Monday, 11 April 2011

Living Lands and Water - Tree Planting

Saturday 9th April 2011

Today was going to be a tough occasion. I had agreed to help in an environmental project to plant 1,000 trees close to Mossville in Illinois. I woke early only to find the day was drab with fog, and it had rained overnight. I was thinking how bad the ground would be all the way to Caterpillar's Mossville plant, where I was meeting with a group of volunteers. The organisers had arranged transport so at least I would be dry and warm on the drive to the planting area.

When I arrived at Mossville, I was surprised to see around 60 volunteers, and the organisers had laid on breakfast and hot coffee. The coffee was great, the caffeine hit the mark and soon I was in the mood for the rest of the day.

 After we had all registered and the numbers of volunteers was established we were directed to the bus. What a surprise, It was a typical American School bus. I had never been on a school bus, although most mornings on the way to work I had had to stop behind one. I was really pleased to add this experience to the day. The down side was I ending up sitting above the rear wheels and with the raised arch and my long legs the ride was a little uncomfortable. That said I enjoyed the drive down the R60 towards our destination. 20 minutes later we were there.

We exited the bus and the first thing that I saw was a beautiful wooden cottage. next to the cottage was a long muddy drive way. It was just as I had feared wet soft mud about 1" deep, fortunately I had my hiking boots, but other volunteers were in training shoes (tennis shoes), and I feared their feet would soon be very wet. We were asked to walk down this drive for about 1/2 a mile. The first half was ok, but then it sloped very suddenly downwards. My colleagues in their training shoes were slipping every were, but fortunately we all arrived safely at a large clearing in the centre of a woodland.

There were hundreds of shovels stuck into the ground like solders at a parade, and close by so many trees that I thought it was going to take all day to get them planted. I chose my shovel and waited while we were given a demonstration of how to plant the trees safely and correctly.

I picked up my first bundle of trees, around 20 in total and set off into the clearing to start planting. After a few minutes the fog lifted and the temperature soon got up to the low 70's. But I enthusiastically set forth with the planting.

After about 40 minutes I had to go back for a second bundle of trees and was off again on my planting spree. The overnight rain had made the soil easy to dig, and the grass on the ground meant it was not to heavy for walking as no soil stuck to the boots.

It was here I unearthed a black and brown caterpillar. I later found out it was called a "Woolly Bear", and eventually it would become an "Isabella Tiger Moth". I carefully put it back into the ground, and hoped it would survive my rude interruption of its winter slumber.

When planting the next tree I came across a white grub, this was a "Masked Chafer", and would become a "June Beetle". Again I carefully put it back into the ground.

I continued planting going back for 2 more bundles of trees (I estimated I planted around 50), and then we were called to return to the bus after a speech was made to recognise every one's efforts and to thank us all for giving up or free time on a Saturday to help improve the environment in Illinois. I could not believe we had been planting for over 3 1/2 hours. I eventually got home tired, and sweaty, so into the shower I went and soon I was ready for the rest of my weekend.

I have to say I really enjoyed this adventure and will surely do it again next time I get the opportunity.

Below are some additional pictures of me planting the trees, and a really wicked looking Thorn Tree.

Honey Locust Tree

The Caterpillar Foundation sponsors the Living Lands and Waters project, a non-profit river clean up organization whose mission is to clean up the waterways of the Midwest. The group is led by Chad Pregracke whose passion to protect, preserve, and restore the nation’s major rivers and watersheds has resulted in over six million pounds of garbage being removed from Midwestern rivers since 1998.  In addition to river clean up events, the group also sponsors the  Million Trees Project . The Million Trees Project started in 2007 and began with the establishment of a nursery in Beardstown, Illinois, where currently over 330,000 oak trees are growing. The overall goal of the Million Trees Project is to grow and plant ONE MILLION trees over the next five years in order to re-establish native, nut-bearing, hardwood trees along waterways and within our communities.