Posts Tagged ‘dnews’

Passion for trees

February 14, 2014

Appearing in Moscow Pullman Daily News, editorial page, Feb 14, 2014

HIS VIEW: Pitching in as a volunteer urban forester

byline: Nils Peterson is a member of the Moscow Tree Commission, who celebrates his passion for trees by building timber frames such as the Berman Creekside Park picnic shelter.

I am passionate about trees. When I was in 4th or 5th grade my parents took us to see the wooden naval ships in Baltimore Harbor. That is my first memory of being impressed by big wood. Since then I’ve been awestruck by both individual redwoods and old growth forests.

My passion for trees increased when I discovered the Timber Framers Guild and their efforts at recovering a lost building art. I find that working with hand tools allows me to attend to idiosyncrasies of timbers, which helps me appreciate trees as individuals.

Working with wood gives me a deep appreciation for Eric Sloane’s great little book “Reverence for Wood,” and inspired a talk I gave a few years ago at the Unitarian Universalist church in Moscow. The beginning of the presentation invited the audience to engage in one of my favorite activities in the church — staring at the floor. The floor is red fir, installed 100 years ago. Its knot free straight grain suggest to me that it grew in an old growth forest and was maybe 100 years old when it was harvested — saplings at the time of Lewis and Clark. That wood connects me to ecosystems and to time.

The birch tree that stood in former Moscow resident Lynn Unger’s front yard now spans the center of my barn.  It unwittingly turned me into an urban hardwood lumberjack. I discovered the diverse beauty of the trees growing in our city. Ash, box elder, chestnut, cherry, elm, linden, locust, maple, Russian olive and walnut all found places in the barn before I finished. I made friends with some of the area arborists and became something of an ambulance chaser after local hardwood.

Harvesting urban hardwoods also connected me to some of the area’s wood turners. They often took pieces too small or knotty for me and turned them into art. You can often see examples of their art at Farmer’s Market.

Now I have a small orchard, mostly plum and apple. Pruning the young trees each spring is a meditation, a chance to see how each tree responded to last year’s cuts and to choose my next step training the tree. And then in the fall I learn if my efforts are bearing fruit. The orchard is teaching me patience in a collaboration with the life of the trees.

But perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned from my passion for trees is about community. Barn raising requires community. For me, almost two decades after raising my first timber frame, the whole activity is less about building and more about engaging, sharing, connecting. The process, and the trees, have become my teachers, helping me to be more in tune, more connected, more reverent.

Cultivating Moscow’s urban forest is also a community activity. Inevitably, I suppose, my passion for trees and they lessons they taught, brought me to the Moscow Tree Commission. Recently the DNews reported on a new project of the Commission, “Adopt-a-Tree.” (Feb. 1&2)

The idea of Adopt-a-Tree is like Adopt-a-Highway, to provide a mechanism for individuals and community service organizations to volunteer assistance to Moscow’s urban forest by providing specific services to select trees that are on City property and Rights-of-Way. The goal of the program is to extend the resources of the Parks Department staff, promote civic pride, and enhance the urban forest.

I hope this program creates a channel for community members to direct some of their own passion into enhancing our community trees.  Learn more on the City website, or come see the Commission when we have a booth at Farmers Market. And follow your passion for trees.