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A new chestnut custom, and 600 ways to grow a 600-year chestnut tree  RSS feed

 
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In Corsica for many years the ruler required everyone to plant four trees a year, an olive, a mulberry, a fig, and a chestnut. 

There are chestnut trees there that Ben Falk said were probably 350-600 years old. (This was at the PDC in an evening slide show of his trip there).

Imagine if we planted those! imagine if we left such a legacy for our great great great great etc. grandchildren!

But how do you do something that requires people who haven't even been born yet to agree to it, to agree never to cut them down, to take care of the ecosystem enough that it's not all for nothing...?

I started using the de Bono thinking tools to generate some ideas...

1 A giant, life-sized red metal chestnut tree sculpture a la Jeanne-Claude and Christo, in downtown Manhattan...so we can actually see what it will look like, be in the presence of it, see the thousands of pounds of nuts it carries...

2 A time capsule for future generations who will be wiser to unearth and plant...

3 A superhero who can gross a billion at the box office, and issues the Avengers a challenge they can't meet with force or violence...

4 And a new custom: every year in National Chestnut Week (US) or October or thereabouts (March if you're south of the equator...), give everyone you love a chestnut and a flower.  A flower for beauty today, a chestnut for beauty in 500 years. 

And that will, I hope, inspire people to plant their chestnut, at least some people, and if they plant one each year for the rest of their lives...then pretty soon we should have a lot more Corsica in the world.

Corsicans are a feisty, spirited bunch!

I am committing to doing this this year.  Will you join me?

And will you help me come up with 600 ideas?  I've done about 6 so far.  But better that they be more diversified--many of us coming up with ideas. 

De Bono's Creative Thinking tools are a great way to generate massive numbers of new ideas--not necessarily good ones, but _new_ ones, not just more of the old ones. 

 
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In Corsica for many years the ruler required everyone to plant four trees a year, an olive, a mulberry, a fig, and a chestnut.  



I like they way they thought.

I'm in. It so happens some beautiful old chestnut trees are dying on this property. No problem replacing them & several times more. Have been working on figs too. Trying to get a more winter hardy version thriving. Have to pass on olives. Will plant apples & other fruit that will do better. Mulberry? Maybe. Have elderberry, and wild blackberry & raspberry going now. A few other random berries. Not sure how mulberry would do here. It's been on the radar though.

Not exactly a new idea but a suitable modification of an old one. The Appalachian Trail has trail angels. Good hearted folks who suddenly appear along the trail. They provide drinks, food, & a helpful hand for weary hikers. If there was a large supply of young trees available something like that could happen in local parks & recreation areas. Seems like the users of those places would be most likely to plant a free tree.



 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks, Mike!

Here's a few more ideas, and then I want more people to contribute ideas.  I'll tell you how if I didn't already in original post.


Ceiling--we need to put a ceiling on the number of trees people plant.  We don't want a monoculture, part of what may have contributed to the American chestnut blight (there was a chestnut orchard that was earning good money at just the time the blight hit...not proof but seems plausible to me).  We don't want a monoculture because it could cause other problems.  If people all picked the exact same ideal kind of nut to plant, managed to force nature to let it grow, used the hardware cloth, etc., we could create another problem.

Also, because if you call something off limits then it suddenly makes it more interesting... :p

next idea: hat

PO way of planting 600-year-old chestnut trees is a hat.

A cover that keeps the heat in and the deer out, but isn't underground-rodent-proof. 

(I like the idea of not using hardware cloth.  The Corsicans did all of what they did without hardware cloth.  Not that I'm against it if you have it, but I am not pushing it and think it's an OK loss if most of the planted seeds don't grow, in my mind it's part of STUN.)

It is "too" dry.  It favors the water's dispersal over to the sides of the drip lines.  Only dry-loving trees will survive.  This means those who will be drought tolerate will be favored and be selected for, and so some will be prepared if climate change moves toward more dry in that area.  then when it's larger, it tends to get flooded, so it's got to survive flood too.  it has to be tolerant of both dry and wet abuse.  If it can survive that then it has a chance at getting to 600 years.

It shades the plant until it's larger.  It favors shade-tolerant ones, it gives a hurdle of sudden extra light--so now you have a tree that can survive a sudden wind event blowing down all the trees in the area or deforestation nearby or forest fire next to it.




PO way of planting 600-year-old chestnut trees resigns.

Resigns from office, lets nature take its course...trees get planted anyway if you just do nothing.  You save energy by doing less of that.  Let the chestnuts be free to be unruly in their own chosen way.




