Five years ago I bought a plot of land just a stone's throw away from a reservoir known as Lake Aparan about a 40 minute drive from Yerevan. The stunning scenery had me hypnotized the moment I stepped foot there. On the far left was majestic Mt. Aragats with all four summits in plain view, and on the right the legendary, emerald Mt. Ara. Yonder were more modest although no less spectacular mountains sprinkled with evergreen forests, and then there was that amazing lake. It took only a few minutes to realize that I had to be there, that it would be my first tiny patch of Armenian soil I could call my own.
But like my immediate neighbors who are all Armenians from the diaspora, I hadn't decided what to do with the land -- whether to build a home immediately or wait until the time was right (without a clue when the right time would ever be), plant a fruit tree orchard or simply sit on it as an investment and sell it down the road. I knew that the latter was an unlikely option; the location and surroundings were too perfect to ever give up. And I lacked support and the motivation to take a step forward, that is until a few weeks ago.
Levon, my father-in-law, told me that it was time for me to put my responsibilities as an Armenian man in order, which were to get married and have a child, both of which I obviously succeeded in doing, then plant a tree in living memory of the child and finally, build a house to shelter the family (still working on the logistics behind that). He said the only thing I needed to do to get started was decide on the kind of trees I wanted to plant. I told him what I had in mind and he took care of the rest. Two weeks ago about 30 saplings were delivered to us from Ijevan. Among them were willow, linden, green and dark maple, and poplar. Most of them were planted in a single afternoon, as soon as we surveyed the "exact" property borders, which took about ninety minutes for the village mayor, Levon, and Sergey Minasian, the only horticulturist among us, to figure out. I was too busy trying to imagine where the trees would go in relation to the home I will likely build.
Last weekend we decided to plant a fruit tree orchard in the frontmost area. We settled on various sorts of apple, pear, apricot and plum, all of which were purchased from a tree nursery in the village of Karbi, situated quite close to Ashtarak. As a bonus they threw in a cherry tree, which Levon planted himself for his first grandson.
All in all, we managed to put close to fifty trees in the ground in two weekends. I wanted to plant the forest trees around the perimeter of the land but also in random locations in the area I imagine to be the back yard, so that it would be vaguely reminiscent of back home, where thick woods of maple and oak reign supreme behind our house.
Several apple trees had been planted on the site by the village mayor's father about twenty years ago. But for some reason he never pruned them, so they grew like bushes with spider-like branches jetting from the trunk. We decided to coppice them in the hopes that they would eventually turn into proper trees and yield good quality fruit. I have personally never seen apples on those trees, but I have been told they do produce fruit.
Although we're proud to plant so many trees in honor of Areg, we won't know what trees will be able to withstand the climate there until next spring. At an elevation of 1844 meters (6049 feet) the land, being located in such close proximity to the major mountains in the viscidity, is in a sort of open space wind tunnel, and the weather conditions can drastically change in a matter of seconds. The precipitation in the area can be quite overwhelming as we found last week in the middle of planting when were were nearly drenched in a sudden downpour. I inspected the leaves of the fruit trees just yesterday and noticed that the edges of some had turned black, which apparently means they were subjected to freezing or frigid temperatures. Some of the decorative trees already seem to have dried out. We'll have to pray for the next twelve months that they will all make it through the winter.
The richness of the soil was also a bit disheartening. We found at most about 40 centimeters of top soil while digging holes before we hit a layer of curious, black sand and soil mixture. In some spots it was pure sand only 25 centimeters deep. This can mean two things--either the trees will thrive because of decent drainage without the fear that the roots will rot from too much moisture, or they will not be able to adapt to the foreign soil conditions and wither. The topsoil had turned into a thick muddy paste from all the springtime precipitation, and it was nearly impossible to separate it from the roots of the wild grasses and weeds, some of which were twice as think as those of the saplings. Levon went in search for cow dung, not hard to find as cattle along with sheep and have been grazing in the area for years. Sergey believes the trees will indeed grow but having been discouraged by the quality of dirt seems to think they will perhaps not be very tall.
In a few years Areg will be running through the trees and picking wildflowers, loving life, and I hope when he's old enough to realize, he'll be grateful for the miniature park we created in his honor.
Labels: Nature, Personal Experiences, Photography