February 28, 2013

Blight ~ This Old Barn ~ The Beauty of Decay ~ How to Plant an Oak Tree ~The Beauty in Blight



I love old barns. Every time I see an old barn I can't help but think of the stories behind the barn, like where exactly had the wood come from in the forest to build it? How old is the barn? Who were the families who had built and used it? I love imagining what may have taken place so many years ago inside a barn. Maybe that's why I write everything down like the year I planted a tree and the exact location it is, because I want others to know its history-even if it's just a tree. Being an artist and history lover I see beauty in abandoned houses and crumbling barns (crazy, perhaps to some of us): peeling paint, faded walls, unique textures, odd patterns, which only broken beams, rotting wood, and crumbling structures can create. I know, these same places are eyesores to an area when they weather. And they may bring crime. The lover in me, however, of history and photography prefers to see the beauty in decay (yet I know these places eventually must go for good reason).

And so as  I passed this barn I pretended to know its history:


In the silence of the forest, acorn nuts fall from mighty oak trees. Torrential rain pounds the nuts into wet soil and the acorns root. New and delicate saplings sprout from the ground and reach toward bright sun. Sturdy branches form, and twigs, like knotted-fingers, appear at their tips. Each tip forms a bud, and the buds open into vibrant leaves. Squirrels, birds, owls, insects, and children visit the oak trees over the years for housing, food, and play. The seasons come and go and the trees endure sunshine, floods, and droughts.


On a warm summer day, a group of men gather near the expanse of many, mighty oak trees. Several of them hold sharp saws, readying themselves for toppling 40 of the trees needed for a barn. Like busy ants, the men move with purpose, leveling tree after tree over many weeks, all the while squirrels and chipmunks jump to safety on nearby trees. The tree’s fall with a great snapping sound, their suits of bark armor no protection against men and their saws.


When the two-story barn is complete, it houses 12 horses, farm equipment and hay. The knots of the oaks are evident on the inside walls. Over the years animals come and go, as do owners. And decades  after the barn has weathered so much it is unsafe, it is emptied of equipment and animals by its current owner. High winds arrive and the barn collapses. A passenger in a car (me) notices the weathered timber. An image of wood wasting away makes me want to ask the owner if he'd mind if I took some beams to make something useful or decorative for our home in memory of the barn and trees. Instead, as the barn slips out of sight, I realize it’s better to leave the wood where it lay. It’s being put to good use even when rotting, as I know decaying logs recycle nutrients back into the soil and provide homes for small mammals and insects. And soon, fungi and wildflowers will thrive in rich, organic soil. Decades from now this scene will be erased from the land- and be invisible to the human eye of those who pass by. Its history may or may not be passed on by families through photos or stories. I will remember where it once stood by the abundance of wildflowers that will likely group in an unusual mass before long. And I will tell my sons about the barn-soon, because I am certain that in all the years we have passed it, on our way to family functions, they likely never noticed it.  


 I collected several acorns in the fall while they were fresh and pushed them down a container with moist dirt. I put a wax bag over top left over from a cereal box. 

Every so often over the 3 or 4 month period that they were in the fridge I water them lightly just to make sure they stayed moist.  I then removed the seeds at springtime and planted them.  You can also remove them from fridge and separate them into their own pots, and begin the trees indoors until ready to plan outdoors. If you plant them outdoors right away, it is a good idea to cover them to keep safe from deer or rodents. Placing a small square of chicken wire over top should be fine until started. After the tree pushes through the soil you should then put up a small fence of chicken wire to protect it/them. 

Of course, you can always plant the acorns straight away in the soil in the fall. However, there is a great chance a squirrel will dig it up and eat it. 



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