weather isn’t cold! Having to begin the fire all over again every day uses much more kindling than the colder times when we kept the fire going steadily. The dirty trees are serving a desirable purpose.
Many times during the summer gardening season, a dirty tree sheds a branch that I can use as a stake or a support for another plant, putting the sticks to work in all seasons. Place a few of them together and we begin to feel as if we are back in Aesop’s fable about the bundle of sticks being stronger than one stick alone.
Most of the dirty trees on our place are mature thriving trees that drop little branches as part of the tree life. We have a few younger oaks, maples, and walnut trees along with some ‘middle aged’ box elder trees which hold promise of keeping the dirty twig supply going far into the future.