My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Continuing Story of the Trees of Anahuac

Recently I published a blog on the fate of the trees of Anahuac.  But the story will be continuing over the next few years.

A map of the region just north of the butterfly garden with way points showing planting sites

A huge chapter got written between mid January and  Saturday, February 5. It started with me taking the tree order plus counting all the trees I was caring for and figuring out where they should go. I walked around for several days marking coded way points and then put them in Google earth so Stephanie, the work day coordinator, would know what size holes to drill and where each tree should go. Then she used the maps to deliver trees to the correct places. This data will also let us track these trees and see how they fare over the years.

Taking delivery
Then, in late January, Travis and I accepted delivery of 250 trees that the Friends had bought. We started getting them unloaded and were really happy when a Chuck and Jerry, two staffers, volunteered to help. We unloaded all of them near the treated water well house. (The well water in that area is so salty, it kills trees so we have to use rainwater or treated water for them). They made a wonderful show there.

In spite of  a cold front with predicted icy rain, sleet, and snow, and the refuge being closed for a day and a half, the workday went on. The refuge staff had had to pull several guys to load the delivered trees on  two trailers and put them in the maintaince building.  Another group had gone over to the voluteer quarters and picked up the hackberry and willows I had been watering and stored them safe from freezing.  I gathered up tools, tables and chairs and hauled them to the refuge just before we had to leave at noon on Thursday ahead of the icy precipitation.

Some of the planters

Vehicle is bringing trees, planters are working and the walkers are between plantings

On Saturday, many people didn't get to come until after the starting time of nine o' clock because their routes still had black ice on the roads. But they mostly came as soon as they could. Locals made it on time and immediately got to work. A couple brought in their own team of their kids and their kid's friends and worked a couple of hours between ball games that had been rescheduled due to the weather.   A school bus with thirteen high school kids and their teacher showed up at 11:00 and the kids madly planted hackberries and willows at the edge of The Willows Pond until around 1:00 when then finally stopped for a late lunch. By the end of the day the count was up to 55 volunteers and staff workers.

The high school volunteers

This workday was planned for planting 400 trees and shrubs in the twelve acres around the Visitor Center, including The Willows.  Teams were planting along the back grassy trail, along the boardwalk, around the Willows and even along the road to Shoveler Pond. ATV's were hauling trees and mulch, people were walking behind wheelbarrows carrying mulch or empty pots, people were digging, planting and weeding, then building dikes around the plants.  The lovely warm weather made it all more fun and then we got to eat a really good meal served by Kay and Dorothy who probably worked harder than any of the rest of us setting up the room and getting everything hot and ready to serve, then cleaning it all up and hauling it all away again.

Break time after planting yaupons

By the end of the day we planted about 250 trees which was amazing because the very heavy clay soils were extremely wet - too wet, in fact, for the drilling machine to get in to drill all the holes. It was extremely hard to get the dirt back in the holes and build the dikes. Because the holes were filling up with water the driller decided to wait until early on the work day to drill the holes.  He ended up sliding into Willows Pond and having to be pulled out.  I didn't get time to water the trees until Sunday when I spent the day driving around  with a about 70 gallons of water at a time, running it into buckets, and then hauling the buckets to the trees. A few other volunteers helped with this big chore.

Now we have about 150 trees sitting on trailers- we had a second spate of 3 consecutive below thirty-degree nights so they just got back out yesterday  - waiting for our March 5 work day. Come join us for fun, good companionship, a good free (well sorta free) meal  and a great sense of accomplishment towards restoring the habitat at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Contact me at and I'll get you on the list.