I make my home tucked in the southeast corner of Phoenix suburbs, surrounded by farms. Looking ahead fifteen years, I hope our area can hold onto it’s character. I’m not the only one that feels this way, I pass cotton fields, pecan groves, orange groves and dairy farms everyday. It is something I love about living near the San Tan mountains. I recognize that I write this from my house in a development, not sure what the word for that is. Something like irony or carpetbagger or I have seen the enemy and it is me?
Near my house is a luxury home development set among a grove of pecan trees. It gorgeous but largely undeveloped, it looks like it debuted at the brink of the housing collapse. In the past three years I’ve watched for signs of recovery but the lots stay empty. Construction is picking up again which means that this neighborhood will fill in eventually. I am glad the developer chose to theme around the former grove and kept so many trees, they turn bright gold in the fall. They are a popular destination for family portraits. For my local friends: There is another grove on the corner of Queen Creek and Gilbert Road but I think that the trees are dead. It looks like a pecan grove. I don’t recall seeing leaves on the trees. I know that it is another popular spot for photography. What can you tell me about this grove?
Before the advent of crowded communities and roads, the pecan was prized for it’s shade and nutritious, protein rich nut. Pecans thrive near water and sunlight so the presence of a pecan is an indication of a good camp site. These old concerns about food and shelter aren’t relevant in the same way these days. I think it is important to keep that connection with the natural world by remaining cognizant of what trees meant to early settlers in our area and think about what do the trees mean to us now? When I wrote this post, I turned to John Muir for his thoughts on trees. I invite you to pick your own favorite.
“I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness. — John Muir
The Native Americans used trees to mark features that were significant to them such as a good water source, quarry, a meeting place where payments could be made. At a likely spot, the Comanche tied a young sapling down so that it’s trunk grew parallel to the ground. The unnatural formation of the tree created a unique Indian Marker Tree, some survive throughout the country. We don’t have Marker trees in our area but it’s good to look at these pecan groves and understand the friendly feeling of safety and comfort a pecan communicated to a traveler. I feel lucky to live near tree groves. They relieve the monotony of the stucco developments and add a feeling of passing seasons to the year.
On the way to Tucson is a sprawling pecan grove, filling both sides of the highway. I would love to know the name of that area and of that farm. Just one more item on the list. The world is changing so fast. I hope when we drive to Tucson over the next twenty years those groves aren’t replaced with luxury homes. I love this quote from an Arizona Pecan farmer, Glenn Williams on why he loves working in a pecan grove. “Every time I drive through these trees in the summer, it’s so beautiful. It’s 10 or 20 degrees cooler; kind of like being at the ocean the way the sound is,” said Williams. Isn’t that fantastic?
My favorite story about another pecan tree admirer is attributed to the Governor Stephen Hogg of Texas; On the evening of Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1906, Texas’ former Governor James Stephen Hogg and his daughter Ima were visiting in the home of his law partner, Frank Jones, of Houston. During their conversation, the Governor told Jones and his daughter that when he died he wanted no monument of stone, but “Let my children plant at the head of my grave a pecan tree and at my feet an old-fashioned walnut tree. And when these trees shall bear, let the pecans and the walnuts be given out among the plain people so that they may plant them and make Texas a land of trees.” What a beautiful legacy he offered. He succeeded in calling attention to these beautiful trees and later Texas honored his memory by adopting the Pecan as the state tree of Texas.
Pecan trees thrive in the southern states, ideally along creek banks where their roots can plunge deep and draw water from the creek (in short supply here) and thrive on sunshine (no problem). You can gather pecans from the ground in October. If you are very patient and nurture the seed through the winter, your reward will be a pencil thick sapling that you can begin the journey of finding the right soil to sustain the tree and providing enough space from a structure to accommodate the tap root. Do you plant trees to remember special times in your life? I think it is the nicest thing you could do to mark an occasion.
Plant a seed,
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now. ~Chinese Proverb