A way of planting 600-year-old chestnut trees PO penny.   Plant the worst chestnuts, the ones that the fancy commercial growers are giving away for pennies, the defective or deformed ones. 




A way of planting 600-year-old chestnut trees PO pain.  This idea is coming out more or less the same as the hat abuse idea, but what other kinds of pain can we inflict on the poor chestnut sapling? lightning is another pain for trees.  Low voltage scarification increased germination rate in seeds in an experiment in Michigan (Penny Kelly).  The seeds that have been irradiated, if they can germinate, may be able to survive an increased radiation event, whether from sun or nuclear fallout.  Expose some of the seedlings to more of the same pain.

PO way of planting 600-year-old chestnut trees enlarges.  The fad begins to catch on.  It enlarges itself.  It has a leveraged effect.  Once the tradition is 600 years old of planting a chestnut a year, it has so much more robustness and power to it that it spawns more good ideas, if it grows just .0001% at that point that's still a huge increase.  It enlarges, and knowing that there will be more enlargement in the future helps the sense of motivation to do the little bit that needs to be done today.

Which reminds me, I've got to try another chestnut grower because I still haven't heard back from Mark Shepard.  Damn you, Mark Shepard!!  I want your chestnuts!!!  and Corsica.  Damn you, Corsica!!!

 
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This year I've planted a guava, fig, peach, avocado, nectarine, and pomegranate in my zone 11(?) back yard, and will be filling in all the spaces with shrubs and perennials as I build up a nice thick layer of mulch to hold in the 3-4 inches of rainfall we get here. I expect it will be nice and lush by the time I retire and move 1300 miles north haha!

Also planted (on a larger zone 6 property) a row of 600 osage orange seeds as a test hedge, another couple hundred using the spray and pray method, and several hundred black locust in a grid layout for a future coppice woodlot, as well as around the property to become specimen trees and construction timber.

If the deer infestation hasn't eaten everything, I plan to keep adding to the hedge, and enclose 2-3 acres so that I can start a fruit and nut "mini orchard" which will also include perennial veggies and annual beds. Outside that I plan to start planting a wide range of trees, shrubs, and ground covers/vines that do well in zone 6 with 15-20 inches of rain and 4 feet of snow per year, and try to turn those 20 acres into something more than yet another soft wood timber lot.

For the first time in my life, I have a plan of sorts in place and the property to start working on that plan, before I even move there! So on the plus side, getting infrastructure growing before day 1 will be great for stepping into something more than a blank slate. On the minus side, it's a big unknown moving to a new place and hoping the locals decide you're a friend and not an enemy!

Finding others to answer the call of land management to preserve the land as you develop it can be tough. Finding younger people to visit for a while to help is one thing, it's another deal entirely to find younger people who have experienced enough of life and the world to know what they want out of it to be happy, and for that to be managing and preserving a permaculture legacy someone else has started.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Wonderful that you've planted all of those!  Yes, there's no guarantee of finding people to carry on.  Legal instruments are only so potent, but somehow there are those 400-year-old chestnut trees in Corsica....humans CAN do this! we CAN make good choices and grow in wisdom!  Will you consider planting a chestnut too?  There are some sources of seed in California, I'm having plenty of challenges getting any here but will persist.  Good luck with your new place and with the legacy you're leaving.

Mark Tudor wrote:This year I've planted a guava, fig, peach, avocado, nectarine, and pomegranate in my zone 11(?) back yard, and will be filling in all the spaces with shrubs and perennials as I build up a nice thick layer of mulch to hold in the 3-4 inches of rainfall we get here. I expect it will be nice and lush by the time I retire and move 1300 miles north haha!

Also planted (on a larger zone 6 property) a row of 600 osage orange seeds as a test hedge, another couple hundred using the spray and pray method, and several hundred black locust in a grid layout for a future coppice woodlot, as well as around the property to become specimen trees and construction timber.

If the deer infestation hasn't eaten everything, I plan to keep adding to the hedge, and enclose 2-3 acres so that I can start a fruit and nut "mini orchard" which will also include perennial veggies and annual beds. Outside that I plan to start planting a wide range of trees, shrubs, and ground covers/vines that do well in zone 6 with 15-20 inches of rain and 4 feet of snow per year, and try to turn those 20 acres into something more than yet another soft wood timber lot.

For the first time in my life, I have a plan of sorts in place and the property to start working on that plan, before I even move there! So on the plus side, getting infrastructure growing before day 1 will be great for stepping into something more than a blank slate. On the minus side, it's a big unknown moving to a new place and hoping the locals decide you're a friend and not an enemy!

