I grew up in a farming community where trees were not seen as friends. Trees stopped grass growing and cows needed to eat grass. Crops were affected by the presence of trees. You could not plough under trees. When Europeans took up the land to farm in the 19th century the first thing they did was to clear the land of trees. My father's generation was finishing off the job. If we did not cut down trees we ringbarked them. This was often seen as a relaxing past time.
It has to be said that at this time I had little interest in trees. My father once planted some pinus radiatas, but when they all died he did not try again. He took me with him when he planted them. I must have been 3 or 4 years old. He was affected by the beliefs of his peer group and I went along with him. He never again planted any tree on his farm.
Towards the end of the 20th century human thinking began to change and trees were again looked on with favour. It was conceded that at the very least trees contributed to the health of the dirt itself and that trees recycled carbon dioxide and contributed to the level of oxygen in the air. There were some government initiatives which encouraged people to grow trees. There were schemes which offered tax incentives to set up tree plantations. However only a very small percentage of farmers were persuaded to plant trees and it was left to governments to plant trees on crown land. But the Green movement slowly gained influence and by the second decade of the 21st century certain protections were afforded to trees. They are now seen as valuable and have to be protected.
I myself never thought much about the Green Movement until it started being disapproved of by my father and his peer group. I started to experiment in planting some trees on his farm. He did not object but neither did he ever take much interest. He never stopped any animal from eating any tree I had planted. He never expressed any regret that whatever I had planted had died. But he did not stop me and I believe in time he grudgingly accepted that trees at least provided shade for cows.
I became interested in the many species that were native to Australia. I also kept in mind that some exotic plants could be more attractive than native species. As I grew older I became more interested. Eventually it became an ambition to acquire land where I could revitalise and revegetate. My overall desire was gain control of some land and to return that land to its pristine state.
At the end of what seemed a long journey my wife and I were able to purchase 150 acres of fairly barren land and I set about putting my ambitions into place. I started planting trees. I did have some help from friends. I did have help from a government scheme. But I did most of the planting myself and we eventually planted approx 12000 trees. I sometimes conscripted my children into helping me but they were reluctant to dig into ground that was comparable to concrete. And they had to carry water over long distances to water the trees in. "Why do we have to do this, Dad?" was their main question. I can with confidence say that I planted most of the trees myself. There were some other benefits. I developed a close relationship with our dog who enjoyed coming into the country every second or third weekend. She was at her best when taking care of me and providing protection.
We had mixed results with the planting. We endured 2 bad droughts. It would be fair to say we had a less than a 50% success rate. It does seem that climate change with its slight increase in temperature and decreasing rainfall has made it harder for trees to survive and indeed many have died since 2000. But enough trees survived to make the place look very different.
I did learn some new things. I learned that some trees have juvenile leaves when they are young and as they grow older they develop adult leaves. Appropriately the juvenile leaves are always more attractive. I learned that some trees cling tenaciously to life and that others can turn up their toes at the drop of a hat. I had the unhappy experience of seeing some trees that I had planted die of old age. I had never expected them to die before I did. I learned that some trees are naturally stronger than others. The responsibility for all this lies in the genes. The same as humans. Our cousins the trees. We all share the same DNA structure.
Eventually we built a house. I enjoy living in the house and being able to look out at all the trees that have survived. I cannot say though that I have returned the land to its pristine state. The world is always changing. Change is always in the air. Nowhere looks as it did in the past. But we can try.