September 26, 2013

Good-Bye Old Oak Tree

When we first moved here we had three huge oak trees in the yard.

View from the north.  They really add a lot to the property.
Photo from summer 2009

They were mature and shade providing, but old. Our homeowners insurance company immediately demanded that the two closest to the house and outbuildings be trimmed back, or else.

We had several estimates done for trimming them. We thought they were beautiful and only wanted the necessary minimum done. The services that came out all said the same thing, that the one next to the house wouldn't last much longer and needed to come down.

We hoped we could revitalize it with the end of the drought and tree fertilizer, but last summer it was obvious that most of the outer limbs were dead. Once again arborists warned the tree was dying. We had the dead limbs taken down for firewood.

Photo taken after the trim, August 2012

This summer there was more evidence that the tree was dying.

Dead root. 

It put out very few leaves this year, and by earlier this month they, too, had died.

Dead, brown, leaves but the other 2 oaks are still green.

The sad truth was that it was time for it to come down.

Cutting the wedge

I do believe a "don't try this at home" disclaimer is appropriate here. Dan is not one to jump on any bandwagon, but I suppose the skills of establishing drop zones in the middle of nowhere, years ago, never abandon one entirely.

Tying it off to hopefully prevent it from falling the wrong way!

Trees are extremely unpredictable when they fall. Ropes and chains help assure they don't go the wrong way!

Wedges were driven into the cut opposite the wedge cut.

It fell where he aimed, although it did hit its neighbor oak. The limbs were weak and brittle, snapping like twigs. Any of these could have dropped at any time, so it was good that we got the tree down when we did.

The diameter of the trunk was 39 inches. I tried to count the rings. Some were large and easy to count; there was about 40 of those. The outermost rings were very tight and difficult to distinguish There are about 40 or 50 of those. Because of the way the tree was cut, I wasn't able to count rings all the way to the center.

It leaves a huge gap in the sky overhead! I will certainly miss the shade during summer and the woodpeckers will miss boring for insects. Happily, my replacement tree, a sassafras I transplanted a few years ago, escaped damage!

I fond this sassafras sapling elsewhere on the property and
transplanted it several years ago. I've pampered it along.

Next year's firewood waiting to be cut, split, and stacked.

I love trees so it is sad to see such a tree reach its end of life. I must remind myself that even in death, things have purpose. This tree, for example, will provide heating and cooking wood for winter 2014. By taking it down now and not letting it rot away to nothing, we not only protect our house and ourselves from damage, but utilize the wood before it was useless.

The key to stewardship and environmental responsibility is to not use up a thing, but to always make a way for it to perpetuate itself. We've planted more trees than we've taken down. It's all part of leaving the world a better place.

Good-Bye Old Oak Tree © September 2013 


Woolly Bits said...

yes, I agree - if you have thought about it a long time and you can see that it is going out bit by bit, there's nothing for it but to cut it down! I would never cut down a tree willynilly, but if it gets to a dangerous stage, it's no good to anyone! we did manage to escape by coppicing some of our ash trees, but I don't think it would be very successfull with oaks. and you do get a lot of firewood from it:) if only they'd split into smaller parts by themselves.....:)

Farmer Barb said...

I am happy to know that you have a nice firewood source for the winter. Had I known you like sassafras, it is one of my most pervasive weeds! Where we have one sassafras, we have a HUNDRED!

Anonymous said...

I remember when we had to take down 2 trees on the hill that my parents house sits on. It looked so bare for the longest time! I hope your sassafras grows up to be beautiful!

Renee Nefe said...

It's always sad when an old tree has to go. But at least you'll get to use it.

When our town bought up some old property with a lot of lovely trees on it to build our art center they just cut the trees instead of trying to move them. I was so sad. And now they've bought another lot for the library. I'm sure those trees are going as well. :'(

Anonymous said...

Our Lord gives and takes away... now you have firewood for awhile :-) m.

Ed said...

I've got five more oaks to cut down this fall for the same reasons. The recent droughts and preceding wet years have been hard on them in this area. I cut down 24 of them last year!

I'm beyond using them for firewood. I'm thinking about creating some sort of wood working projects to utilize some of them.

The best part about losing some trees is that you get to plant some more of your choosing!

daisy g said...

So glad that your old oak served you well. It fulfilled its purpose and will continue to bless you with warmth in the winter.

Willow said...

You said it well indeed.

Anonymous said...

We've had a large die off of oaks here. I've been told it was a perfect storm of fungus, drought and bore that has caused a regional decline. The good news is the dead trees are our wood supply for this winter and the next, the thinning decisions have been made for me and most of the limbs are ready for the wood stove now.

Nina said...

It's better to lose a mature tree at the end of it's lifespan than the alternative risks. A friend called us to pick up the remains of a walnut tree which had fallen and we also lucked out with getting part of their neighbour's newly fallen Maple as a bonus. We give thanks and appreciate the bounty bestowed upon us when this happens. Winters are long and cold here. Every little bit helps. Enjoy your bounty, knowing that nothing is wasted.

Bill said...

I know exactly what you mean. It saddens me when an old oak like that dies. But, like you, we salvage them for firewood. And we give thanks for the saplings that will grow in their stead.

Leigh said...

Bettina, if only they did split themselves into manageable pieces! slicing that main trunk is going to be a challenge.

Barb, funny how a tree can be a weed if overabundant, or desirable if not. Our weed trees are sweet gums! Mostly I like the sassafras for its interesting leaves, fall color, and to make file.

Stephanie, the big bare spot in the sky is so sad to me. Besides the sassafras we've let a seedling oak start to grow nearby. Of course we'll never see it mature, but it's still the right thing to do.

Renee, our utility company is the culprit around here. Lately they've been trying to claim twice the easement already allowed by law. We didn't give them permission to cut down all our trees within 30 feet of the road, but they butchered plenty of others.

Maria, and He is always faithful to provide in doing so. :)

Ed. it was interesting to see the differences in the rings of that oak. The growth so great the first half of the trees life, and so little the second half.

Daisy, it is a blessing indeed.

WIllow, thanks!

Woody, it's bittersweet, isn't it? Those with an abundance of trees probably feel the impact less. It's great to have all that firewood though.

Nina, and there are risks! Actually, this tree provided us fire wood previously because we've had it trimmed back twice. We still have it's twin, but that one still looks healthy, fortunately.

Bill, it's too bad we don't live long enough to see this cycle repeat itself with the oaks. Just being part of it has to be enough.

Suzan said...

It is difficult to see an old oak come down, but you guys did all you could to save it. the tree can now furnish you with lots of firewood and maybe it will open up for the other oak trees with water and sun.

luckybunny said...

I can totally relate, great sentiments you shared and you are absolutely right, even when a tree has reached the end of it's life it has a purpose. When we lost one of our big old landmark maples it broke our heart, it's still hard to take because of how much it changed the landscape but it provided us with a lot of firewood - and when it was living memories and sap. Beautifully written post!

Sandy Livesay said...


I love old big trees but at times they tend to be more of a problem when close to ones home. Insurance companies can get pretty demanding when dealing with trees.

At least you were able to use the wood, and not have to have it hauled off.