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.

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Saturday morning: somewhere in the 18th century

Due to fungus, bugs, and perhaps the psychological distress of destructive boys invading their ecosystem, we’ve lost several trees. We can’t say which of the above killed the Maple in the back yard, but it joined the ranks of the standing dead a while ago.

Falling limbs have turned this tree into a minor hazard. A branch could fall on one of the kids, but childhood is fraught with risks, so I let that slide. My Edgar Allen Poe tree gave the back yard a Gothic charm, and the kids need to learn to keep their heads up anyway. But when a snagged branch poked me in the temple last time I tried to mow around the trunk, it was the last straw. That menace was about to fall like the House of Usher.

 

The Poe Tree

It’s curtains for you, Edgar.

Our neighbor owns an electric chain saw that she’d borrowed back from us for a few days, since we weren’t using it. In order to determine whether the chainsaw had the horsepower to cut through the trunk, before I went to the trouble of reclaiming it from its owner, I gave the trunk a couple whacks with my ax. (Technically, it’s a splitting maul, but splitting mauls don’t capture the imagination like axes do).

The wood wasn’t so tough, so I gave it a few more whacks. Those few more whacks turned me into Paul Bunyan. The notion of chopping down a tree with an ax captivated me. Why shouldn’t a man chop down a tree with his bare hands instead of waiting until the lady next door gets home so he can borrow her power tools?

An old lumberjacks’ trick: use your rest breaks to take pictures.

I always like to find activities to distract my masculinity before it turns toxic. Chopping down this tree had my masculinity skipping like a child in knee pants. I highly recommend the activity to anyone suffering dangerous levels of manliness.

After some short breaks to catch my breath, because my woodsman skills have been in decline for the past six generations, I toppled the tree with a soul-satisfying crash. I put my ax away and, just like the true pioneers of yesteryear, went inside for a well-deserved Gatorade.

My wife looked up from Netflix. “What happened? We heard a loud crash.”

“You didn’t rush to see if I were hurt?” I asked.

“I sent the little one to look out the window,” she reassured me.

Every strong man needs a good woman.

Seriously, she would have paused her movie if the preschooler’s assessment of my injuries warranted such drastic action.

down and out

Didn’t even hit the house with it.

Having reassured my worried family, I went out to clean up the debris. I thought I might build a log cabin out of my timber, but our frontier Homeowners Association won’t let us put up a 4×4 shed, so they probably wouldn’t approve my sod roof designs.

I cannot tell a lie; there’s a euphoria in going all George Washington on a Cherry (okay, Maple) tree. It’s a stirring experience – makes you want to party like it’s 1799.

Misinformed tree brings thorns to chainsaw fight

We have this annoying tree near the corner of our house. I think it might be a Hawthorn Tree, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is this tree is trying to take over the world, or at least our back yard, which is a good part of the world to us.

This tree is evil. It runs its woody little finger along the boys’ bedroom window at night to convince them Freddy Krueger is coming for them in the dark. If you attempt to prune it, it will pull a knife on you. Its thorns are three inches long and they are expert at locating any human flesh within reach.

The tree thrives in wet, dry, cold, hot, seasonable, and unseasonable weather. It has been laid on its side by ice and bounced back without a groan. Three other trees in our yard have been killed by disease or insects in recent years. This tree hasn’t so much as sneezed. It laughs at the weakness of the other trees.

Laid on its side by ice, but the ice couldn’t finish the job.

Some believe Hawthorn branches were selected to make Christ’s crown of thorns. I don’t buy this. I think the branches volunteered. Folklore says it’s berries can treat high blood pressure, which is exactly what the rest of the tree will give you when you try to mow around it.

Last Fall, as the tree made its final attempt of the year to mug me, I vowed I would give it a respectable haircut in the spring, before it could conceal its armaments behind a canopy of leaves. Last week, I made good my promise.

With chainsaw, loppers, ladder, and my best helper (Big Man, a.k.a. “I can help you!”), I took the offensive. The tree put up a stiff fight. As I hacked away at the big branch touching the house, there was some question as to which of us would lose a limb to the saw, but the human skill of running from danger prevailed. The fruits of my victory were a lawn full of dismembered, prickly branches and a thorn tip lodged in my thigh.

My best helper sizes up the opponent.

It rained for several days after, and I was still limping a bit, so it took a week for me to get back to the lawn full of downed branches. My best helper was napping at the time, so that probably saved me a good half hour of extra work. The thorns were many, and sharp, even in death. About two hours after the cleanup was done, I pulled the final fragment out of my heel – the last desperate thrust from a defeated foe.

By June I will be kicking myself for not cutting more.

I hope this miscreant tree has been chastised enough to learn its lesson about running amok. It should be mindful that next spring is just one short year away, and next time I might not stop at taking a few limbs, now that I have a taste for blood.

I get by with a little help from my sons

My boys are good helpers. Over the years, they’ve helped me do all sorts of useful things. They’ve helped me pull flowers from the garden so the weeds would have a chance to grow. They’ve helped me shovel snow onto the driveway and sidewalks so everything would look uniformly nice and white, without any ugly gray splotches of bare concrete.

Lately, they’ve begun to help me make breakfast. In this they make themselves especially useful by allowing me to practice my early morning peacekeeping skills when the inevitable fight over who gets to crack the pancake egg breaks out.

I don’t know how I would manage my daily toils without these three most handy boys.

Up until now they have swung into action upon seeing me prepare to undertake some task they know stands beyond my power to complete unaided. “Daddy’s getting out the garden hose? He doesn’t know how to drench himself from head to toe. We’ll show him how to do it.”

This week, Big Man took his helpfulness to higher level. He began helping me with the yard work when I’m not even home. One afternoon, while I was at work, he got a rake and started to be helpful on his own. Daddy spent lots of time raking stuff before the snow; now that the snow is gone, it’s time to rake stuff some more.

Since the lawn did not have much rake-able material on it, it certainly would be good to put some there.

My wife sent me this picture, with the caption, “I’m helping Daddy,” which I don’t doubt is exactly what he told her.

"I'm helping Daddy - whether he likes it or not."

“I’m helping Daddy – whether he likes it or not.”

By the time I got home, he’d gotten Buster involved in the helping.  Together, they’d done a wonderful job of amassing piles of twigs, leaves, and other sundry bits of nature unhealthy to the mower. These piles they raked from under shrubbery and pine trees into the middle of the lawn. Out of the shadows and into the light, I could now fully appreciate this marvelous collection of nature’s discarded bounty. No doubt, I will appreciate them even more at the first lawn mowing of spring.

It was a fantastic surprise to come home to. They were proud of themselves, and in spite of the imminent lawn mower repairs, I am proud of them too. They are becoming responsible young men, in their own roundabout ways.

I didn’t have the heart to tidy the lawn afterward. I’m kind of hoping a big wind will come up and blow all that stuff back under the trees before real spring hits and I have to begin actively maintaining the yard.

Then again, March can be relied upon for one good snow storm. Maybe they’ll throw all that stuff into the driveway when they are shoveling the lawn.