Miles City Planting

  • May 30, 2017
  • Posted by Abby Kravis

I enjoy planting. There’s something nice about having my hands in the soil, trying to cultivate a small, baby plant to grow and flourish in life. I appreciate the opportunity for growth and new life. As I pack in the soil around the roots, I care for the young life and give it a little bit of love. I wish it well in life and hope that it’s new home treats it well.

As much as I appreciate this vivacious potential, I also just enjoy having my hands in the dirt. We spend a lot of time at work on a big scale, seeing an entire trail or sizing up a tree. When working, we move hundred-pound rocks with 20-pound metal bars. Planting is a nice contrast to all that. We get to kneel up close to our project and focus just on the patch of earth in front of us. Instead of contacting the earth through a tool, we get to use our hands directly to pack in the dirt and spread the protective layer of mulch. It is a more personal form of conservation.

While a lot of our work is indirect conservation, this is direct. Usually we are helping to make public lands more accessible to people by improving trails, which works to preserve the surrounding ecosystem by limiting the area of human influence. In planting, we are individually putting the saplings in the ground, each of which has the potential to grow into a large tree. Each tree will stabilize the streambank, preventing erosion and directing the course of the creek. Each tree will create shade in an open grassland. This shade, in turn, will allow different plants to grow than those that can tolerate the sun. It will provide a cool paradise for animals hiding from the heat of summer.

Each tree could grow into something great, but when we plant them, they are only saplings. They are between one and three feet tall. They are skinny sticks, hard to differentiate from some of the straight, brown, herbaceous plants growing nearby. They don’t look like much. Yet. But I know what they can become. So I plant them with care. I straighten out the roots and stretch them down, where they can reach deep. I pack in the soil for stability. I add a weed-resistant tarp, to limit competition for precious resources. I top it with mulch to hold in moisture. I pound fence posts into the ground and tie up fencing, to protect the delicate baby trees from grazing predators. The smallest and most delicate of the saplings even get mesh sun shades, to protect them from the harsh, midday light. We do everything that we can to give these trees their best chance at life. Their best chance to grow and flourish and become something great.

When I was a child, I would plant with my mom: flowers in the beds and vegetables in the garden. I liked the feeling of the dirt and I liked caring for the plants. I loved the earthworms and the roly-poly’s. In my teenage years I lost touch with that passion—the soft dirt and fascinating insects became gross. I became bored and apathetic, as teenagers are likely to do. I don’t know when it stopped being disgusting and recaptured my interest, but I could not be more thankful that it did. I appreciate growing vegetables and herbs at home. And I appreciate the week of planting I was able to do with MCC along the Cherry Creek. I appreciate the project partner who tracked each individual plant, so that she could know what factors gave them their best chance at life. I appreciated sharing this planting experience with other leaders who have not had the opportunity to do this sort of work before. And I still appreciate the opportunity to stick my hands in the soil and give a little love.


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