question about farm fields and trees

I’ve noticed while passing the many fields we have around here, that there seems to be a huge empty field (or a field currently in use for farming) and that there’s occasionally a solitary tree in or about the center. Does this serve some purpose (shade for cattle, etc), or is it just a nuisance and too difficult to remove? Does anyone know what I mean here? It doesn’t seem to serve as any boundary marker, and I can’t remember noticing specifically until the other day, not it seems to be in almost every field around here. What gives?

Where’s “here”?

Are there cows or horses in these fields, or crops?

here is Ontario, Canada and I guess I can’t really say what’s going on in the fields. Now that I think about it, I see it mostly in fields that aren’t currently in use for anything, but were definitely used for something at some time. You can clearly see the boundaries of the property or tract, and there’s that damn solitary tree out there in the middle. And sometimes it’s a huge tree, meaning it’s been there for a long time, surely when the farm was definitely in use.

I see one of those on my way to work every day and I can’t think of any other reason than it was a cool tree to save when they turned the place into a field. I don’t know how you would actually grow a single tree from scratch in a field being used for crops or livestock. It is a great mystery.

I asked a neighbor about this very thing once, and I’ll give you the answer he gave me. This is Texas, so his field was used for cattle.

The lone tree in the middle was indeed intended to provide a shady place for the cows. There was also a small pond underneath, and the shade tree had the added benefit of keeping the water cooler for the cows to drink (though I’m not sure if they appreciated it or not.)

When I asked why the cows couldn’t just go to the treeline at the outer edge of the field, he said that predators had an easier time picking them off when they were at the treeline; in the middle of the field, the cows were able to see a pack of coyotes or whatever long before they got to them.

It seemed to me a good idea, although in my experience, cows are pretty vapid creatures. I have no idea if he was feeding me (pardon the pun) a bunch of BS, but he’d been doing it for years.


Err…he’d been raising cattle for years, not feeding me BS for years. :wally

I don’t know about Texas coyotes, but ours (California) don’t run in packs. In fact, they are relatively solitary although you occasionally see a couple of them cooperating in rabbit or goose hunting. I also doubt that coyotes would tackle a cow. The tend to go after much smaller game since they hunt alone or in twos, threes, or fours at most.

Are you sure?

My Grandfather had the same setup. At different times he both farmed his place and ran cattle on it. When it was farmed, the shade tree made a good place to sit, eat lunch and take a nap. When he had cattle, the cattle used it for shade. There are very few things about farmland or pastures that are left up to chance. The grade of the land, terracing, trees, fencelines, gates, canals, ponds, roads, and buildings are all very meticulously planned out.

I was wondering the same thing this weekend as I drove through Illinois farmland.
Solitary trees occurred smack dab in the middle of corn and bean fields.
I couldn’t think of them as anything other than unproductive land, and a hassle to maneuver around.

They go for the calves.

Sounds reasonable, but I’m dubious about the value of the center of the field in protecting them.

I think the big-tree-alone-in-field is pretty common in farming districts. I’ve certainly seen it in Ohio, for example. Usually, it seems to me, it’s close-ish to the house. The shade thing seems like a good rationale – not just for cattle, but for people. Another possibility – the tree provides nuts or something else useful.

Wisconsin is mostly glacier debris, so every year you pick rocks from the fields. Some trees are out there because the farmer liked it and wanted a shade tree. Most of the tree lines and single trees in a field are there because of rocks. You can have a field that has a bolder buried just below the soil, and when you try to dig it out it’s ten feet wide at the top. You find a tree or two close to the boulder, because the farmer couldn’t remove the thing. You find the piles of rocks and stones up to 4 feet in diameter by the fence line with tress and such growing there.

Solitary trees are also common in upstate New York’s farming district.

I always assumed they were for a shady rest spot, and I’m glad to see that appears to be the right conclusion.

My best source of fosils and crystals has been picking stones in the spring. The none native boulders are erratics.
Short explanation of glaciation terms and Wisconsin

For the people that think they’re there for shade mostly, go out to a few and you’ll find the stones and boulders, if the farmer hasn’t sold them for landscaping in the last twenty years.

Willow trees are also sometimes planted on a wet spot in the middle of a field in order to dry it out.

If the field is not a pasture, then the tree is often in a spot that has the area unsuitable for plowing. There could be an irrigation well and pump, rocks, or old buildings there, and you only see the tree from the distance.

Lots of reasons why there’d be a solitary tree. As said, shade for the cattle.

Also, there could have been a house there years ago, and the tree was shade for the house… next time, see whether or not it’s a Live Oak (most shade trees at homesteads around here are. )

As was the case at a church I once attended, the tree may just be too big to cut down. I hope it’s still standing because it was at least five feet in diameter twenty years ago.

My mother kept a tree that, by all rights, should have been cut because her daddy liked it and kept the construction crew from hurting it.

The tree could be the last of a stand reserved for winter firewood.

All in all, though, they’re probably just shade / shelter for cattle or horses.
And yes, Texas coyotes do sometimes run in packs (LOUD packs) and they will attack cattle. Lots of people around here keep a jackass with the cows for protection.