An Ode to a Tree or Two

Since we moved into Sneer HQ years ago, we’ve had a big maple tree in the backyard of H1. It’s a majestic, enormous, healthy looking tree, often filled with shouting squirrels and shouting birds. The squirrels antagonize Amanda or the cats, safely past the windows. The birds menace only each other. The maple was, last summer, covered with cicadas climbing from the earth to rub their shells off on its bark. The fallen leaves cover a quarter of the yard, a neat semicircle around the tilting trunk.

Photograph of a tree that is in that area between the sidewalk and the street. It is a small modest Maple tree. The sidewalk around it is all messed up.
This is our sidewalk maple tree, but we don’t actually know if it’s ours or if it belongs to the city. We like it though!

Its majesty is owed partly to its large crown, branches spreading up and out, never stopped by a much-needed but oft-forgotten trim. Well, needed for our roof and those wires. The tree itself doesn’t need a trim for any particular reason; it is unbothered by its height and by touching our things.

We love trees. We know that trees not only help the air, but provide some needed shade to our house and yard, give homes to our bird and insect friends, and that their root systems help pull storm water that may otherwise flood the streets and our basements. They’re also beautiful and impressive. The leaves change color, the tree changes what it grows, the roots talk to each other.

Proud of our maple tree, we thought long and hard about getting a fruit tree. We researched fruit trees that did well in our area, that birds liked, that we’d love. We went back and forth on which fruits are more delicious, or best for baking, or would we even really harvest them?

Photograph of a small baby tree, perhaps six feet tall. It has purple-ish leaves. It is surrounded by street scenes like wrought iron fences and a neighborhood.

Last year we got a free tree thanks to the city and our urban forestry department. They offered a signup and you could choose a tree and where it went. One of the trees was a THUNDERCLOUD PLUM. We signed up right away, and picked up our little baby tree the next week. The dark purple leaves faded as winter came, but recently, small buds appeared everywhere. Our little tree sprung into spring with pink flowers everywhere, and purple leaves coming back.

A photograph of reddish leaves, very small leaves. The leaves of the plum tree!
Hello, leaving so soon?

We don’t know if the little tree will fruit this year or even next, but we’re enjoying its presence, its pretty little leaves and blossoms, and the gathering of bees around its branches.

What is next for our compound? It won’t become an orchard, but will there be more trees? Will we propagate a fig tree from the community garden? Will we get a free tree today at the new city event? Will we buy one of those trees of four or six fruits, branches grafted together into a rainbow of juicy options? Fruitenstein’s monster, only the monster is delicious.

Photograph of a large maple tree, taller than a three story house, which it is towering over. It is growing leaves and is surrounded at the base by blue and pink phlox flowers.
Our big maple tree in the back yard.

Our dreams have switched from a working, small urban orchard to a triple plot dense forest. We recognize that this might not be a feasible dream to crowd our yard with 100+ foot tall giants — mostly because they might not be happy fighting for root space like that, but also because we like having sun, and sun-loving flowers. Also we have been told that roots can break pipes and falling trees can destroy rooftops. That seems less important, to have our insignificant human trifles damaged, than it is to make sure our trees are happy and healthy.

Part of honoring the Earth is to acknowledge our limitations. Sneer Compound is not the place to grow a forest, but it is a place for maybe one more tall tree.

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