Much Ado about Nothing

copyright 2013

Black Locust Trees are beautiful, but they have a habit of splitting in two at the “Y” in the trunk. So when the incredibly large specimen on our property in Georgia began splitting in half, Lori and I began formulating a plan to save at least half of the tree. The plan was to cut one of the two forks off. The problem was that the cut had to be made about twenty feet off the ground and the “limb” was approximately 100 feet tall. This was the kind of project that you usually see ending badly on America’s Funniest Home Videos or on When Trees Attack (that’s not a show, but it should be.) I normally take on projects like this myself, but not having the proper machinery in Georgia and not wanting to die, I decided to find a local professional with experience and a lot of insurance. So I picked up the phone and called the local nursery for a reference.

“Carl’s Nursery!” said a lady politely. “Hi, could I speak to Carl please?” I asked, thinking I’d go right to the guy in charge. “Carl?” the lady sounded puzzled. “There’s no Carl here!” I closed my eyes and let my head flop back. “Well then why is it called…” I held my hand in the air. “Wait! Never mind. I have a large tree that needs to be cut down. Is there a company that you can recommend?” I heard a clunk and the lady yell “LESTER!” After a few minutes I heard “Hullo?” In great detail I described the entire situation and that I was wondering if he could recommend someone to do the job. “How big around is it?” the man said slowly. I took a deep breath and started all over again. “About two feet in diameter where the cut needs to be made… Look, it’s a dangerous job and I just thought you could recommend someone.” There was a pause and then… “What kind of tree is it?” I rubbed my forehead and closed my eyes really tight. “Like I said, it’s a Black Locust… Look, Lester?” “Yup.” “Do you know someone in the tree business who can come give me a price? There are all kinds of complications and someone really needs to look at it first. There’s even a nest of big, ugly wasps or hornets…” “Wasps? Lester interrupted. “What kind a wasps?” I got up out of my chair as my frustration finally boiled over. “The stinging kind! Look! You know what… Never mind! Thank you for your time!” But before I could hang up I heard… “Well, I think I can help you.” I sighed. “Well, thank you Les…” “But my chainsaw don’t run too good. You got one?” “NO, NO, NO!” I pleaded. “I don’t want help doing it, I want…” Lester quickly interrupted again. “Mister, you can’t do a job like that yourself! You’ll get hurt! You’d be better off calling Blue Ridge Tree Service!” I stared blankly at the phone for a moment… “Thank you.” Click.

Three frustrating days later, after making more calls, scheduling appointments, meeting and telling the same story to four people from four different companies, we chose a very professional company whose Arborist recommended that we wait for a couple of months until the winter had dropped the leaves and the hornets to the ground. Then they would move their machinery in and get the job done. We wanted to be there when this went on, so Lori got our calendar out and rescheduled our lives around that date, canceling appointments and setting aside time for us to be in Georgia for this operation.

Two days after we got back to Florida we received a call from our Georgia neighbor Doug. “Ben, your Locust tree fell down. I already cut it all up and if you don’t mind I’d like to keep it all for firewood.” I was stunned. “Uhhh… OK. Thanks Doug.” And I hung up the phone and just stood there. Without me really having to do or say anything… the problem was solved. Indifferent to all of our best laid plans, our frustration, our worrying and our planning, the situation had simply ignored everything and took care of itself.

The next spring, Lori and I went to a Nursery to pick out a replacement tree. As we were admiring a nice Leland Cypress a man in bib overalls walked over to us. “How ya’ll doin’ folks… the names Lester! Can I help you with somethin’?”

Trimming Branches

A couple of years ago while trimming the branches on some young trees that I was growing in Georgia, I came upon a small Dawn Redwood that I had raised from a seedling.  It died back in a hard freeze the year before and although I had given up on it, for some reason it had come back.  Growing up from the base of the stump were two healthy bright green limbs, both reaching for the sun.  I cut the old dead main trunk from the center and then stood back to look at the small three-foot tall tree.  The two remaining branches seemed identical in every way, healthy, beautiful mirror images.  But if the tree was to grow strong and fast, capable of surviving to a ripe old age without splitting in half, one of the branches had to be removed.  I bent down on one knee and took one of the branches in each hand.  Then, after looking up at the angle of the sun and the position of the other trees, I took the shears from my back pocket… and cut.  Continue reading

Questionable Gardening Advice

waspWhen you’re new to an area it takes a while to become familiar with the vegetation and creatures that inhabit your yard.   Your neighbors will always be willing to help, not only because they’re nice people, but also because it’s so much fun for them to watch you try to implement bogus advice.

Lori and I were just starting to fix up our little place in Georgia, planting trees, mowing and such, when our dog Molly and I had our first experience with a paper wasp nest.   As she watched us from the porch, it took a while for Lori to figure out what was going on.  All she could see was Molly and me running for our lives, spinning around, snapping and swatting at the air like cartoon characters.  Lori’s laughter turned into sympathy when she saw Molly’s golf ball sized swollen, upper lip.  “Awww… Look at her.”  She turned to me, ignoring my one gigantic red ear.  “You’ve got to get rid of that nest!” (YES, I thought… a mission!). Continue reading