Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Trouble with Trees

 The trouble with trees is that they break off, fall over in a high wind or otherwise mess up your home or road or power line. Oh, and they shed huge quantities of leaves and crud in the fall, pollen in the spring and nasty bugs on webs in the summer. Their root systems head unerringly for your drains or lift your walkways. Wayward branches tap on your window in the middle of the night or fall off the tree onto your head. (This actually happened to me.) Tree trunks provide a home for various nasty creepy-crawlies and if there is decay, woodpeckers go after the bugs until your head pounds too. Why, she asked rhetorically, would anyone want a tree?

Why would anyone not want a tree. They provide shade. They adorn landscapes with brilliant colours in the fall. The wind makes music soughing through the branches. Draped with snow, dotted with tiny spring buds or naked against a pewter sky, trees are always beautiful.

When we built our forever house in the woods, we chose a site on slanted ground at the edge of an old orchard.  When it was a working orchard, there was a rail fence surrounding these trees and after the orchard was abandoned in about 1905, young deciduous and evergreen trees grew up around the fence. Bears, raccoons and other hungry wildlife destroyed most of the apple trees over time, but one still remains and, when we built, we left a line of the volunteer trees on the south-west side of the house.

One, especially, an oak sapling, became a favourite as it grew from a single whip into a shapely shade tree. There were also both red and sugar maples, a birch and one majestic pine.
The oak sapling can be seen in front of the back end
of the floor joist I am carrying.

Grown into a shapely oak.

The full line of trees, sugar maple on the left, oak busily growing, red maples.

The pine, the birch and the oak are still with us, but all of the maples are now down. First the sugar maple died, probably from having its roots, clinging to shallow soil above bedrock, pounded during the building process. Two more red maples followed it into firewood, leaving a great growing space for the oak and remaining red maple. But, in a wind storm this summer, a large branch of the red maple broke and fell onto the roof. And it was determined that the tree must be cut down to prevent the rest of it from destroying the living room’s big glass windows.

JG invited a neighbour to help and they put a cable around the tree, tied to the tractor, so that the tree would, they hoped, fall exactly between the oak and the birch, damaging neither. This worked pretty well although we did lose a couple of branches off the oak. The tree was cut up, the log hauled away to become firewood (we heat with a wood furnace) and the debris raked and taken away. And there is now a big gap in our shade line.

The gap is not entirely bad. We had been so surrounded by trees that the sunset and night sky were barely visible and now I can see both coloured cloud at sunset and stars at night. JG put up a rattan blind to give my favourite porch chair afternoon shade. And the oak has room to grow into a mighty tree.


  1. I am a great lover of Trees. Yes, they are the Problems for the reasons you enumerated, but I feel a deep kinship to Trees, fostered early by my father. For all of his children, Trees hold an almost sacred place in their life's canon. Why would anyone not want a Tree?