We’re half way through now with the permaculture course at Zaytuna Farm and still drinking from the fire hose. The main takeaway from today was that trees are the shit. I’ve always felt very connected to trees since I was a kid. I love climbing up trees and seeing how high I can jump out of them without getting hurt, it’s great fun. I’ve found myself seeing trees as metaphors for many things throughout my life. I’ve been a fan of trees for a while, one might even consider me a ‘treehugger,’ literally. After today though, I see trees in a totally different light and understand better why they’re so awesome. They have many varied functions and do a millions things at the same time. Trees are the ultimate translators and moderators of incoming energy for the earth.
Trees major in ecosystems and they are essential for a multitude of applications. In design, trees can be used as hedges, fodder, windbreaks, fences, alley cropping, nitrogen fixing, and so much more. Trees increase precipitation and decrease soil salting. Trees build and conserve soils with their deep roots and nutrient dense foliage that helps create a rich humus. A great design maximizes the functionality of trees by using them to serve many purposes in the design.
Trees also protect the earth from the impact of raindrops with its canopy. Have you ever ran under a tree when it starts raining? Trees also protect us from rain. Have you ever thought about what a droplet of rain is like for a bug? I imagine a rainstorm is like the apocalypse for bugs caught out in the rain, a single drop of rain would easily kill any bug it landed on. Further, the rain makes an even more drastic impact on all those little microbes living inside the soil, the earth can really take a beating from the rain, especially poor soil resulting in runoff and soil erosion. Trees are the guardians of the earth.
Trees and weather are more interconnected than I could have ever imagined. They cycle water from rain. The original source of all rain water is an ocean or lake where clouds form above it and then they pass inland by way of the wind. The clouds come to a forest and when the mix is right for a sprinkling, the clouds burst open and release the desalinated sea water onto the forest. The canopy of the forest intercepts some rain, slows it and it trickles down over the surface of the tree, washing nutrients into the soil. The trees drink the water and nutrients up from the earth and in turn water is transpired and evaporated back into the environment. Clouds in the atmosphere absorb this water, new clouds form and they continue to pass further inland powered powered by wind. When nature fancies, it rains again on a forest and this cycle continues on and on and on. Trees are actually responsible for more water in streams than the rainfall alone provides. Trees and forests are the reason rain comes inland. Crazy huh? How could we possibly do this without trees?
Trees are constantly taking in water, cycling it through their systems and returning it to the atmosphere and all this stuff is happening at the same time. It’s akin to a human body in that there’s trillions of biochemical reactions happening on the surface of our skin and inside of our bodies every second. Trees are doing the same thing, they comprise of all these complex, interconnected systems serving a greater purpose in our natural environment. There remains to be much we don’t understand about trees and their energy transactions.
It’s been found that trees are growing at the fastest rate in over 200 years (even Fox News says so). As a result of climate weirding, there’s more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than ever before and it’s generally getting hotter with increased sun exposure. Trees feed off carbon dioxide and the key ingredient for photosynthesis is the sun, so there’s an abundance of the stuff trees eat in the atmosphere. The trees are having a feast and just chowing down; we’re seeing growth spurts all over the world. The earth has turned a problem into a solution and is literally feeding off the problem to heal itself. Seeing problems as solutions is one of the key principles of permaculture. This presents an unprecedented opportunity in history to grow some trees.
What do you want to grow?