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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

100,000 Maple Tree Seeds

It has been a bumper crop year for maple tree seeds. If you have ever wondered how much space 100,000 maple tree seeds look like, imagine a feed sack, bulging at the seams. Of course they are light, but the bag would tip the scale at nearly twenty five pounds. Spring came early, and we had plenty of moisture for a change this year. As a result, the rain gutters filled and the sidewalks were coated with tiny helicopters, each bearing a single seed. Today I filled a seed bag with the seeds and spread them across several acres in the newest county park, near where I live. It took several hours to collect the seed and just a tiny part of an hour to spread them with the help of a stiff wind. With a bit of luck and some timely rain, there will be thousands of sprouts coming up in the not too distant future. The idea of helping Mother Nature rather than hurting her is new to some, but the work I have done for the last several decades has revolved around another type of life. This past week we had the great chance to hear a woman on Wisconsin Public Radio who has been studying what we used to call living better for less. for a time, the term green living was used to try to get folks to change their ways, but now the word for it is sustainability. trees know nothing of these words. When times are great, or when they are reaching the end of their lives, they produce many more seeds than can possibly grow in one area. Much like the rest of nature, the boom and bust cycle is more common than we might believe.

Working with the changes that we see around us requires commitment to the cycles of growth, birth and death that are reflected in everything from worms to the birds and trees around us. I know that the maples in my neighborhood are doomed to never procreate. If there is not paved land beneath them, there are garden beds and lawns that get mowed often enough to eliminate the possibility of new trees growing up there. Instead, I picked up as many as I could and transferred them to an area that is being reforested by both our organization and several others. It is a powerful moment in time that we have arrived at. for many on planet Earth, our needs are met in less time than ever, we are realizing the futility of mindless consumerism and the time for feeding ever larger appetites has begun to take a toll on both our lifestyles and the globe. Factors that were once never even considered have begun to be studied and questioned, in some cases, understood and in time we will all become aware of how much it really costs to continue raping and pillaging the land, the landscape and the ecosphere that we will all have to use to meet our needs over time. As Buckminster Fuller said more thasn two decades ago, there are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are all crew. finding ourselves at the helm, or pulling the lines that harness the winds of change that are blowing strong, we need to set a course for times when catch phrases are no longer needed to specify ecological sustainability. In time, there will be no cliquishness, no trendy marketing strategies that belie doing the right thing. We will need to adapt or surely perish from an utter lack of spirit.

There may never be a recreation of Eden, but with a more humane approach to how we live on the planet, we can all live a higher standard of living while we use less material, extract less resources, produce less waste and contaminate less air and water. I will continue to share the ways that i have learned about to do just that over the next few years, planting seeds of change as it were, not only across the landscape but in the minds of folks who choose to read this. I do encourage each and every one of my readers to consider donating whatever an hour of your time is worth to you. my employer considers my time to be worth nearly twenty dollars per hour and I feel that I am worth far more than that. Each of my entries takes about an hour to produce and asking for you to pay for something that is actually free may seem like supreme silliness, but for me to donate so many hours to the process of changing our world-wide culture for the better is actually priceless. Even those who think my ideas are useless may find a nugget or two of truth in them and the value of hearing the truth just once is beyond the ability of most of us to calculate.

Some of the first steps that I took to get myself a little clarity about what is important was to study nutrition. when I realized that much of what passes as "food" is actually devoid of nutrients, it changed the way I ate for the better. As our society has developed, most of us have been exposed to more and more non-food products and as we have gotten busier and busier, the time spent preparing, enjoying and understanding what foods are healthy and which are bad for us has dwindled. Imagine a car that was continuously driven faster and faster, being put under more and more stress and that is also never maintained or given fuel to use for energy. Our bodies are very much the same. The food that we need is often far away or expensive, so I taught myself about growing healthy food in a food desert right in the middle of town. Quickly, I learned that there was an extreme shortage of organic matter, so all of my food scraps and organic waste became a crucial resource. I turned to my hobby of keeping fish to help offset my protein requirements and also found that the fish waste that was produced by the fish made an excellent organic fertilizer. When my compost became riddled with bugs and worms, they produced extra food for the fish and reduced the cost of purchased nutrients for the fish. This was the beginning of a cycle that produced more than I could use. when I had too much nutrient rich water from cleaning the tanks, I would pour that "waste" water on the street trees that grew outside my apartment. Today, those trees are 30% larger, greener and healthier than the ones that never got the surplus from my tank cleaning. My trash smelled less, I never had flies indoors, the back porch grew more food than I could eat by myself and the give-away continued.

Even if not a single maple tree seed that I scattered grows, I got to spend time in the out of doors, walk for a little while and I kept sixty pounds of seeds from washing into the gutters and the local stream. All in all, there will be benefits that stand separate and alone. If a single tree grows, perhaps in five or ten years, there will be a little more shade, a tiny bit of flood reduction and a place for a bird to perch and perhaps even nest. If we continue to give of our own abundant resources, there is a chance that the redistribution will lead to everyone being better off.

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