Finding others to answer the call of land management to preserve the land as you develop it can be tough. Finding younger people to visit for a while to help is one thing, it's another deal entirely to find younger people who have experienced enough of life and the world to know what they want out of it to be happy, and for that to be managing and preserving a permaculture legacy someone else has started.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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NOw this was interesting: Chinese chestnut trees prevented blight in European just by being planted nearby...


However, on the trees of the indigenous varieties of Castanea sativa which existed in the immediate vicinity of the oriental chestnut plantation there was no sign of the blight except in the case of one tree which, although infected, evidenced a high degree of resistance to the disease. This fact was so surprising that the Spanish scientists were doubtful whether it really was an infection of Endothia parasitica. On the occasion of another trip made during the fall of 1947, under the auspices of FAO, Professors Biraghi and Pavari confirmed not only the complete absence of infection on the Castanea sativa but also succeeded in gathering material from which Professor Biraghi has isolated the parasite in pure culture and has found its identity to be the same as that present in Italy. Its pathogenicity is being tested on chestnuts in Italy, and Professor Biraghi has arranged with the Forest Research Institute of Madrid for the inoculation in Spain of the Spanish Castanea sativa with both the Italian and Spanish strains of Endothia parasitica.



  from fao   http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5348e/x5348e03.htm. ; no idea what fao is or what it stand for...nor when this article was written.  sometime after 1952...

 
Mike Barkley
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Proving more challenging than anticipated finding local here too. But here's something to work with ...

http://www.chestnuthilltreefarm.com/store/c/31-Dunstan-Chestnut-Trees.aspx
 
Mike Barkley
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chestnuts have been around a long time
 
Mike Barkley
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http://www.empirechestnut.com/catalog.htm#seed

That seems to be a decent commercial source for several Chestnut varieties.

What appears to be the Chinkapin variety is dropping nuts all over my place right now. Have quite a few very large trees. I'll try to start some seedlings & make them available for all next year. After I plant the best one:)

Going to finally roast some chestnuts over an open fire this year!!! A holiday goose seems appropriate too. 'Cuz I can:)

Gave thread another apple because this is a great permie sort of project that needs to be done by everyone in suitable U.S. climates. It's an important tree.

 
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In terms of planting trees, the pesky squirrels put many of us to shame!  So many little trees have popped up in my backyard this year.  I'm trying to take the ones from places where they can't possibly grow and make myself a kind of hedgerow forest at the back of the property where they can bring much-needed shade.

This year I will be planting two chestnut trees.  I've also ordered some chestnut seeds which I will be planting in the local forests.  I consider this a sacred duty.  I live in an area where the chestnut blight and poor management destroyed a lot of the diversity in the forests.  By planting seeds, trees will survive in some areas and mature, hopefully without human harassment, and grow big enough to offer chestnuts.  Then the squirrels will be able to continue the work, long after I'm gone.
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
Imagine if we planted those! imagine if we left such a legacy for our great great great great etc. grandchildren!

But how do you do something that requires people who haven't even been born yet to agree to it, to agree never to cut them down, to take care of the ecosystem enough that it's not all for nothing...?



The whole principle of this grates at me. What right do we have to impose our views on subsequent generations? Even when those views are essentially benign? Look back 100 years. How happy would you be if you were forced to abide by decisions your great-great-grandparents made? How could they possibly be relevant to our world and society now, which has changed so much in the past 20 year alone? They couldn't have foreseen climate change as a problem, and they certainly wouldn't have foreseen the accelerating rise of renewable energy in response to it. They couldn't have possibly foreseen the technological revolution, and all the implications that would have on jobs, life, society etc...

So what are we being similarly blind to when we try to make binding decisions for future generations 100s of years from now? What burdens are we inadvertently passing on to them?

Now, I'm not a defeatist - in fact I'm very optimistic about the future of the world and the environment - but I firmly believe that we should focus on the the now. Both the people living now, and the land we have now - and let our successors take charge of the continuing management. Does that mean there will be mis-steps? Trees cut down that we would prefer to remain etc... ? Food forest systems grubbed up to build houses? Of course it does. However the overwhelming trend of the past 50 years has been positive.

By all means plant your tree. By all means try and encourage others to support your endeavour. But leave my children, and my children's children the freedom to make their own decision.

