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.”
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.
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.
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!