Murdered in cold sap

I droned on and on this summer about how I took out a dead Maple tree from our back yard and replaced it with a younger version. Now that I’ve got you accustomed to my blather about trees, I might as well finish the saga.

I won’t hide the truth: our transplanted Maple sapling suffered from my mistakes.

My mistakes:

  1. Transplanting a Maple sapling in the middle of summer
  2. Transplanting a Maple sapling in the middle of a hot, dry summer
  3. Losing many of the sapling’s best roots to my battle with the chicken wire it had grown up around
  4. Only being partially certain it was actually a Maple sapling, based upon the shape of its leaves and my desire for a Maple sapling

Despite my dedication to giving it regular watering and pep talks, most of its leaves turned brown and dried up. Still, I clutched at straws of hope, in the form of the approximately three leaves that did not turn brown after several weeks.

With September, the rains returned. Our little tree held its few remaining leaves. After a nice, restful winter, maybe it would come back with a fresh start in the spring. Maybe it would be a dry twig by then, but I figured it was worth giving it a chance.

Not everyone agreed with me.

The last time I went to visit it, I found tragedy.  Somebody had stripped the bark all the way around the poor little thing. I may not be smart enough to know for sure if this little trooper were ever truly a Maple tree, but I do know trees can’t live without bark. There will be no fresh start in spring.

These crime scene photos can be difficult to stomach.

I went online to find out who might have done such a thing, because I feel better when I can cast blame elsewhere for my failures. The list of culprits who strip bark includes bears, porcupines, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, and deer. Not listed, but also probably capable of quickly striping bark, based on what I surmise from watching TV, would be cartoon Tasmanian Devils and Sharknados.

The most usual suspects seem to be squirrels. This makes sense, as I have never seen squirrels do anything to help anybody but themselves.

Can the CSI techs get a print off these claw marks?

Among the many reasons squirrels strip bark is because it’s fun and apparently squirrels get bored a lot. During the many extended coffee breaks from counting their nuts, they spread gossip and strip bark.

I once saw a hapless squirrel fall out of a tree. I felt bad for him, but now I know it was just the tree dispensing a little Karma.

I have one other thing that might be a Maple sapling growing in my Nursery of Random Flora. At the appropriate time of year I may try that one. Or maybe I’ll plant nothing. Nothing, after all, is easier to mow around than trees, and its leaves rake up in no time at all.

Advertisements

Stumped!

I must be part Amish. The English would have rented a stump grinder or other motorized technology their loose morals allow them to operate. Not me. Because I am righteous, fearless of hard work, and also unwilling to part with my money, I did it old school.

Weeks ago I documented the pioneer spirit with which I chopped down our dead maple tree. The plan was to replace that tree with a new one. The plan was not to wait so long to do it, but we hearty woodsmen have to roll with the punches.

The first step was removing the stump. After six weeks’ meditation on the subject, I decided the way to do this without spending money was just to dig the thing out. I was under no illusions about how difficult it would be to dig up a tree stump.

Yeah, I may have been under some illusions about the difficulty. Illusions can become a burden to the psyche. They’re tricky little bastards, and so are tree trunks. Tree trunks can mutate into philosophical quagmires.

I got my shovel and dug around the stump, and I got my ax and hacked off roots, and this all went well for about 10 minutes. I’m not saying I stopped after 10 minutes; it’s just that the digging and hacking grew tiresome. I persisted, because I’ve never been one to surrender to the reality of a situation without a fight.

My tree stump spiritual adviser.

Big Man came out to help after an hour, at which point I was ready to accept advice from a four-year-old. Being a man of action, most of his ideas involved more digging and hacking. Since a preschooler’s digging and hacking can quickly become unfocused, we hit upon a new plan. We got some wedges and split the stump in its hole. Amazingly, this kind of worked.

Having mostly cleared the hole, it remained to locate and new tree. It can be handy having a garden you abandoned when children stole your free time. In this forsaken spot, a sapling had sprouted where it had no business. Its leaves look Maple-ish, but I can’t prove its pedigree – it’s my first week as an arborist. I guess we’ll find out.

Plants grow best in my garden when I let them fend for themselves.

Maybe we’ll find out. We might have killed it in transit. Its roots were twined in the neglected chicken wire surrounding the neglected fence around the neglected garden. Some of its thicker roots were casualties of our tug-o-war with the chicken wire.

Dead or alive, we dropped it in the hole. We added all three shovelfuls of fertilizer our composting barrel has produced from eight years’ worth of vegetable contributions. Then, we filled in the dirt and gave our new baby a long drink of water.

Possibly a Maple; possibly a tall weed; possibly dead.

If we planted a dead tree, we’ll just try again. We have all kinds of little ones growing where they don’t belong. We’ll keep trying until we get one to prosper or the rest of our yard looks civilized. Either way, it’s a win.

