Our favorite tree (and it isn’t a fruit tree!)

We have a lot of trees on our farm. But our favorite tree cannot be found among the tens of thousands of fruit trees in our orchards. In fact, our favorite tree isn’t a fruit tree at all! It’s a black walnut tree. So why is this tree so special? History. This tree is really old!

A man came into our market in the fall a number of years ago. He bought some fruit, we made small talk and after a while he went back outside. Later on I was on my way to the house when I saw him again. He was walking slowly around the walnut tree, running his fingers over the gnarled bark and peering up through the branches. “I worked in timber all my life in Ohio”, he said to me. “Do you know this tree is over 300 years old? A Black Walnut like this grows only half as fast as other trees, you know.”

Moelker home 1930's

1930 Walnut tree is behind house on left

300 years is a long time. We’re talking before this country was a country, this tree was here! Before Ben Franklin and George Washington, and long before the revolutionary war, this tree was quietly growing out in a field or forest or whatever was here at the time. And it has survived and outlived all the trees around it. It seems as though this tree has always been big. Photographs of our home around the turn of the century show it towering over the house way back then! And it is even bigger today. Almost 17 feet in circumference! It shades the whole back yard and is a favorite photo spot for our customers.

Maizy and the walnut tree

Maizy by the walnut tree

If this tree could talk, I’ll bet it would have a lot of stories to tell. Stories of kids and ladders, of swings and lightning strikes, and maybe even of the time my  brother used one of the lower limbs to pull the motor out of his car with a block and tackle! (you may have to look that term up!) For years we sold our cherries with a scale hung from the walnut tree. It was a welcome shady spot on a hot summer day. A picnic table and some lemonade was all we needed. And the walnut tree.

Lightning scar

Lightning scar from 1981

 

Few things are constant any more. Few things are lasting. But this big old tree stands in defiance of the changes all around us. It is a silent sentry, watching over the hustle and bustle of life, and I think shaking its head in wonder at all of us. And it is healthy and strong, producing bushels of walnuts every other year. Who knows. Maybe someday one of those little walnuts will become a tree. And start another long era of quiet growth, adding ring upon ring as the years go by. And becoming a welcome gathering spot as this old tree has. Perhaps that is why it is our favorite.

Hope you have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker

 

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11 thoughts on “Our favorite tree (and it isn’t a fruit tree!)

  1. How amazing…I feel like I’m learning so much from your blog. Do you grow vegetables? I started my own garden this year so I’m looking forward to following you. Happy gardening 🙂

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  2. I am not sure I can leave a reply. I tried to comment on the barn, but didn’t see it post. Do I need to sign up for something?

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  3. Love reading your blog when it comes my way. it’s always so informative!! I am curious as to whether or not a decision has been made on the future of the barn, I hope you decided to save it!!
    Can’t wait for cherries!!

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  4. Thank you, Tom.
    You are wonderful writer! Your story is amazing, Your thoughts not only about fruits, about philosophy of life and eternity, history and beauty.
    Thank you again.
    Rita and Joseph.

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  5. We lived near a huge black walnut tree for over 42 years that was in our neighbors yard in Byron Township . If you are ever in the area, it is located west of Wilson Avenue and south of 68th Street about 1/4 mile on Homerich Avenue. It is right near the road. When we moved the ranch house next door in 1972 there was a huge hickory tree in the front yard and another large maple in the neighbors yard opposite our garage along with the black walnut. The hickory tree had to be taken down due to disease and a major split of its trunk and the maple also died due to damage and disease. When we had the hickory taken down we counted the rings on the stump and estimated it to be about 145 years old and it was smaller than the black walnut! Just looking at the photo and not really looking closely at the walnut in your yard, I think the one on Homerich is even bigger. It has been struck by lighting and it definitely shaded a lot of livestock during its lifetime. I’m not sure about estimating the age of a tree without being able to count growth rings, but your tree is definitely in the “senior” category

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    • I have a customer in Kentucky who recently purchased one of the very first homes still standing built in the state while still officially a territory of Great Britain. Just outside of Georgetown, the front yard features two walnut trees at least as old and impressive as yours. Massive in every respect of the word, they are, to me, just as historically significant as the house they’ve stood vigil for since the 1770’s.
      And yours may be the oldest and largest in Michigan. There are people who roam the state looking for and documenting the largest example of every specific kind of tree alive here. Contact Michigan State Horticulture Department. They probably know the organization that handles this discovery process. How exciting it would be to have Michigan’s, and maybe the nation’s, largest native walnut tree growing in your front yard.

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