Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

The Friendship Tree

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That’s one down side to homeschooling/unschooling.  Kids in schools sometimes come home with such cool stuff.  They don’t get to do the cool stuff we do at home, but they have some great opportunities.

On Thursday Maddy brought home a tree from school.  Every student in her 3rd grade class got one.  They were supposed to plant it somewhere in their community.  Unfortunately, there was a small problem.  She wasn’t going to be able to take the tree with her when she leaves to move out of state.  That meant she was going to have to plant the tree or otherwise get rid of it.  Her mom didn’t have the time to help her plant it, so my guess is it was just going to be left somewhere.

Maddy ended up staying over our house Friday night.  It’s the first sleepover we’ve ever hosted at our house.  Corde was super excited, but I saw this as an opportunity.  The kids could plant the tree.  It would be perfect.

The slightly abused red oak…poor thing had it rough being toted around in it’s bag…

Unfortunately, I’m not sure management would have allowed us to plant a tree.  We’re going to have to talk to them about it before we put it in the ground.  I don’t want it run over by a lawnmower or attacked with a weed eater when they come to do lawn maintenance.  It’s going to take a good long while for that tree to grow to a size that’s at all reasonable.  It could still be in baby stages for the next ten years.  Red oaks are big trees and we want to see it become something fantastic.  They provide a lot of shade, which is something in short supply here.  The more trees we can plant in Texas, the better.  Honestly, if I could have a ten acre plot, I’d fill it with trees if I could.  It would be possible to slowly grow a small forest on even an acre of land.  You can get a six month’s subscription to the Arbor Day Foundation for $10.  With that you can either have ten trees planted in a national forest, or you can have ten trees sent to your front door.  They’re only baby trees so they take some time to grow, but you can select the kinds of trees you want.  Some are mixes.  Others are just ten of the same kind of tree.  You can also get a discount when shopping for more trees.  If you think about it, for $20 each year you can get a full year’s subscription and 20 trees.  If I did that every six months for the next 20 years, I could have 400 trees to plant.  That’s 100 trees for each of my kids!  They could each have their own small forest.  Think about the impact that would have on our home, the local wildlife, and the environment as a whole.  With all the emphasis on saving the environment, improving the environment seems to be sorely forgotten, especially here where so much of the land is nothing but hay fields and cattle pastures.  The land has been cleared to make way for more industrious pursuits.

Luca trying to investigate the dirt filling process

Anyhow, all of that aside, we don’t have permission from management to plant a tree.  While I think it’s silly that we need permission I can understand.  First off, I think it was pretty stupid to put all the pipes and underground wiring so shallow.  It’s all only 6 inches below the ground.  However, it also means we’ve got to put some serious consideration on where the tree goes in the ground.  At the time being, we’re keeping it in a temporary container, just until we figure out what we’re going to do.  I don’t have any gardening tools, but I might improvise some if we get permission from management.  Heaven knows the property could use a little shade and it would help keep any trailer that sat under it cooler in the summer.  It would also be a great place for kids to play.  A tree on the lot would also beautify it, making the property look so much nicer.  It would make the property so much more desirable too.  Everyone likes the lots with the trees because of the shade.  Many of the lots around here have trees already.  I’d say over half of them do.  Even our lot has a small tree by the back door that really needs to be relocated or trimmed back at the very least.  One more tree would just make it that much nicer.