As someone who has had to deal with a property purchase tied up in restrictive covenants, I would never impose such binding conditions on the future inheritors of my work. (Binding conditions - a property own 80 years ago by Methodists, that came with the covenant that no alcohol was to be stored or consumed on the premises. Methodists were long gone, but their restrictions still tied up the building).
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks, Mike!  I appreciate the support for the idea.  Chestnut season is almost here. 

Mike Barkley wrote:http://www.empirechestnut.com/catalog.htm#seed

That seems to be a decent commercial source for several Chestnut varieties.

What appears to be the Chinkapin variety is dropping nuts all over my place right now. Have quite a few very large trees. I'll try to start some seedlings & make them available for all next year. After I plant the best one:)

Going to finally roast some chestnuts over an open fire this year!!! A holiday goose seems appropriate too. 'Cuz I can:)

Gave thread another apple because this is a great permie sort of project that needs to be done by everyone in suitable U.S. climates. It's an important tree.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Fair enough, but I think your concern is unwarranted.  My point is really that there is absolutely no way to enforce anything.  I'll be dead, I have to trust people I have never met, people who have not even been born yet, to cooperate with this idea, to see value in it, to choose not to put a development there instead.  I love the idea that I _can_ trust them, that there's even a shred of chance that such hope can be realized.  In saying I require something of the future and unborn, I really mean that I am powerless to prevent them from doing anything whatsoever.   It's a beautiful thing to trust.

Planting the trees doesn't bind anyone to anything.  Putting legal requirements in place does, to the extent that the law still exists at that point in the future and to the point that someone observes it.  But it's pretty easy to cut down a tree and then pay a fine later, the tree is really not going to make much an interference with anyone's freedom. 

What the future children will NOT have is the freedom to go back in time and plant chestnut trees. 

Michael Cox wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
Imagine if we planted those! imagine if we left such a legacy for our great great great great etc. grandchildren!

But how do you do something that requires people who haven't even been born yet to agree to it, to agree never to cut them down, to take care of the ecosystem enough that it's not all for nothing...?



The whole principle of this grates at me. What right do we have to impose our views on subsequent generations? Even when those views are essentially benign? Look back 100 years. How happy would you be if you were forced to abide by decisions your great-great-grandparents made? How could they possibly be relevant to our world and society now, which has changed so much in the past 20 year alone? They couldn't have foreseen climate change as a problem, and they certainly wouldn't have foreseen the accelerating rise of renewable energy in response to it. They couldn't have possibly foreseen the technological revolution, and all the implications that would have on jobs, life, society etc...

So what are we being similarly blind to when we try to make binding decisions for future generations 100s of years from now? What burdens are we inadvertently passing on to them?

Now, I'm not a defeatist - in fact I'm very optimistic about the future of the world and the environment - but I firmly believe that we should focus on the the now. Both the people living now, and the land we have now - and let our successors take charge of the continuing management. Does that mean there will be mis-steps? Trees cut down that we would prefer to remain etc... ? Food forest systems grubbed up to build houses? Of course it does. However the overwhelming trend of the past 50 years has been positive.

By all means plant your tree. By all means try and encourage others to support your endeavour. But leave my children, and my children's children the freedom to make their own decision.

As someone who has had to deal with a property purchase tied up in restrictive covenants, I would never impose such binding conditions on the future inheritors of my work. (Binding conditions - a property own 80 years ago by Methodists, that came with the covenant that no alcohol was to be stored or consumed on the premises. Methodists were long gone, but their restrictions still tied up the building).

 
Mike Barkley
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In Corsica for many years the ruler required everyone to plant four trees a year, an olive, a mulberry, a fig, and a chestnut.



I too strongly disagreed with the word require the instant I read it. It's still a great idea & nobody is requiring anyone to do anything in this particular case.
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:

In Corsica for many years the ruler required everyone to plant four trees a year, an olive, a mulberry, a fig, and a chestnut.



I too strongly disagreed with the word require the instant I read it. It's still a great idea & nobody is requiring anyone to do anything in this particular case.



True.  I'm trying to create a meme, a custom, and have it come about by voluntary cooperation.  What was then a law can be today a custom spread by voluntary observance of laws of  nature.

But of all the laws that people have passed over the centuries, the Genovese one does have some of the most far-sightedness to it, and generosity of spirit.  It was a long-term investment.  Id love to know more about the history of it, how was it enforced, etc.  I mean, the Corsicans have always been fiercely independent-minded and I doubt they thrilled to being told what to do by the Genovese.  But enough of them did it, and the direct benefit seems to have been more to the land tenants or farmers than their rulers.  Fascinating stuff .

