The most exposed portion of the place being thus provided for, we turned our attention to the barren hillside, which was a pretty hopeless-looking spot for trees of any kind. This elevation, some forty feet high and running back nearly six hundred feet from the main street, seems to be the bank of some former water-way; at least I like to fancy that the odd terraces, which break its otherwise even slope, represent the gradual subsidence of some body of water which must once have filled the gorge, when the present meadow was an arm of the sea. Gravel and sand, mixed with moderate-sized cobblestones, are its constituent parts, nothing like a boulder having come so far down. We have often regretted that some of the noble rocks which abound on the other side of the street, farther up the former stream, were not on our hill to form a feature in our landscape-gardening, marked as they are with the scratches which show the grinding of some primeval glacier.
Over the rough foundation of our hill a thin soil has formed itself; fairly deep on the level top where the plain begins, but constantly washed off down the sides into the swale below. It seems hardly possible that trees can ever have grown here, nor are there the smallest traces of any in or upon the soil; but here we resolved that trees should grow; and again the farmers mocked at such a wild idea, and looked forward with sombre satisfaction to our discomfiture.
But how to set about it?
To plow the surface, unless we could yoke a goat to the plow, seemed impossible, since we had just seen a man and a horse and a dump-cart roll together, in a confused but unharmed heap, from the top to the bottom, on account of an incautious step off the level. Even if we could have plowed the ungrateful soil, of what use would it have been, since there was nothing to bring to the surface but stones? Cultivation being apparently out of the question, the trees would have to take their chance, and a wretched chance, too, for the south shore of Massachusetts Bay is subject to long and severe droughts, and to several months of hot weather in the summer.
But here we were upheld by our authorities. An excellent book on forestry gave us some consoling statistics, and later, our favorite horticultural journal was invaluable in its suggestions. We found that in reforesting hills in France and Switzerland that had been swept bare by avalanches, a northeast slope proved the most favorable exposure for the growth of young Pines, and, if we had nothing else, we had plenty of north and east, with the winds thrown in; so, if that was the sort of thing that they liked, why, bring on the Pines, and let them have all they want of it.
But by the time we got round to this job, as the farmers say, the season for spring planting of Pines was over, and an exceptionally dry and burning summer was in full blast, and the very grass on the hill was crisped and dry. Our impatience, however, was too great to permit us to wait for another year to begin our experiment. We had read some accounts of August planting of Pines, and determined to have our little fling on the spot, and find out for ourselves whether it was a good time or not.