“Yeah! Fresh larch,” exclaimed the boy.
The little boy grabbed a pinch of needles from an 18-inch tree seedling and stuck them into his mouth. He seemed to be about six years old and looked like he wished that Christmas would come early this year so that he could get his two front teeth.
My pint-sized tour guide continued to rattle off the names of the different trees and plants that we passed as we marched up the steep hill. Small and fragile tree saplings dotted the hillside in rows. Eventually we came to the end of the pasture at the top of the hill.
“This right here is the best place for you to camp,” said the boy. “The stars at night are A-maze-ing!”
It was dusk when I arrived at Twisted Tree Farm in Spencer, NY. Forest, my young toothless tour guide, was showing me to my camping spot. I was staying the weekend to participate in a workshop on tree propagation that his father, Akiva Silver, was hosting. Akiva is the owner and proprietor of Twisted Tree, a small tree and perennial nursery. The man is a tree guru. I’m buying a few hundred trees from Akiva this fall for planting at the farm.
I decided to attend the workshop in order to learn more about growing trees. The two-day workshop promised to teach us how to propagate trees through seeds, cuttings and grafting, a set of skills I lack. It also seemed like a worthy way to spend Earth Day weekend.
I began to set up my tent, struggling to remember the nuances of the color coded pole system that guided the tent’s set up.
“You seem like you usually have someone help you put that together,” noted Forest. “Do you want me to help you?”
I accepted Forest’s help. We eventually got the tent stood up. Off in the distance we heard a whooping noise. It was Akiva calling Forest home for dinner. Forest sprinted down the hill back towards the house.
I sat up on the hill of Twisted Tree that night and had my dinner while I listened to the Caps beat the Maple Leafs on the radio. I fell asleep that night to the howl of coyotes and awoke the next morning to the gobble of wild turkeys.
“I just want to say that I don’t know everything. I’m just this guy. Keep that in mind,” declared Akiva.
A group of fourteen of us listened as Akiva concluded his opening lecture. He clutched a set of notes scrawled on loose leaf paper, but he clearly didn’t need them. Knowledge about tree propagation was coming out of the guy’s pores.
“If you want to pay the mortgage with seeds and sticks, you need a lot of seeds and sticks,” Akiva declares.
They have a tremendous quantity of seeds and sticks at Twisted Tree. The nursery at Twisted Tree sits on roughly 3/4 of an acre. But within that footprint, they grow thousands of trees.
They are tightly clustered together in garden beds. It’s quite the efficient operation. And they do it all organically.
“If you are driving around and you see dead squirrels on the road, STOP! Look around. Find out what those squirrels thought was worth dying for,” Akiva explained to us. “You can find all sorts of cool trees and seeds that way.”
Akiva’s methods for growing trees are wildly practical and common sense. He has found some very efficient methods for his practice. From discovering native plants to grafting, Akiva shared with us so outstanding methods for tree growth.
Early Sunday morning, I had the chance to walk the farm with Akiva. He told about every variety of tree he has. It was impressive. While the main focus of Akiva’s farm is the nursery, his passion seems to be centered on the back acres where he has been slowly planting a wide variety of trees. His dream is to one day turn a field that was once just sloping pasture with crap clay soil into a dense forest.
If you ever get a chance to do it, go to one of Akiva’s workshops. It’s well worth it.