The image of a thousand-year-old church fascade that the community maintains, replacing every blpck of stone in it over the course of a century or something, was also awe-inspiring.  I wish for us to create more pooling and coordinating of energies here in America.
 
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My chestnuts arrived a few days ago, and I've given them out to my parents, partner, housemates, and a few others. And here's images of them for you:

IMG_20181001_212718873_2.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20181001_212718873_2.jpg]
chestnut
IMG_20180928_124807856.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20180928_124807856.jpg]
flower
 
Mike Barkley
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interesting article about chestnuts in the good old days

Will post some pix soon, after chestnut harvest is complete. Big pile already. It turns out that my original post was wrong. It's not my chestnut trees that are almost dead. It's some old hickory trees.

 
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An interesting observation about chestnuts:

In my climate they are an excellent timber tree, but are not so good as a nut tree. We are right on the edge of their range for reliable fruiting. Many years you can go into the woods and find millions of the chestnut husks and not a single nut worth dealing with. My understanding is that they need a longer warm season than we tend to get here, which makes sense as they originated in the Mediterranean area.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:An interesting observation about chestnuts:

In my climate they are an excellent timber tree, but are not so good as a nut tree. We are right on the edge of their range for reliable fruiting. Many years you can go into the woods and find millions of the chestnut husks and not a single nut worth dealing with. My understanding is that they need a longer warm season than we tend to get here, which makes sense as they originated in the Mediterranean area.



Yes, that's true there can be limitations, but there's also the possiblity that you get the one freak chestnut tree that produces really well even in a shorter season, or some other factors make it viable.  We're playing the lottery here, although with the lottery the more people that play the more everyone loses. With planting chestnuts, the more people play the more everyone wins--up to some extremely unlikely balance point where we might be making a monocrop.  Warping nature to coddle the trees once planted coudl be really problematic, but a STUN approach (sheer total utter neglect) is of minimal danger.  Probably most of the nuts will be squirrel chow.
 
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You know, Michael, I really appreciate this post, it got me thinking and someting has kept gnawing at me about it.  I think I've put my finger on it now.

Throughout this process I've been shown again again, by life, how it's a thinking activity more than it's a physical one.  What you posted includes some strong emotion about being confined by others' actions, and I can have strong emotions about that also.  But in my case, at least, it can be an illusion that they actually have the  have that power, and in fact it's my thinking that's producing the strong emotion and masquerading as a very convincing reality.  Life has been presenting this idea to me in several ways recently.

So, I felt some despair about the whole project--it's literally impossible for me to plant a 600-year-old tree.  It's literally impossible for me to plant a nut that I know for a factwill grow for 600 years.  There is NO WAY to speed up the process, by definition.  By definition I'm powerless over the actions of all of these people I don't know yet and who may not even be born yet.  What do I actually know? is the whole idea pointless?

And then other thoughts have come--what i do actually know is this:

--there are trees a permaculture instructor (Ben Falk) showed us pictures of at the PDC which he described as being 350-600 years old
--I felt awe and inspiration at seeing them
--someone 350-600 years ago planted them--or at least a tree dropped a chestnut, but it's 99% likely that it was planted by a human, given that there was a law on the books at the time that they had to
--for the next 600 years at least no one cut them down
--for much of that time, people have enjoyed harvest, calories, security from them
--for some of that time they've abandoned the old ways and cut down a number of the trees, but still many have remained
--if people in Corsica who don't care about the trees somehow changed their thinking and felt as enthusiastic about them as I, seeing the photo of them, feltthey could go from something uninteresting to something no amount of money can buy in an instant
--no disease, pest, storm, radioactive fallout, freak accident, fire, lightning, or other factor has killed those particular trees, for whatever reason or reasons

There are probably other facts I'm not seeing.

But most of the seeming facts are unknowns--I'm in a hall of illusions here.

Is there a best way to plant?  hardware cloth, says STUN expert Mark Shepard in an article in the New York Times Magazine I think, and I deeply respect Mark's work and love his STUN attitude.  If even Mark says hardware cloth, it must be true, right?  But--oddly enough, in 1400's Corsica there was a massive hardware cloth shortage.  Lowe's AND Home Depot were both out of it for an entire 4 centuries!!

Should we fence to keep out squirrels? maybe, but some people say squirrels also plant them well.

Deer? maybe, or maybe the fence would do more net harm than good to the overall ecosystem.

Do I know for a fact which seeds will be able to withstand blight for 600 years, vs. for just a few decades and then not? Not really.