The girls carrying the last load of dirt

While the little guy, Oz, and our neighbors sat by we sent the kids off to gather up some dirt.  Luca thought holding himself up on the bucket was pretty fun, so that’s how he tried to help.  He even stood on his own with the bucket for support.  Daddy was close enough to catch him should he start to wobble, but he was determined to stand.  Sander’s method of doing this involved tossing dirt everywhere and occasionally bringing over a handful in his little paw to toss in.  Beekee brought it over in cups.  Corde and Maddy had the best idea yet.  They were going to cart the dirt to the bin in a big, empty Gatorade container.  They filled it up then dumped it into the container.  It took a several trips, but they eventually filled it.  As they filled it I poured in water because our soil is so dry and a little bit of plant food.  I didn’t have anything to mix with, so I started with my hands and when it got too deep for that I used a stick.  Beekee’s favorite part of the whole thing was filling the bottom with rocks so any extra moisture would be trapped there rather than drowning the roots, though it would take a lot of water to create that effect.  As tall as the tree is, it’s root structure is surprisingly small.  Corde was expecting that the tree’s roots would have to be a volume of about half the tree’s trunk, but it the roots were small enough to be easily contained in the palm of my hand.

Once we had enough dirt to set the tree in without burying it too deep I set the tree in there and held it in place while the girls brought the final two loads of dirt.  We poured in the last of the water and the tree was set.  We moved the container down onto the ground next to the porch steps and that’s where the tree has stayed since.

Corde, Beekee, Maddy, and Sander with the tree (Sander looks like he’s been eating the dirt!)

Thinking about the tree I decided it was time to do a little research.  The kids had a lot of questions.  They asked how I knew it was a red oak, so I told them it said so on the information from the tree.  However, you can also tell by the shape of the leaves.  Every kind of tree has a unique shape of leaf which makes the tree identifiable.  I know to some degree it’s not always the shape, but sometimes the size.  The general idea remains the same.  We talked about the acorns the kids have been finding everywhere.  Apparently those acorns are red oak acorns.  They’ll fall off our tree when it’s big enough.  This is a fast growing tree, which means it will probably grow close to 24 inches or more every year.  If that’s the case our little tree is probably about two years old.  It will reach it’s likely maximum height for Texas in about ten years, if I’ve done my math right, but they can grow as tall as 60 feet and as wide of a spread as 40 feet.  I knew oak trees got pretty big, so I wasn’t surprised by this.  Then the kids and I looked around from our porch to see if any of the other trees we saw looked like they could be red oak.  Obviously there was the tree the kids got their acorns from, but that wasn’t in sight.  However, the neighbors have a beautiful red oak by their home that’s already turning a beautiful red-gold color for fall, something I’d really started to miss.  Before we moved we really didn’t see anything that resembled fall foliage.  The leaves would turn brown and fall off almost overnight.  We’re only four hours north and we actually get fall here.  We talked a lot about the tree and what was going to happen with it over time.  It doesn’t look like much more than a branch with a few leaves on it.  They were surprised by the lacking of branches, but it will get branches in time.

It all started out with Maddy’s mom saying the tree wouldn’t make the trip and I offered to plant it for them.  She told Maddy it would be used for a school project for Corde and the boys so it needed to stay here.  I hadn’t even thought of it as a school project.  I was more thinking that it would be one more way the kids could do something good for the environment.  They want to do what they can to encourage local wildlife to get more adventurous and visit the property.  We don’t get a lot of birds and things, so it would be nice if we got more.  She had a great idea in calling it a school project because it’s become an educational thing.  We’re going to be learning a lot about the local trees.  We want to plant as many as we can.

The last moment the friends get to spend with the friendship tree.

The tree has now been named “the Friendship Tree”.  I think it’s a great name.  It’s a tree planted by friends.  The neighborhood kids also became really good friends because of the tree they climb all the time.  They would be planting another tree that maybe some other kids will develop a friendship climbing in the future.  Even if we don’t plant it here we most likely won’t own the land we plant it on.  Even if we do there will be future generations of tree-climbing kids to enjoy it.  It’s going to provide lots of shade, climbing opportunities, and so much more for kids and adults for years to come.  It’s nice to think of all the friendships that will begin under that tree or up in it’s branches.  The tree probably won’t be big enough for climbing by the time Corde’s still young enough to be considered a kid (though you never know!) and we may not even be living here anymore, but they’re giving a gift to future tree-climbing friends, improving the environment, and learning something in the process.  What could be better?

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

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