Behold the pecan plantation (if you could somehow hover above, most of the details of the universe were painted white, and the condition of the trees could be color coded). I made this rather unsophisticated image in Photoshop Elements, which has proven to be a lot of fun (when it isn’t frustrating and confusing).
So anyway, what’s this all about? Well, as I said, this is a depiction of the pecan plantation below the dam at Roundrock. This is a sort of management tool that I create for myself each fall so I will know about my planting obligations the following spring. (I’ve mostly dispensed with the obligations part, and for the time being I have even dispensed with the planting part, too, but on with the post.)
We’ve replanted pecans twice since the original fifty trees were put in the ground the spring after the dam was built. But pecans, as with all nut trees I know about, are among the last to bring forth leaf in the spring. When we would receive our new pecan trees in the spring from the Conservation Department, it was usually before the planted pecans had come out. Thus we had a hard time knowing which leafless twig poking up from the rocky ground was alive and which was in that other state (no, not Florida). So we hit upon the idea of taking a census of our pecans in the late summer while they still bore leaves. We could then see which were alive and which were dead, and if Pablo mapped these findings on a grid, he could rely on that map in the spring to guide his replanting efforts.
And that’s what you see here. (Nota bene: The top of the image is east.) The brown leaves* represent dead pecans at the time of the census. The green are live pecans. And the pale blue are live pecans around which Pablo (and his crew) have erected a post and fence — to keep those lusty bucks from rubbing off their velvet on the little trees.
There are a number of things I can tell you from looking at this census map. First, notice the dominant grouping of the dead (brown) pecans. You can see that this is in the center of the plantation. (I realize “plantation” is a grand word for an acre of gravelly hardpan with a fluctuating count of twigs that may some day be pecans, but, heck, I’m a visionary!) The center of the plantation receives the least amount of water. Beyond the left side of the image, a grassy south-facing slope rises. Water and some good topsoil drain down from here, helping the pecans on the left survive and even flourish. At the bottom of the image the soil is not very good, but the leaky dam keeps the trees fairly well watered. That grouping of blue leaves at the bottom give you a general idea of where the leak waters flow. (This, not coincidentally, is where the tickseed coreopsis grows in the summer, as you can see here.) And beyond the right side of the image is an intermittent pond at the base of the slope that rises there. The soil here is a little better, and the pond keeps the area wetter as well. All of the drainage from the leaks also collects itself and flows along this right side of the plantation.
I can also reliably assume that the green leaves represent lackluster pecans. With limited time resources, I’ve only been able to fence some of the pecans so far. I chose the ones that looked like they had grown best and left the skimpy ones to fend for themselves, hoping the scrub would hide them from the deer (and, unfortunately, from the life-giving sunlight as well). I’ve calculated roughly that fencing each pecan costs me about $7.00, which isn’t a whole lot of money for the eventual payback, but when you consider there are fifty trees down here, you make your choices.
Nonetheless, I can now look at this map at my leisure and count how many fence posts I need to buy and haul down to Roundrock. I can even estimate how much fencing I’ll need. (We can generally get five trees fenced from one roll, though we are making more spacious cages than we had originally.)
We’ve taken this census three times now, and from the consistent pattern of brown we see in the center each year, we’ve concluded we won’t be replanting in that area for a while. Our surmise is that these trees don’t get sufficient water from rainfall to survive, so unless we can visit them regularly with our milk jugs of water to wet their parched roots, there is no point in putting any more in. The plan is that once we move to Roundrock, we’ll give those pecans another try. (Though I am tempted to put shortleaf pine in those places just to see how they do. These pines are supposed to love rocky, dry soil, which is not what the pine plantation has. Ironically, I have put pines where pecans would do well and pecans where pines would do well. Anyway, I have fifty pines arriving this month, so maybe I will.)
The tapering of the plantings on the right side — the shorter rows, I mean — are the result of the lay of the land. At the top of the image there are some large trees that shade the area and I thought there was no point in planting there (though some sycamore are coming up nicely on their own). At the bottom of the image the ground is pretty much pure gravel. While the rest of the acre has grown a luxurious pelt of grass, this part has remained open and forbidding.
So these are some of the lessons I have learned about my pecan planting ambitions. I hope to draw a similar grid for the pines, though I’ve only had two years of experience with those, so my profound insights may not be so plentiful.
*I spent some time casting about in the image library in Photoshop trying to find the right one. I wanted to use a tree, and there were several that looked pecan-ish, but I feared that at the size I would need to use, they wouldn’t look like trees, and, honestly, the size my actual pecans are don’t make them look like trees either. So I settled on this spear-shaped leaf since it does look a bit like a pecan leaflet.
- The Missouri Natural Events Calendar comes up blank for this day. I wish you could see the photo that was used for February. You may be familiar with those Escher drawings of black and white birds merging in the sky. Multiply that by a thousand and you would have an idea of the February photo. Take a look at this photo by the same photographer and understand that is it merely a slice, a tenth, of the photo on the calendar