Are there breeds that are known to last for 600 years?  not really...other than the ones that are 600 years old, which are themselves still a maybe, depending on where you plant them.

Might there not be 600-year-old chestnut trees somewhere around me already that somehow got overlooked? maybe...science can't prove the nonexistence of something, nor establish it with nearly as much certainty as we tend to think.

So, in a way, this is more of a thinking journey than a planting one...although planting is also a part of this, an important, and necessary, part of this.  Almost everything I think I know about how to do something this lengthy turns out to be wrong, or incomplete, and the challenge to my thinking and perceptions seems very fruitful to me, very educational.

I still don't think I have quite gotten into words what's being shown to me, but somehow my intuitive sense is that you're pointing me toward a blind spot that's really beneficial to notice.

Michael Cox wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
Imagine if we planted those! imagine if we left such a legacy for our great great great great etc. grandchildren!

But how do you do something that requires people who haven't even been born yet to agree to it, to agree never to cut them down, to take care of the ecosystem enough that it's not all for nothing...?



The whole principle of this grates at me. What right do we have to impose our views on subsequent generations? Even when those views are essentially benign? Look back 100 years. How happy would you be if you were forced to abide by decisions your great-great-grandparents made? How could they possibly be relevant to our world and society now, which has changed so much in the past 20 year alone? They couldn't have foreseen climate change as a problem, and they certainly wouldn't have foreseen the accelerating rise of renewable energy in response to it. They couldn't have possibly foreseen the technological revolution, and all the implications that would have on jobs, life, society etc...

So what are we being similarly blind to when we try to make binding decisions for future generations 100s of years from now? What burdens are we inadvertently passing on to them?

Now, I'm not a defeatist - in fact I'm very optimistic about the future of the world and the environment - but I firmly believe that we should focus on the the now. Both the people living now, and the land we have now - and let our successors take charge of the continuing management. Does that mean there will be mis-steps? Trees cut down that we would prefer to remain etc... ? Food forest systems grubbed up to build houses? Of course it does. However the overwhelming trend of the past 50 years has been positive.

By all means plant your tree. By all means try and encourage others to support your endeavour. But leave my children, and my children's children the freedom to make their own decision.

As someone who has had to deal with a property purchase tied up in restrictive covenants, I would never impose such binding conditions on the future inheritors of my work. (Binding conditions - a property own 80 years ago by Methodists, that came with the covenant that no alcohol was to be stored or consumed on the premises. Methodists were long gone, but their restrictions still tied up the building).

 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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The woodland I manage has 600 year old chestnut trees. But they are coppice woodland, with the stems cut every 15 to 20 years for fuel, timber, fence posts etc... This act of cutting rejuvenates the tree.

By ensuring the woodland is maintained in use, and the traditonal skills are maintained - even in a small way - the woodland continues under my care. I don't need to plant a tree - I can be custodian of many.
 
pollinator
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I have 40 chesestnut seeds arriving soon - 20 each of two varieties. I will pot them up and keep the best for my garden and give the others to friends. They are  the marron varieties which fetch a good price, Tbey  will go at the back of my tiny forest garden and be strictly polllarded..
 
Mike Barkley
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What is the circumference of those 600 year old trees? Circumference of these is about 11-12 feet. I'm trying to determine the approximate age & history of the ones here. This ranch/homestead was started about 1900 give or take a few years. About the same time as the blight started. The trees are located in perfect places to shade the original cabin location. Haven't noticed any in the zone 5 areas but have barely explored there yet. Overgrowth will be much less once it gets a little colder. Then I'll search for more. The trunks are multi-forked so they don't seem to be American Chestnut which generally grew one straight trunk. Best I can tell at this time is they're Chinese. Which makes sense because railroads were common here for moving coal & he was somehow involved with railroads. The Chinese immigrants built many railroads. The leaf shape rules out Japanese. I'm guessing the original homesteader planted some blight resistant variety shortly after the blight started, trying to improve the odds for future generations.

