This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V29", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Besides improving and adding so much to the beauty of the otherwise dreary sameness of landscape, they furnish the most effectual means possible of giving comfort to man and beast, and through which, "He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb".
The timber question is a most important one, and urgently calls for our serious consideration, as the supply of which is rapidly diminishing Vast areas of territory, upon which millions of useful trees once flourished, are continually being disforested by the incessant strokes of the woodcutter's axe, in order to supply the increasing demands of the voracious and insatiate maw of civilization, which is fast devouring all the timber it can be fed with, without cessation, yet never cries hold ! enough.
If the present rate at which it is now being consumed goes on for the next fifty years, without attempting to make good the loss by planting young trees, there will be a timber famine in this once beautiful tree covered land. Then the unhappy winter-frozen and summer-scorched people will bitterly curse the money-hunting, lucre-loving misanthropes, whose greedy propensities brought them to such a deplorable pass.
"As ye sow, so shall ye reap," is a trite aphorism, which equally concerns both producer and consumer, and behooves us to study well its implication. And this often-quoted text, suggests the simple, though important query - how long can anybody possessing the most meagre knowledge of political economy, expect to keep reaping without sowing?
The ancient fable, about which everyone knows, of the valuable goose which daily laid a golden egg, and was a sure source of profit as long as it generously continued to leave an auriferous deposit in its nest - as history informs us it did with the greatest regularity possible, until one day it ceased to yield any more to its covetous owner, on account of his unnatural treatment to poor good natured goosy - is as useful to " point a moral and adorn a tale " at this day, as it was in the olden time. And it would be well to ponder over it, and see if it does not present a parallel to the false economy, ungrateful and avaricious men too often pursue in their inordinate haste to get rich.
Professor Rothrock recently remarked: " That in spite of the common belief to the contrary, this is not a timbered continent, only 16 1/2 per cent. of the whole area remaining in timber. This is within 1 1/2 per cent. of the condition when a nation begins to experience a dearth of timber, and climatic changes begin to take place".
Now these are startling facts to make known, and deserve the serious consideration of every body who has any regard for the future welfare of our race. And if, as is often asserted, "history repeats itself," the fate of this prosperous and happy land may, in the not distant future, resemble the fall of empires in the Euphrates Valley, which has been attributed to clearing off the timber - as we are informed.
No wonder that wise, philanthropic and intelligent individuals, from time immemorial, have manifested an ardent love for trees, as have also their revering, cultured descendants, when their honored predecessors passed away, likewise cherished a strong regard for them. For have they not been useful, beautiful, comforting, and I may add companionable, in every age since our first parents found shelter and bliss among them, before the days of toil and trouble began, when sighs and tears were unheard and unseen, and pain and sorrow were unknown.
Those hallowed enclosures, the rural cemeteries, where we at last affectionately deposit our departed kith and kin in their final resting-places, would be gloomy places indeed, were it not for the cheerful effects which the flowers, green grass, shrubs and trees impart to the sacred spots. And possibly the venerable Abraham was the first man who by example, demonstrated a love for trees in cemeteries. See Gen. 23, which describes the first recorded transaction in real estate, when the patriarch bought "the field of Machpelah," in which he buried the remains of his beloved wife Sarah. This interesting circumstance plainly shows how very sensitive he was for arborescent beauty, when he stipulated for " all the trees that were in the field, and were in all the borders round about".
Strange as it may appear to those who recognize the grandeur, harmony or beauty of landscape, that there should exist others so stupidly indifferent to the charms of nature, so pleasing to the eye of taste, and yet is unseen by them, and who [never look upon flower or tree with the least admiration, or even listen with delight to the little warblers, who flit happily among the green bushes with hearts attuned to love.
That there is an unaccountable antipathy to trees, among the ignorant of both rich and poor, which extends even to the street shade trees in country and town, is painfully evident from the shameful way in which they are carelessly or purposely abused. For no sooner do the handsome trees along the city side-walks attain to a proper size, to afford an agreeable shade in the sweltering summer months to the perspiring pedestrian, whose blood at fever heat is surging through his swollen veins, and panting with giddy brain almost on fire, longs for the shady, cooling, breathing spot, beneath the thousands of leaf fans constantly in motion above him, than some tasteless, soulless, malignant biped, who probably does not know the name of one tree from another, thinks it is high time to maltreat and mutilate them with axe and saw. And the next thing we see, is the slashing muscular tree-butcher, with evil in his eye, bent upon carrying to the bitter end the baneful designs of the detestable tree-hater, who hired him to do such a devilish job. And this occurs just as if in the illimitable space above, there was not room enough for them to gracefully ascend and expand.
There is hardly a street shade tree to be seen large enough to chop at, that has escaped the cold steel of the vandals, as their mangled and disfigured appearance silently testifies to the bad usage inflicted.
As retribution, in some way or other, always follows acts of injustice, to whosoever wilfully does wrong, even to a tree, which we are assured *' God saw that it was good," when he gave to it a living form, and which, to those capable of exercising intellectual tastes, is confessedly a most beautiful thing.
There would undoubtedly be fewer cases of sunstroke, if trees were more liberally planted and encouraged to grow during the heated term we annually pass through.
And while discussing the subject of shade trees in particular, before these desultory remarks are brought to a close, I will venture a word of advice to all who enjoy "the goodliness of trees," which not only add to the adornment of our homes, crowded streets and thoroughfares, but materially aid in giving health and comfort to those who use them. Let well enough alone, when you see a handsome vigorous tree, and do not attempt to improve their natural grace and beauty by injuring or disfiguring them with axe or saw in the hands of some poor ignoramus, who can give no better reason why he chops this branch off, or spares the other, or cuts the whole tree down, than he is paid for what he is doing. And always remember that when a tree presents a healthy condition, the immense leaf surface spread around us is one of Nature's ways of assisting to cool off, and put in motion the heated atmosphere, and thus render the surface of the earth as healthy and enjoyable to man, as it is to the lower orders of creation, who gratefully accept the inviting shade.
By following these suggestions, not only will money and health be saved, but the comeliness of the trees also. Then ligneous deformity, decay and death, will be the exception rather than the rule - which too often prevails.
As a last remark, I cannot help quoting how well Coleridge describes the grateful feelings of the appreciative and tender-hearted man, in these lines:
"He prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all".
Mount Holly, New Jersey.