Tree Peddlers


Blog Selection: Art’s Bayfield Almanac

The following is an excerpt from my father’s blog, Art’s Bayfield Almanac: Musings of a conservative environmentalist. My father passed away in June, 2018.

It is safe to say that while my father was quite human, and not a superhero, he will always be a hero and an inspiration in my many best memories of him. In this selection, he writes about his own father, Art Ode, Sr. –Greta Ode

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday,  8:15 AM. 24 degrees F, wind changeable, light. The sky is overcast and it is still snowing lightly but hopefully this is the tail end of the big storm and not just a lull. We have at least a foot of snow on the ground. The Michigan UP, beyond the Bay, got two. The humidity is down some, at 86%, and the barometer is almost steady but beginning to rise, now at 30.20″. Hopefully this will all be over and the roads in good shape for our trip to Madison tomorrow for a quarterly Urban Forestry Council meeting at the US Forest Products Center.

Yesterday was pretty much a snow day… shoveling it some, watching it some… interspersed with some desk work and reading. And, we were saddened to learn from Dawn, his widow, of the passing some time ago of long-time Almanac reader Einar Olsen, an orchardist with whom we shared an appreciation for trees and nature. He was one of those rare birds in the uber-liberal Northland…a social and political conservative. Say hello to the Gipper for us, Einar!

One of my environmental associates sent me an article by e-mail, “The Tree Peddlers,” by Nina A. Koziol, which appeared in the publication “Outside the Old House,” in 1998.  [Koziol, Nina A. The Tree Peddlers. Old-House Journal 26 (1): 28-30. 1998.] I would reprint it but that requires some sort of software I don’t possess. I recommend that you Google it and read it in its entirety, but in brief, it commemorates the 19th-Century tree peddlers, who traveled by horse and wagon with their dormant nursery stock in the spring, taking apple, nut, shade and ornamental trees, also roses and other shrubs, to farmsteads and communities that had few other ways of obtaining the plants they needed to homestead and cultivate new lands. By the start of the 20th century mail-order nurseries took their place, but their work can still be found on old farmsteads and in small towns. Where did that huge old horse chestnut tree come from? Whence that Harrison’s yellow-rose-of-Texas? It probably arrived via a tree peddler’s horse and wagon.

My father was a tree peddler, pretty much in the image of the originals. He sold nursery stock to farmers and homeowners, laying out orchards and vineyards, and drawing landscape plans for new homes. He was a sales agent for a large Iowa nursery; he would place all his orders for spring delivery to our home, where the dormant plants would be stored and kept watered in our garage, then delivered to the purchasers in a trailer pulled behind his beloved Hudson automobile. Eventually he started his own nursery, but did not live long enough for it to be successful.

I carried on the tradition in my own way, so I guess I have been a tree peddler as well, and I hope my father would be pleased about that. He was a great man, positive and joyful all his too-short life, and his photograph occupies a prominent place in my office.

And like those who came before him, he peddled dreams along with the trees.

~ Art Ode ~