Living with Trees

By Doug Satre of Plant with Purpose
This Labor Day weekend I enjoyed doing a lot of typical long-weekend activities–attending my daughter’s soccer game, extra time with friends, and catching up on sleep. I also knocked out a bit of late summer yard work, which for me always involves some time with my trees. Our family has a pretty small suburban plot, but we have managed to fit in a dozen or so fruit trees nestled in various corners of the yard – a few apple trees, avocados, figs, lemon and something called a mandarinquat. (A cross between a mandarin orange and cumquat that produces an egg-shaped fruit that one eats skin and all.)

At this time of year there are a variety of chores to do, including pruning, thinning fruit, checking for pests and fertilizing. While there is no escaping that taking care of  our trees has lengthened to my to-do list, it has also enriched my life in many, many ways. Here is a partial list:

  • Caring for trees has helped grow my understanding of one very important aspect of God’s creation. I find that the closer I get to something, the more I understand it, the greater sense of intimacy and appreciation I have. I really do love my trees, and believe that sense of stewardship is what God calls us to as creation caretakers. They have taught me more about seasons, and patience as I watch fruit slowly and anticipate the rewards of the harvest. (It’s so much more rewarding than just buying fruit from the store, and makes me more careful about wasting food, too.)
  • Caring for trees has given me a deeper appreciation for what it takes to grow food. As soon as you try to grow fruit, something will try to eat it–birds, bugs, raccoons and on and on. Like Mr. McGregor chasing rabbits in his garden, I do battle with these creatures, which mostly means trying to harvest the fruit right before they show up to eat it. Though this can be annoying at times, I’ve also learned a lot about how various animals live in harmony with trees by eating bugs, spreading seeds and taking shelter from predators.
  • Trees have enriched the biodiversity in my yard and helped me appreciate the wonders of God’s creation just outside my back door. Despite the challenges listed above, I love observing the rich variety of life that trees foster. Our yard is rich with birdlife, buzzing insects and butterflies. I need only sit still for a few moments on the patio and I am drawn in.
  • My trees have given me a greater appreciation for poor farmers around the world whose lives depend on being able to grow their own food in order to feed their families. In my work at Plant With Purpose I get to hear many of their stories, like the farmer in Haiti I met this last year who has restored his father’s degraded farm by planting trees all over it, despite limited access to water and rocky, eroded soil. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, my trees remind me to pray for him. We are partners in our love and appreciation of trees, and in our dependency on God’s provision through his creation.

This is just a partial list! I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to have a part to play in stewarding his creation. May we each grown closer to God as we learn to better love and care for the world that he has made.

Doug is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Plant with Purpose, a Christian development organization that transforms lives in rural areas around the world where poverty and environmental degradation intersect.  He lives in San Diego with his wife and three kids.

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