Three River Birch Trees

So I read Dr. George Dawson’s recent post  which got me thinking about the source of my own work ethic and what I’m going to retire to–instead of what I’m going to retire from.  Also, just so you know, my wife, Sena, told me enough is enough with the MOC posts for a while so you’re getting a break today. This is sort of about how Sena and I planted three River Birch trees today in our back yard.

WHKSGeorge’s story about moving pianos reminded me of my other life working for consulting engineers back in River City. I was a skinny kid when I starting working for Wallace Holland Kastler Schmitz (WHKS). In fact, the head of the company fudged on my age in the application so he could hire me as a draftsman and land survey technician.

I don’t like to think about what my future might have been had he not fudged on my age that day–so I don’t.

Anyway, while I never moved pianos, I did help set section corner stones and the like and they were pretty heavy. We made them ourselves, pouring the concrete into wooden forms and then strapping them on our backs to hike out into the countryside to bury them. I was grateful for the job and I learned more than I’ll probably ever be able to say about the value of hard work.

Although I’m not sure they’re in business anymore, I ran across a graphic of what looks like a fairly recent WHKS logo, which describes what consulting engineers strive to do and which sticks with me to this day in my role as a consulting psychiatrist:


Anyway, this was supposed to be about planting trees and I think I’m getting to the connection sometime soon. I’ve been on vacation for the last couple of weeks from my job as a consulting psychiatrist and I’ve been a little surprised that I’m not quite as restless and eager to get back to work as a I usually do as my time off draws to a close. I generally try to quickly pick up the trail of whatever dragon I was chasing to slay (OK, MOC and that’s the only time I’ll mention it).

Jim pretending to mow the lawnI’m thinking more about what other path I could follow because I’m a geezer and getting awful close to retirement. Sena suggested we plant a few River Birch trees this vacation and I’d been balking because it’s been a long while since I’ve done any real outdoor work. Oh, I’ve pretended to mow the lawn and pick a little crabgrass here and there–but I don’t do physical work like I used to at WHKS. I remember our biochemistry professor telling us one time in medical school not to kid ourselves, that we were going to be sedentary after graduation and residency. I guess that must have been the lecture about energy expenditure or something like that. But he was right.

I put off planting the trees as long as I could, but then I just couldn’t think of any more excuses. In fact, we did it together. I was a little clumsy and needed quite a bit of instruction. Roots from other old trees in the yard and root balls from brand new trees can both be pretty stubborn. Sena didn’t get hardly any dirt on her. But I was a mess for some reason.

There are steps in the tree-planting procedure of which I was not fully aware. You have to set the tree in the hole and poke the root ball to help free up the roots. You have to line the tree up straight in the hole so that it won’t grow up crooked. It needs plenty of water and fertilizer. I guess a little love doesn’t hurt.

  • I had to listen pretty close to Sena because she’s the expert when it comes to planting trees and doing just about everything else in the garden.
  • I was a member of a team so I had to be ready to render good service such as pouring water at the base of the tree–not over the top.
  • Practicality is a virtue in tree planting. It’s not rocket science but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
  • There’s a place for innovation in planting trees, but it can be used sparingly.
  • Communication is key, especially if you’re swinging a tree around in the vicinity of someone who might not be looking.

Sena and JimSo today we planted three River Birch trees in our back yard. And I got an idea about a new path to follow.



  1. Jim,

    I am also a big tree planter. When I was in college, I was growing Ponderosa Pine on my window ledges. Some of the people walking by thought it was something else. I planted those trees and White Pine up in Wisconsin. At one point just before Medical School I worked on a project to clone Loblolly Pine and Douglas Fir at the Institute for Paper Chemistry. My wife and I planted 4 Vanderwolf Limber Pine off the side patio and were thinking of River Birch for the part of the yard that borders some wetlands. Love the evergreens and birch.

    Also like WHKS logo.

    Liked by 1 person

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