It’s happening. The awakening has begun. Anticipation has been building since the oak trees started dropping acorns last September.
For some fifteen years I have collected acorns from the mighty oaks of southern Minnesota in order to grow oak trees that have been genetic strengthened by the interplay of our harsh climate, extremely varied soils, and the process of natural selection over thousands, if not millions of years. The acorn crops vary wildly in size and quality from one year to the next, creating a challenge not only for seed collectors, but also for the many kinds of wildlife that depend on acorns as a source of high energy food.
During the fall of 2012, I wasn’t seeing a good acorn drop in the Northfield area, so I contacted Brad Gatzloff of Zumbro Valley Forestry, and he graciously provided me with four small batches of sound acorns from white oaks, bur oak, N. Pin Oaks, and Northern red Oak. October found us planting these precious seeds into very special propagation pots and trays that are designed to air prune the root systems as the small trees grow, producing the very best root systems that yield high success rates when planted. Since oak trees have long been considered difficult to transplant, the opportunity to grow oaks with root systems that make planting success easy to achieve, is a welcome and existing development.
Each time I plant an acorn, I think of the towering oaks in the woods where I live, and how some day that little acorn could become a beautiful source of cooling shade, nesting habitat, critter food, and eventually building material and fuel. It’s amazing what can come from these hard little nuts, if only we have the faith and foresight to plant them.
Now after a winter in cool moist potting mix, the acorns Brad brought me are awakening. First cracks appear in the hull, and soon a single root is just barely visible as it pokes out the pointed end of the acorn and turns downward to penetrate the mixture of peat and composted pine bark. This root develops for anywhere from a few days to a few months before the day finally comes when a shoot pops up from the acorn and heads skyward, producing first one set of leaves, then another, and soon it begins to actually look like a tiny oak tree.
Today is Mother’s Day 2013, a day to honor the women who have given us life, love and who nurtured our awakening from helpless infants to capable and self-sufficient adults. It’s also a day when I will celebrate the awakening of all life, as spring really unfolds across a landscape draped in the vibrant light green of brand new leaves.
Can you feel it? Can you hear it? The web of life awakens. Spring is finally here. Wildflowers are blooming in the woods, a mother duck walked her 13 ducklings right through the middle of the nursery yesterday, and in greenhouse #10 – acorns are awakening.