We have in our experiments endeavored to make use of such materials as lay at hand, though well aware that nurseries and gardens could have helped us on our way more rapidly. But trees, if purchased, are expensive luxuries, and our object has been partly to see what can be done without much money, and with only a moderate amount of labor. Our experience has shown us, what the books on forestry told us in the beginning, that sowing seeds and nuts is far less satisfactory than transplanting small trees; but we have had the entertainment of proving their statements for ourselves, and find our compensation in such trifling results as we have achieved. The Pine seeds, which we shook from the cones in the autumn, and planted before they had time to dry, came up profusely enough in little clusters, but so tiny and weak, that it is wonderful that they are ever discovered even in the thin grass of the hillside, which we leave near them to afford shade. They make, under these conditions, a sturdy little growth so long as the weather is cool and moist, but are apt to disappear altogether in the month of July. Any small tree, that one can pull up by a wayside, will make better returns for a little attention than these slow-growing mites from seeds.
Such White Birch seed as we have sown, either because we did not know when to gather it, or whether it came from the wrong tree, has failed to come up at all; but in the sandiest and most uncomfortable part of the hill we find little seedlings that have come up of themselves from the trees at the foot, so that we are fain to confess that Nature understands her business better than we do.
The very small Pines, a few inches high, of which we have set a large number on the rear of the hill, do not grow as well as the larger ones, and are more apt to die. So far our experience leads us to prefer good-sized trees of all kinds for transplanting, rather than small ones, the larger tree seeming to have more vitality to come and go upon until new roots are formed, and it has become adapted to its new conditions.
We have planted various kinds of acorns in great profusion, but the Mossy-cup and the Chestnut Oak seem to thrive best in this waterless soil. The White and Red Oaks seem to require enriching to hold their own at all, and Maple seedlings, which come up promptly, yield to the first drought, though very small transplanted trees live on. Hickories, though slow in growth, are not vanquished by the conditions, and little yearling Chestnuts, transplanted and dug about, flourish bravely.
From a friend in town, whose English Walnut-tree has borne profusely after the recent warm winters, we have obtained fresh nuts, which, promptly set, have germinated and given us fine little shoots in one season. This tree is a more rapid grower than any of our native nut-trees, and so far has stood the winters, but we have had no weather below zero here since 1887, and cannot answer for the effect of an old-fashioned season. The field-mice have a great predilection for them, and gnawed our largest one down to the root a year ago, but it came up again in the spring with redoubled vigor, and made up for lost time.
Small Black Birches, dug up by the roadside, and put into holes prepared for them in the side of the hill, have thriven without much attention, and make a favorable growth; but some Ailanthus-trees from a nursery, in spite of Horace Greeley, have refused to do anything at all. In the swale at the foot of the hill, where the soil is deep and moist, all trees flourish.
English Oaks grow rapidly from acorns, and we have a fine group of Chestnuts, transplanted when fifteen feet high, that grow well after being cut back sternly when set. Though much beset by insects, they are now firmly established, having been planted in the autumn of 1888. In this same moist, rich soil we have also had very good success with that difficult tree to move, the Hemlock; and the Tulip-tree and the Mulberry also flourish, though the tender young branches of the latter suffered after the last two warm winters, dying back badly.
To get all this young family started, as may be imagined, took a great deal of time, and much subsequent attention, one favorable result of which is that from constant clambering up the steep hill, which was at first a breathless piece of business, our lungs have developed to such a degree that we are disposed to recommend the cultivation of a forest on a slope to all such as, like Hamlet, are "fat and scant of breath," for the fine stimulus it proves to the action of the heart.