ANN BAILEY: Beware of falling trees
One of my favorite features of our farmstead is the grove of trees surrounding it. My great-grandparents planted trees nearly on the north, south and west sides of the farmstead nearly 100 years ago and my grandparents added another grove on the ...
One of my favorite features of our farmstead is the grove of trees surrounding it. My great-grandparents planted trees nearly on the north, south and west sides of the farmstead nearly 100 years ago and my grandparents added another grove on the east in the 1950s.
Since the initial plantings, many volunteer trees have grown in the groves, which now are made up of several acres of cottonwoods, ash, willow and box elder trees. The heavy foliage in the groves make it an ideal home for animals and it is populated by a variety of wildlife, including, squirrels, deer, raccoons, rabbits and skunks. The groves also are popular with many types of birds. During the summer, robins, rose-breasted gross beaks and Baltimore orioles frequent our bird feeders. In the winter, chickadees, nuthatches and pine siskins abound.
The groves also contain several forts, which my sons, Brendan and Thomas, have built. Some take the form of teepees, others look more like hunting shacks and still others resemble the four-walled structures often seen in old westerns. The woods also provide a great place for my sons and daughter, Ellen, to go exploring.
Summer and winter alike, they enjoy traipsing through the woods and looking for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife. I also like hiking through the woods, especially in the winter when the snow is falling. If I turn away so I can't see our farm buildings, I imagine I'm in a forest out in the middle of nowhere.
Besides being a great place for animals and birds to live and a fun place for me and my family to spend time in, the trees buffer us from the winds during winter storms. We are so well protected from the wind we have to walk down the road to the end of the groves, which are on either side of the road that runs by our farm, to see what the visibility is like. It can be calm in the farmyard and so stormy outside of it that you can't see more than a few hundred yards.
While I appreciate the shelter the trees provide from winter storms, there are times during the summer when our groves were a little more sparsely populated. One of those times is when there are severe thunderstorms or tornadoes forecast for our area. The trees make it impossible to see if there is any severe weather brewing or if a tornado is on its way. It doesn't seem like walking out to the end of the grove to check out the weather is wise so we rely on our weather radio. If there are tornadoes spotted in the area, we head for the basement and listen for the sounds of our house groaning or trees crashing.
But it doesn't necessarily take a tornado to result in falling trees. Over the years strong winds have toppled many. Sometimes there doesn't even have to be much wind. The trees, which are heavy with foliage, sometimes fall during moderate winds or rains.
It isn't a problem when the trees fall inside the grove. In fact, many times we don't even know we've lost one until we're walking through the grove and notice a tree with still-green branches lying on the ground.
What does create trouble is when a tree falls across the road. That usually occurs a couple of times a year. We've already had it happen this summer. The other day I was driving home from work and as I neared the farm, could see a pile of green in the middle of the road. I was hoping it was just a branch, but saw as I neared it that it was bigger -- much bigger -- than that.
The tree was one of our big cottonwoods that had gotten top heavy and fell, pulling the roots up with it. About a third of the tree was lying on the road and in the ditch on the other side. Fortunately, the tree had fallen west of our driveway, so I could get into the yard.
I told my husband, Brian, about the tree and he got the chainsaw and tractor and Brendan, Thomas and Ellen and I met him on the road where it had fallen. Brian spent the next hour and a half cutting the tree into sections and pushing them off of the road with the tractor bucket. The rest of us dragged branches into the ditch. We finished the tree removal before any cars tried to pass by and well before dark.
Whenever one of the big cottonwood trees falls I look at the ones remaining in a different light, wondering which one of them will be the next to go and trying to gauge whether it will hit the house when it drops. There are a few that have potential to do that, but we're hoping they fall the other way. While I'm generally a big fan of trees, I don't want one taking up space in my house.