Trees with Meaning 1

Sam's Redwood
Sam’s Redwood

When our 26-year old son Sam was in the first grade, the first and second grade classes went on a field trip to the Georgia Pacific lumber mill here in Fort Bragg. Designed primarily for processing the huge logs typical of the Coastal Redwood Sequoia Sempervirens, this mill closed shop some years back, having too few trees left to warrant continued operation.

But twenty years ago the mill was busy with its last gasp, and the staff there was always happy to host the wee bairns for Fire Safety Day. On display for those innocent wide-eyes was a California Department of Forestry helicopter to gawk at, fire trucks, big bulldozers used in fire fighting and, of course, fire fighters galore, many of whom were dads, brother, uncles of some of the kids (small town!)

Add hot dogs and ice cream and you’ve got a pretty good day out of the classroom.

At that time, GP maintained an enormous greenhouse where they grew gazillions of redwoods from seed. The seeds were harvested by helicopter with a big can-thing with grabby fingers — a little like a crab trap for really big crabs. This was lowered by helicopter down over the tops of tall trees and, when lifted back up, would rake off thousands of redwood cones. With precious tall-tree seeds in them.

Those seeds would be planted and nurtured and used in reforesting clear-cut timberland. Or you could buy them for your own property; it was open to the public for retail sales. (A styrofoam “flat” with a hundred one-year seedlings sold for only $40!) Anyway, for Fire Safety Day each kid got a two year seedling to take home.

I used to go along to all the field trips — one of the great perks of self-employment! When Sam and I got home we planted his little redwood in a pot. It got bigger. Then we planted it in the ground where it continued to do so.

Sam’s two-year seedling is now about 45 feet tall and measures 15″ in diameter at “breast height” (which I learned on the field trip is how you measure tree diameter — DBH is Diameter at Breast Height.)

We have several of these “Trees with Meaning” on our three acres of this pretty planet. I’ll write about them from time to time.

How about you? Any trees in your life that deserve recognition?

Author: Ron Hock

Owner of HOCK TOOLS (.com) and author of "The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers"

7 thoughts on “Trees with Meaning 1”

  1. My parents gave me a Dawn Redwood ( Metasequoia glyptostroboides) for my 40th birthday. Beautiful tree, deciduous conifer, foliage turned butterscotch in the fall – a bit like a larch. After 24 years and maybe 40 feet of growth, it is now in someone else’s care (but now I have shop space!). Not many redwoods in Indiana. Perhaps it’s time to plant one at the new place.


  2. My (late) grandfather planted three maple trees, two on his property both in front of his house and one out back, and one in front of his neighbors house. At the time a very elderly widow lived there with no family nearby to care for her, so my grandparents gladly took up the mantle of caretakers. Well, years and years later my wife and I purchased that widows house, an old Victorian farmhouse built in 1911, and began to raise our family as well as care for my aging grandparents, what a joy it was for my to sit on my front porch and watch my children climb in a tree planted decades ago by my grandfather, just as I had done in his trees…

  3. When I was pregnant with your grandson, and my nesting involved a chainsaw, we discovered a cute little plum tree which was maybe 2 or 3 years old and hidden amongst a scraggily bunch of bull pine and cypress. As our family grew, so did the plum tree. Over the years its branches have swung many children, shaded many a party, provided bushels and bushels of juicy fruit and, I recently discovered, its leaves are a real treat for my goats. I even had a dream about this tree once, the night before we had a yard sale. In my dream, I was standing under the tree when its leaves turned into dollar bills and came raining down on me. A few hours later, as people swarmed our yard (literally crawling through bushes and over fences), I found myself under the plum tree with people shoving money into my hands. Good tree.
    As for using “breast height” to measure anything, I see potential issues.

  4. Hi Ron,

    Thank you for the great post. I just hired tree trimmers to lace out Canary Island Pines that I helped my dad plant out of 3 gallon containers in our front yard down in La Jolla when I was six years old, in 1966. I was stunned to hear one of the crew members tell me the trees are now 110 feet tall.

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