I have just returned from a tree planting event yesterday. It started from 8am in the morning, some of us arrived on time and others eventually showed up around mid day. We would have planted 3000 seedlings or what not by 1pm. Great turn out, probably about 100 people all together. Land rover owners group was taking care of the logistics and they were pulling the trailer to water the trees on the day. I had to look twice when a coach bus turned up the drive way and parked itself. It was a group of school aged children in their uniforms from a children’s program at a zoo.
We planted across 2 paddocks. They had already cut rips into the ground; digging lines into the ground so the soil would have had some time to breathe in preparation, taking in more water before planting. A small group of volunteers placed seedlings and the tree guards in place the previous day, so all we had to do was to walk around, dig a hole and plant those small trees where we found them.
Ground was quite rocky in parts. You try to dig a shovel in the ground and nothing happens. So you take half a step sideways and try again. Shovel goes in the ground okay this time. You take one more half step back, and this time, shovel goes in the ground well enough a hole begin to appear. Unlike the familiar image of creating a mound around a tree, you rather plant a tree in a hole and that bit of depression in the ground gives the higher chance of the tree’s survival. “Depressed tree is a happy tree,” they said.
Some people worked in pairs. Others, like myself, worked on their own. Some worked in pairs but they would take as long as 1 person can complete a task between the two. Some would spend more time socialising than doing anything productive. I observed one of them with much interest as he enthusiastically discussed the effectiveness of the program while holding a few people up from working, because they were having to listen to him. Others found the momentum and just kept going. Nobody called for morning tea or lunch, so we all reached for the food each brought at own time. Some people had a bag full of tools and refreshments to cary around, others would walk around with a water bottle and a shovel as they would simply walk back to their car if they needed a break.
The program has been going on for the past 30 years or so. It receives government funding, but it is only possible because of the community and the volunteers. They are creating habitat for the endangered species like the regent honey eater and alike by planting appropriate native trees. They initially had to plant just anywhere until the program became well known. Landowners would willingly contribute a bit of their land nowadays, so the program can choose the land they decide to work on, and the things begun to run more smoothly as time went by. We saw a video of the land owners showing around their property, and we saw the change in the landscape where it used to be just empty flat land. They say that it would be 20-30 years before a tree would be mature enough to benefit the regent honey eater, but they would provide other species with their requirements up to that point. Some of the volunteers would be well over 100 years old by the time these trees are fully grown. Volunteers paid own transport and paid for the dinner prepared by the community group. We sat and ate together in a community hall. Nobody asked who I was or where I come from. We introduced each other, but I bet you none of us remembered another’s name. We just got together and planted trees. It’s worth it. It’s worth making an effort to do what we are supposed to be doing.