Watching over this noble set of waters, well before it joins the powerful Roanoke River and eventually waters the Atlantic Ocean, is a group of dedicated folks who do the Lord's work in picking up trash and taking care of the aquatic life and helping folks understand how to do a better job of keeping the countryside healthy. It's the Dan River Basin Association, and its members and small staff do a great many more things than keeping up with the needs of one lovely river.
So it was that the DRBA put out a call the other week for volunteers to work with the American Chestnut Foundation and with naturalists and other outdoors-minded people to help replant chestnut seedlings on a hillside in one of Southwest Virginia's lovely woods. As a matter of policy, they don't bandy about where these fields are, in hope of avoiding a lot of pedestrian traffic from the curious about what the chestnut plants look like. A dozen or so of us answered the call one bright day not long ago and went about putting in year-old seedlings to replace an earlier planting that was not successful. Here's a photo of the volunteers after setting out about a hundred seedlings in a field that had been cut over in the past few years.
The first planting may have failed because the seedlings were not protected well enough from animals looking for a quick snack. So the job here was to dig new holes of sufficient depth to spread and plant the seedlings, then place a plastic tube around the stalk of the seedling and support it with a short post, and then to surround the seedling with a five-food high cage staked firmly to the ground.
Just last summer I pulled a few boards off a crumbling farm shed down the hill a ways, planed the slabs, glued up a coffee-table top that would look good on our side porch, and thought once again about how the chestnut blight had robbed generations of the chance to work with a lovely and sturdy wood that almost seems to like to be shaped into something useful. Maybe one day some of these seedlings we planted will somehow help instill that sense of delight in others who live in these old hills.