Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feats of Modern Engineering

also known as, what I (well, my husband) did on my (well, his)  snowy Saturday morning.

We moved into our house almost 14 years ago.  We had it built and we had a designer come up with a landscape plan, but we did all the work, planting, mulching, etc.

When we first planted, we wondered...would this REALLY EVER fill in.  What do you think?  I think this was taken spring of 1998 (we completed the front landscaping in  Aug 1997):
See those "trees" in front, staked? I'll wait if you need to get a magnifying glass. There were 3 and they are single stem purple rain birches.  
And believe it or not, the landscaping DID fill in.  After about 3 years, the house looked like this:

You can see the trees are starting to fill out nicely.  Then about a  year later, the tree furthest to the right, which was still staked, ended up breaking.  The rope from the stake seemed to be the culprit.  We ended up cutting it down.  Thus breaking the cardinal rule of landscaping...always plant in 3's.

So, we were reduced to two trees, that continued to grow, although not too rapidly.  They framed the door nicely, in MY opinion (my husband's differed..he thought it obscured the front of the house and was ever cutting down branches so one could see the house through the trees).

This was last year, after a snow, so you can see how big those trees grew to be (and how much more the landscaping had filled in)
Earlier this year, I noted that the birches seemed to be losing leaves REALLY early.  It couldn't be a lack of water as we had the perfect year for rain, so much so that our grass NEVER went brown and we never even turned on the sprinklers.  All the other plants around the trees were thriving.  It would rain at night, so it was perfect.  So I didn't understand why the trees were losing leaves.  I thought it might just be a fluke and we would see how they looked in the spring.  My husband, however, wanted to take them down as a precaution to them potentially damaging the house.  I balked.

Until this morning.  Which timing wise was probably wasn't the ideal "tree taking down scenario".  Last night it started raining, a cold rain that was a precursor to snow we knew would be coming.  It came (and at 1245 is still coming, although it is finally tapering).  We opened the front door to find many branches having completely broken off the trees and most of those still attached, barely so, with the weight of the heavy snow having snapped the branches at the trunk.  Thus, the decision was made.

My husband borrowed a chain saw and began cutting as many branches as he could reach with a ladder.  My son, a budding engineer, said they had done a similar project in school (SEE...they DO teach) and what worried the boy was that they weren't taking into account the full height of the trees.  He said that usually they underestimate the height and that's where it causes damage.
So, after much  consultation (with added input from the chain saw lending neighbor), they brought down the trees.  Necessary equipment needed:  chain saw, rope, 4 wheeler (who knew it would come in handy) and goggles...Mustn't forget the goggles*, because, above all else, safety first**.
First a large branch on the first tree was taken down.  Before:

 Now the fun begins.  Going:
Tree two was a little anticlimactic:
And now our house looks like this:
Oddly enough, I am OK with this.  I don't know why I was so totally against doing this when it would have been more convenient.  Now, it's a done deed.

The snow will cover the stumps during the winter, and I guess next spring, we'll figure out a game plan for what we're going to do with them.  In case you don't know, Purple Rain Birches have and EXTENSIVE root system (I hit them all over when splitting my perennials) that we'll also have to deal with.

So, here are my thoughts on this whole experience(from the comfort of my nice warm and dry kitchen table).  One:  it's just a plant.  Look at the bigger picture.   Two:  we have some pretty awesome neighbors.  Not only did neighbor one gas and oil his chain saw he lent to us, he came over and helped, in the cold and snow, so as to avoid us doing greater damage to our house.  Neighbor two is the optometrist.  I called him at home, on a Saturday and he immediately came to our rescue.  Without a moment's hesitation.  Three: sometimes starting over is a good thing.  

*goggles.  The husband wore goggles because he was chain sawing.  The boy, on the 4 wheeler, did not and ended up with a piece of sawdust trapped in his eye, which after two hours of pain, watering and frustration, ended us up at the local optometrist to have his eye flushed and determine that YES, he did scratch his eye.
**safety first...why yes, that is my husband, standing on a ladder, with a chainsaw, in the snow, on a slope.

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