Once upon a time, I had a huge, ancient locust tree in my front yard. Time took its inevitable toll and after the tree dramatically split in half one day, I had it cut down and the stump ground up.
That’s where this mistake began.
After a bit, I decided I would like to have a tree in that spot again. I did some research, decided on a tulip poplar, and purchased one that was about six or seven feet tall. I dug a hole in the middle of the tree trunk mulch and installed the new tree.
Now, the problem with planting a tree in the spot where another, bigger tree used to be, is that it takes a while for the old roots to finish breaking down—and when they do, that spot begins to sink. At best, you end up with your new tree in a pit and at worst, you have the problem that developed at my house.
After a while, it became clear that my tree was leaning. It’s something I would probably have been able to fix with stakes over the first few years, but I never quite got around to it. In fact, I even purchased stakes and rope and kept aside an old garden hose to cut into pieces so it would protect the tree from the rope, but I never quite got where I was headed with the whole project.
So, the tree kept growing and the angle of the lean got sharper. The outer side of the trunk split and began to rot, even as the tree finally matured enough to start blooming. The top of the tree tried desperately to swoop a bit toward being vertical, but without much success. Meanwhile, no amount of fill dirt seemed to be enough to keep the pit the tree was situated in from deepening each year. Mowing around it was always a dusty chore.
Yesterday, I finally did what I should have done years before. The weather was unseasonably nice, so I got out my work gloves, my reciprocating saw, my loppers and a tarp, and I went out to cut the tree down.
I started by cutting off the top part at about the five-foot mark. It fell just short of my Little Free Library, and I used my tools to cut off the branches one by one and pile them on the tarp. I cut up pieces that were thick enough for the fire pit into logs and put them by the back fence to dry until next spring.
Now, a reciprocating saw isn't the ideal tool for cutting down a tree of this size. However, I was working alone and didn't like the idea of using a chainsaw without a work buddy around. So, I took breaks from tackling the lower trunk of the tree to haul the branches to the brush pile in my back yard. When I couldn't drag the tarp with the full pile on it, I enlisted my wheelbarrow for two loads and used the tarp for the rest.
I kind of hated to increase the size of my brush pile, but I have plans for it in the spring. Also, if there are any critters living in there right now, they might appreciate the extra layers of branches while it’s still winter.
Once I had the front yard cleaned up, it was time to finish the job. I’m in the kind of shape you’d expect for someone who sits at a desk all day and then chooses board gaming and watching YouTube videos as her preferred leisure activities. But I persisted in tackling the base of the tree from all angles, taking breaks as needed and occasionally saying, “Almost there,” out loud in a way that I hope did not have the neighbors questioning my sanity.
Finally, I managed to cut through the base of the trunk. Not surprisingly, it weighed too much for me to just pick it up and take it away. Fortunately, my neighbor and her son were driving by and stopped to comment about my tree triumph right about then. They lifted the trunk onto my tarp for me, which was all I needed to be able to drag it into the back yard. I make it sound so easy. In reality, it was heavy as hell and I barely had the strength to get it where I wanted it.
The rest of the job can wait until spring. I need to have some gung-ho friends come over for a chainsaw party where we can cut up the rest of the trunk and also another fallen tree that’s nearby. The brush pile will be fed into my wood chipper to make mulch for my various landscaping needs. And I’ll order enough dirt to fill the very large depression in the yard where the tree was.
Despite that entire process taking more than two hours, I feel surprisingly okay today. My biceps and quads are a little sore, but I was expecting much worse.
Best of all, I can now walk out into my front yard without being confronted by a tall, crooked reminder of my own series of mistakes.
Farewell, tree. You deserved better.