Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The End of an Age and Feeling my Own

 The end of an age comes to everything on earth, and seven months ago in August, the end came for our three-hundred-year old red oak tree. 

This mighty tree had reached about 80 feet in height and had, several centuries ago, divided into two distinct areas sharing a trunk that measured sixteen feet in circumference about twenty years ago. 

We had noticed over the last ten years that the strain of those two divisions had created a vertical crack in the sixteen-foot trunk. This was particularly visible when the tree was heavy with sap and leaves. My husband had done some cutting to ease the strain so that if the tree did split and fall, it would not likely hit the house. We knew that probably one day it would have to come down.

Early one foggy and drizzly Saturday morning in August, after my husband had left for work but before I had gotten up, I heard something. The windows were closed, yet I knew I had heard -almost felt- something. As I scurried around looking for the something, I finally saw outside one of the upstairs bedroom windows an unusual placement of limbs with leaves. Then I knew what that something was; I had heard a deep thud and felt that momentary result of collapse. 

 Being able to see the inside of that fallen trunk told us that some serious rot had been hidden until then. And the other still-standing side which was so lush with leaves and seemingly healthy was only being held upright by a thin portion of the still-standing trunk. Now that one half was down, the remaining half was unstable and could fall in any direction. Fortunately, Asplundh had been just here the day before cutting under power lines. The foreman cut trees on the side, so he was able to come and take the remaining half down within the week.

When the weather cooperated, my husband chainsawed the tops and trimmed the limbs. It would be October before we could actually get the pieces small enough to split the wood. And so we added a sizable wood splitter to our equipment inventory. It is such that I can actually run it myself, particularly splitting already split pieces into smaller, more manageable ones. 

Throughout the winter, whenever there was a stretch of nicer days, we cut and split on my husband's day off. The wood has been surprisingly dry enough to burn this winter, and we are grateful to have it. 

With the advent of spring and mowing to commence in the next few weeks, we've thrown ourselves into getting as much cut and split as possible to get it up before the grass gets ahead of us and overtakes our work areas. Thankfully, because with the extra hour of daylight added to already lengthening days, we were able to work outside in the evenings last week. 

And it was, by far, our hardest week. Rather, I should say, my hardest week. My body takes much longer to recover from the strain of bending, picking up, moving, and throwing wood pieces. And to top it off, I got a hefty dose of poison ivy on my arms that doesn't appear to be calming down any time soon. Physically, I'm weary. Very weary. This tree adventure has really made me feel my age. Recovery will occur, I'm sure, but I don't bounce back quickly, if I ever did. But at least the yard is cleaned up of most debris now. 

We still have several large piles of split wood that will be moved under cover, but that involves another chore of building covering onto an existing outbuilding to house the wood. When that task is done, we will haul the piles there and stack the wood which will certainly be easier than what we've had to do so far.   

"Opportunities" like this cause me to realize my own mortality as I enter the end of the fifties decade this year. I have finally realized that, one, our physical activity in our yard has, and is, a great opportunity without the need of a gym, and, two, afternoon siestas are welcome for quick rejuvenation. I often smile when I remember how Father Tim in Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good lovingly describes his wife Cynthia being in bed at 8:30 pm. My Tim could describe me the same way.

1996 - All four kids barely could ring their arms around the trunk.

2014 - The first half to fall. That kiddo standing on the fallen trunk is the same one on the right in the above pic.

2014 - The remaining top to be felled.
2014 - The end of a age.

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