Rained today so I worked on other projects besides nuts. This is roughly half of the fresh looking ones that were on the ground around one tree last week. Will harvest several times more soon. Mostly for eating. Some for attempting to start trees in containers. Will plant a few nuts directly along a bare fence line along the cow pasture to see how that goes. Want a hedge of some sort there. Many will be left where they fall for the animals & for mother nature to do her own thing.
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I've been harvesting chestnuts for a few decades and every year I plant 50 of the largest nuts. Since they don't stay viable very long, I intersperse them among garlic as I pant those cloves in October since rodents tend not to mess with them. Typically only six to ten chestnuts sprout the following spring and make it into July at when I move them into hedgerows. Some of the trees are now more than 10 years old and produce a few pounds of these wonderful nuts: more each year. Each tiny tree needs its own circle of fence to keep deer from browsing leaves and twigs and rodents from nibbling bark off the  trunk. This fencing can be dedicated to new trees once the trunk is about four inches in diameter (and the lower branches are above deer height}.
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First 2018 Harvest: 15 pounds of smallish chestnuts (stunted by drought)
 
pollinator
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I really like the idea, but will have to alter the types of trees planted somewhat since I'm pretty sure olives won't grow here, and figs will have to be protected (but I do want to have one in a container).  Mulberries will grow here, and so will chestnuts.  I'm thinking persimmons instead of depending on figs.  Not sure what to use to replace the olives, though -- any ideas?  They would have been primarily grown for the oil in the native areas, with the fruit being a secondary use.  I have lists of what should grow here; my plan is to plant things that are hardier than is required for our zone 6b because there is a good chance that we are heading into a mini-ice-age.  So I don't want to push the envelope too much with things that are already marginal for this climate.

There are several old black locusts in the back yard which provide good shade; there's also a thicket of young ones growing up at the side of the yard that I'm going to leave there, and pollard/coppice for future firewood and other uses.  They may not be edible, but they are well-adapted here and have plenty of other uses.

Oh, and upon reflection, I think walnuts to replace the olive trees.  They can be used as a source of oil, and for the nuts, so I think they will make a pretty good substitute (we already use some walnut oil in place of olive oil, since I don't really care much for the flavor of olive oil).

Kathleen

 
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Chestnuts have been eaten as a staple in the Italian Alps, by the American indians, and in China/Japan...

http://www.chestnutranch.com/Green_Valley_Chestnut_Ranch/History.html
 
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We inherited 7 Chinese Chestnut trees when we purchased our property 12 years ago. I'm guessing these and others were planted in the 50's or early 60's to help supplement the previous owners income. Once you recognize the tree, I see the occasional one or two around the area here or there.
They seem to like plenty if distance from other Chestnut trees.
With organics, the blight of two different weevils is an ongoing losing battle so far, although I haven't been able to really focus from year to year on the problem.
Harvesting before the hull opens works, but you lose that slight sweetness. If you find a Chestnut in the winter that has avoided the occasional squirrel, chipmunk or groundhog, you experience the sweet flavor this fruit is known for.
We've made flour several times and it's a true gourmet treat.
Soaking the bare Chestnuts in organic liquors has been a great way if preserving them.
Keeping poultry underneath the trees has proved beneficial in increasing the size if the Chestnuts.
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Chinese Chestnuts
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:

In Corsica for many years the ruler required everyone to plant four trees a year, an olive, a mulberry, a fig, and a chestnut.  



I like they way they thought.

I'm in. It so happens some beautiful old chestnut trees are dying on this property. No problem replacing them & several times more. Have been working on figs too. Trying to get a more winter hardy version thriving. Have to pass on olives. Will plant apples & other fruit that will do better. Mulberry? Maybe. Have elderberry, and wild blackberry & raspberry going now. A few other random berries. Not sure how mulberry would do here. It's been on the radar though.

Not exactly a new idea but a suitable modification of an old one. The Appalachian Trail has trail angels. Good hearted folks who suddenly appear along the trail. They provide drinks, food, & a helpful hand for weary hikers. If there was a large supply of young trees available something like that could happen in local parks & recreation areas. Seems like the users of those places would be most likely to plant a free tree.


If you want to find a source for young trees at an affordable price, Cold Stream Farms, sells bare root trees with the price depending on size and quantity. Buying more reduces the price. One example, a single 6"-12" tree costs $4.57, but buying 4 of them brings the price down to $2.76 each. Buy 25 trees and the price is $1.21 each. Other sizes available, price reductions for lots of 100 and 500+. It's cheaper to buy 100 than 65, or to buy 25 trees than 12, make a commitment for 500. I plan to order 25 trees, plant 8 in the ground and raise the other 15 in pots with the plan to give them as Easter gifts in 2020.

