Seedlings offer hope for future years

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Jayme Zimmerman spent much of the day Monday down on his knees, his hands covered in mud.

He was tamping down the soil surrounding dozens, perhaps hundreds, of cedar tree seedlings he replanted in a shelter belt in southwest Ellis County, the victim of last year's drought.

Last year, he said, hundreds of cedar trees were planted in the new shelter belt, followed by days of "hot and dry and windy" weather conditions.

"This one here," he said of the shelter belt he was working on, "I bet 80 percent of them died."

A second windbreak less than a quarter-mile away also saw significant death loss from the abnormally dry conditions in the area last year.

This year, he ordered another round of trees from the Kansas Forest Service and put them in the ground.

Monday was his day to follow along, using a bit of water to help tamp the soil around the roots of the trees.

"Just to kind of settle the soil," Zimmerman said.

With a tree line of more than 250 yards, he was down pulling in the soil around the eastern red cedar trees.

"It's wet down there, but you've got to use some (water) to settle the soil," Zimmerman said.

During the past week, he said, nearly 21รขÑ2 inches of rain has fallen, benefiting the trees and the wheat field adjacent to the windbreak.

"It was a blessing," he said of the rain. "It made things muddy, but we'll take it."

Zimmerman said the trees one day will provide shelter to cattle he feeds during the winter, and shade in the summer.

"I might not see a lot of it," he said of the trees' growth, "but surely my kids will."