Planting

In the beginning, there was bog, acres and acres, flat as lake water after rain,

brackish after the cutaway.

Excerpt from Planting – Sinéad McClure

On the 19th of March, I decided to dig a hole in the wildest part of our land. It had been something we had put off for months. Lockdown had halted any of the heavier garden work, and any help that we would normally get had also been removed. But I took a figary—as my mother used to say—and off I went with a determined step in my stride, an old spade, and two border collies, tails-up. It was Peg Harris’ birthday, my beautiful, strong, mother-in-law and from somewhere I found her strength. I was surprised at how easy the soil gave in to my gentle persuasion. Just a couple of heavy booted cuts and I had dug a respectably sized hole, just big enough to fit one of the oaks we had purchased the autumn previous. And so it began.

Peg Harris 19th of March, 1927 – 19th of May, 2014

At that moment I wanted to plant all trees. I was crazed by this big plan to put a tree in each day for a year. By the time I had walked half a kilometre back up the field, that plan had been curtailed to a more manageable one tree, each week. That was doable.

Week one and two would be the 2 oaks we purchased in the autumn. Healthy trees considering they spent an entire winter in their pots outside in the corner of the top yard. Week three, was a magnolia tree I had promised myself—frippery perhaps but these trees remind me of walking down to Killiney strand in the early summer when their long branches full of remarkable blooms hang out over the high walls of the big houses.

I shared my blog and plans with the Tree Council of Ireland. Three weeks in, I got a call from them.
“Would you like some trees for the project?”
“Yes, please and thank you very much.”

The following week, about five days after the call, the trees were delivered. What I thought were 100 birch and fifty bare-root oaks, turned out to be 100 of each, and a little more, some tiny ones about 12 extra. 212 trees! That was almost six weeks ago. Today I planted the last of them into the ground. Including our own 3, we planted originally, that’s 215 trees in total. Not all made ground. Seven oaks have been potted up, perhaps as gifts, and also to give them some added TLC. Another twenty-five oaks have been heeled in (planted in a trench) until autumn. But all roots are touching earth.

So, so far we have quadrupled our target to plant 52 trees between the 19th of March 2021 and the 19th of March 2022. It feels brilliant. The entire process has been one of reflection, healing, thought and time. It has given me a bit of strength. It’s like the trees help. We know they help environmentally. But there is something deeper, on a universal level, they make you feel part of something grander.

It’s seven years today since Peg passed on. These have been tough years particularly the first three, losing my own Mam just a year later and then Jho becoming ill a year after that. Planting is like the start of a new journey, another place to find joy, strength and healing and so we continue…

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