 
Michael Cox
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A few comments

Answering a question above "How wide are the 100 year old trees?" They are maintained as coppice stools, so the question doesn't really make sense. A typical stool sends up about 15 to 30 stems, depending mostly on light and crowding. The woods have been neglected and some sections have fallen out of the coppicing cycle. Where that happens they tend to self thin down to 3 or 4 trunks per stool, and many of the stools end up dying off entirely.

re harvesting nuts: There has been a lot of work done in selectively breeding for trees that both nut earlier in their lives, and earlier in each season. Buying improved varieties would likely give you VERY significant improvements over simply planting collected seeds. If you do collect seeds to plant, I recommend observing your local trees very carefully to select which ones you plant from.

Ideally you want to plant seeds from the trees that reliably produce fully developed nuts earliest in the year. No point selecting seeds from the tree that gives huge nuts, but only fruits properly one year in 10 because it needs the longer season.

Also, once you have a chestnut tree you like they are traditionally propogated by layering, and not from seed.  After a tree has been coppiced it is allowed to grow for 2 years or so, to establish long flexible stems. The stems are bent down to the earth, and wooden pegs are used to secure the stems to the ground. Where they are in contact they root and a new stool is established. This is an excellent technique for filling gaps in a coppice woodland, and increasing stool density. Greater stool density yields straighter stems due to competition for light.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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This is probably totally obvious to almost everyone, but just in case someone is reading who isn't aware -- the four trees mentioned in the OP were staple foods in the areas where they were commonly grown.  Olives for the fruit but even more so for their high-quality and fairly-easily-obtained oil; figs for calories and as a sweetener; mulberries for calories; chestnuts for calories and use as a flour among other things.  Of course they had all the other benefits of tree crops as well -- stabilizing the soil in areas where it's thin or steep; providing firewood and lumber and providing livestock feed; providing an income from selling the surplus; providing shade for people, animals, and other crops.  If you live in a climate where all four of those won't grow, or won't do well, then you look for substitutes -- in my case, persimmons for figs, and walnuts for olives.  Someone in the tropics might choose something else, and farther north you might not even be able to grow the chestnuts and mulberries, which will do fine in my location, and you might need to grow butternuts for oil, apples, plums, and acorns to replace the chestnuts.  Of course there are other possibilities.

I had (and lost through loaning out) Carol Deppe's book, The Resilient Gardener.  In it she talks about raising five staple crops that can provide the calories a family needs; her crops (other than the ducks) were all annuals:  squash and pumpkins; potatoes; corn; and dry beans.  In my climate, we can grow all of those things and more -- but my daughter and I both have serious auto-immune diseases (lupus in her case, which can be life-threatening), and must stick fairly strictly to the auto-immune protocol diet for the sake of our health.  Potatoes, corn, and dry beans are on the verbotten list for AIP.  So, okay, now we can grow squash or sweet potatoes, and we have chickens (but egg whites are also on the no-no list, at least to start with).  Technically, all nuts and seeds are on our 'bad' list, but we've already managed to reintroduce a few nuts -- almonds and walnuts.  There are some other roots that we could grow for calories, but even though we like rutabagas and parsnips and beets, unlike potatoes, they aren't something we can eat every day without getting tired of them.  So my objective in planting trees (and berries, and other things) is to provide not only the vitamins and minerals that we need, but also -- and even primarily -- the calories.  Yeah, we could probably use the fallen branches for firewood, and the chickens will clean up spoiled fruit under the trees, but mainly I'm after staple foods for my family.  We will still need a vegetable garden, but my goal is to make visits to the grocery store few and brief.  Right now we depend largely on sweet potatoes (which we like well enough to eat them nearly every day) and cassava flour (which we can't grow here) for our calorie staples; I want to broaden that.
 
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Here's a photo to inspire all you chestnut planters out there: a 1,000-year-old sweet chestnut.
By planting this tree you could potentially help give life to animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, et cetera for over a thousand years!
Castanea_sativa-sweet_chestnut_1-000_years_old_by_Jean-Pol_GRANDMONT-_WikiMedia.org.jpg
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1,000-year-old Castanea sativa, sweet chestnut by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT, WikiMedia.org
 
Amanda Launchbury-Rainey
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A truly beautiful , wondrous tree. We have some biggies but nothing like that!
 
Lana Weldon
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The chestnut: grain that grows on a tree. The great thing with chestnuts are all the carbs. Fuel for the body and brain. Other nuts have few carbs, more fats and more anti-nutrients, the reason why some people get nut allergies. I love other nuts as well, but they really can mess with my digestion, so I can only eat very small amounts of them, for and for getting all those carbs, chestnuts are very satisfying in my opinion.

http://www.twisted-tree.net/chestnut-the-bread-tree/
 
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