The result of all this hard work on my delicate blogger’s thumb.

Modern Art make caveman feel old

When you’re very young, many things confuse you. Over time you change and you begin to understand more and more until you hit the prime of life, that fleeting moment when you understand as much about the world as you are ever going to. For that split second, you are in the grove, a knower of things, wise and worldly.

Then the world changes, and you understand less and less. Green reality turns to brown, dries to a brittle sheen, and floats away on a chilly breeze. All at once you are old.

I am old.

There are many things I no longer understand, but that which most recently warned me of my slipping mental grasp is stripes.

I didn’t understand stripes in my youth either. Circa 1971, my parents dressed me in a polyester shirt of many discordant, horizontal stripes, sporting a zipper V-neck with a metal hoop pull tab. I never figured out why. As I grew up, I discovered horizontal stripes look best on flags, while slim, sparse, vertical ones are better for fashion.

I thought I’d made my peace with stripes until our visit to the local art museum this past weekend.  The horizontal stripes were back, bigger and bolder than ever.

Even on my peak day in this world, I would not have presumed to understand art. My peak day is farther behind me than I realized. There are two huge rooms of stripes, and nothing else.

Hover over photos to see captions.

My wife asked the docent about the fabulous stripes. What I got is second-hand, but the upshot is the courageous artist freed us from the bondage of needing anything more than big stripes on big canvas to be aesthetically fulfilled. Perhaps this explains the tingle of aesthetic liberty I’ve been experiencing all week.

If only it were just the stripes conspiring to age me. There was also this.

or not so falling

Walls just don’t collapse the way they used to.

I roused the courage to ask the docent about this one. “It’s a falling wall,” she told me. I didn’t want to upset her, so I didn’t point out it wasn’t actually falling. There was more timber holding up that wall than the non-falling walls all around us. Maybe they were just supporting it until the crowd got there. I suppose you don’t want to advertise a ground-breaking Falling Wall exhibit and have all the latecomers be disappointed by a run-of-the-mill Fallen Wall exhibit.

Also in this gallery were two projector lamps projecting nothing but light onto the walls. The docent confessed the projector exhibits were open to interpretation. The boys interpreted them to mean they were to make shadow puppets on the wall. Some of the hand gestures were very artful.

We didn’t have time to view the rest of the museum because my family had to rush me to the Home Goods section of Target so I could flip through framed prints before I started shaking my cane and shouting demented gibberish at our brave new world.

The sledding hills have changed but the cold feet are the same

When I was a kid, we used to sled down the big hill behind the barn. There were two runs, neither of them safe by today’s standards. The front run was straight and long. A barbed wire fence ran across the bottom of it. The side run was shorter, but steeper than the front run. At its bottom was a six-foot drop into a creek bed. Along the edges of both runs were thorny bushes and, here and there, a small tree. It was great.

Nobody got killed, although there was at least one snow suit torn by barbed wire. The worst injury I remember was when I ran my sled into the prickers and scratched my cornea. I had to wear a patch over my eye for three days. It wasn’t even a cool pirate patch – just some cotton taped over my eye.

If it sounds like I’m just blowing hard about how tough a kid I was, I’m not. I was so shaken by the idea of wearing cotton taped over my eye for three days, I fainted right there in the doctor’s office. This was the first time a doctor made me swoon. It wouldn’t be the last.

My children don’t sled as much as I did. We don’t have cow pastures with big hills in them. We have to drive to a hill. Mommy is not on good terms with winter and I don’t enjoy being cold nearly as much as I used to, so sledding isn’t common.

I feel guilty about this, so sometimes I put on my thermal skivvies and take the boys out. We go to a park with a big hill. Devoid of barbed wire, tree stumps, and watercourse embankments, the hill is safe by 21st century standards. This is a good thing; emergency room waits are much longer than the wait for our old family doctor used to be.

The most dangerous part of our modern, suburban sledding is getting up the hill with all the other park-going kids chomping at the bit to slide down. It’s kind of like outdoor bowling.

Big Brother headed for the steepest part of the hill, but the little boys wanted to take the path less traveled. This was gentle slope with deeper snow, where sometimes gravity alone was not enough to get them down the hill. My job became to push them down the hill and then pull them back up.

the power behind the sled

This fancy sled comes with a 1-Kidpower outboard motor.

Eventually they got brave enough to try a spot where I only had to pull them back up. This was major breakthrough for my sledding longevity. I even got to ride the sled down with them once.

One thing that hasn’t changed is feet still get cold in the snow. When Buster’s feet got cold, it began the 20-minute process of collecting all our people and sleds at the bottom of the hill. It’s hard when your feet hurt but you still want to play in the snow. I remember that every bit as well as the eye patch.