Not Even the Genius Nostradamus Could Have Foreseen This

Just a couple weeks ago, I was declaiming the virtues of Red Alder, and pointing out  their significant

'Please, Red Alder! Leave me alone!'

flaw: a well-documented unwillingness to remain upright for long periods of time.  Then came the snow, then came the ice, then came the wind, and then came my grove of Red Alders, lurching toward my house like the Poltergeist tree: two reaching toward my bedroom window as if to

'I'm Red Alder, and I'm comin' in your window!'

snatch me from my bed, and three others leaning in close behind, as if to get a better view.

Miraculously, the tandem of  fallen trees came to rest not on my roof but upon the jagged top of a previously broken-off alder;  precariously


balanced, swaying gently, branches and dried catkins lightly brushing my roof and window.  The same cannot be said of a small, previously anonymous hemlock tree.  Under its load of ice, it announced its presence from the middle of a stand of young cedars, arching toward the living room and looking like the class clown in a school picture.   And just like a class clown not getting enough attention, the tree later snapped, the stored energy in its deep bow flinging the treetop toward the back wall and living room window of my home.  Fortunately, there was no damage, but the startling impact out of the power-outagey blackness injected a huge amount of adrenaline into the cocktail hour.

After putting some mental effort into figuring how to notch the alder so that gravity and tension would cause the crown to fall away from the house; the Tableau del Diablo; the Hanging Gardens; and me, thereby saving everything and proving me to be a super manly woodsman guy, the next day the ice melted and the tree lifted off its perch by five feet or so.  Then gravity took over and the tree slowly laid itself to rest on the roof. 

‘Hazardous? Yes, sir, I guess so. That’ll be $200.”

Local ordinance states that any tree less than five inches in diameter may be removed without a permit; however, to cut ANY tree within 200 feet of a wetland–and my share of the wetland was about 100 feet away before the storm, and is about 70 feet away now–requires a permit for each tree.  To obtain such a permit first requires that a licensed arborist condemn the tree.  I would love to stimulate the economy by hiring someone to tell me that a tree leaning on my house–or several others that were vertical on Tuesday but nearly horizontal on Thursday–are a ‘hazard.’  But I have enough troubles with forehead-slapping property restrictions, and I also have a very strict “No trees falling on my loved ones or my home ” policy.  Cutting off some trees that pose a clear threat to those items seems like the kind of thing you do when it is an emergency, and then apologize for later if you have to.  So Saturday morning, my dangerous trees had to go.  There was nothing to do with my Poltergeist Pair but slowly cut through the fractured trunks and hope that the larger tree would fall slowly rather than landing full force on my Weber grill…which it did, saving Steak Night and allowing me to de-limb the crown while standing comfortably on my well-shoveled patio. Because of the urgent nature of the surgery–‘tree-age,’ if you will– I didn’t have time to section up all the trunks and instead cut them to 10- to 12 foot lengths that I could quickly hurl out of the way.  In all, there were five alders and one hemlock that I lost to the Oddball Ice Storm of 2012, and there are two more alders in the same grove that are taller still than the ones that laid over–well tall enough to reach my house, but currently leaning ever so slightly the other way.  Regrettable as losing the trees may be, I am warning you, remaining Red Alders: I’m watching you. If there is any upside of the whole affair it is that when the next Highland Games roll around, I am well fit for the Caber toss.

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13 Responses to Not Even the Genius Nostradamus Could Have Foreseen This

  1. I just discovered your blog. Have gone over many of your past postings and I like your writing style and the way you tell the story. I too am a social liberal and live in a conservative area – and I am able to survive and thrive. I think it is all about “attitude”. You seem to have a good one. I will be following your work. Good job. Jack

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you for your kind comments, and thanks for visiting! I hope you will come back frequently! Best, Calvin

    • anonymous dave says:

      blogs are a waste of time if you want your “work” to be noticed and followed by others present it in an environment were others can appreciate the effort. it takes 10 minutes to write a page on a computer it takes 10 years to perfect a craft. wouldn’t you rather be remembered as someone who impacted thousands maybe millions of people from the work you have done and show it to the public instead of posting it on your page hoping someone recognizes you?

      • calvincaley says:

        anonymous dave, I can’t tell from your comment whether you don’t like my activities, my blog, my writing, or my point of view…or like them all so much you wish I was doing something different than I am. Sigh. Such is the weakness of the comment board. I can tell you that gardening is something that I enjoy; and if you have read much here you will understand that in a way I am also compelled to garden, to a certain extent. My blog is an adjunct to those activities–but takes a distant place in the hierarchy of all the things I do. Once upon a time, I intended to be the Voice of My Generation; with some maturity I realized that beer for breakfast, the manly art of bareknuckle boxing, and dating psychos was not precisely writing. I took a job that turned into a career that now resembles rolling a boulder uphill all day, later got married and started a family…those latter checked my ego at the door and The Great American Novel is now a dream in my rearview mirror, which will probably keep me from impacting thousands or millions. Usually impacting thousands or millions is the province of athletes or musicians anyway, and while I could shoot the three in high school AND do a little rapping and breakdancing, that was the ’80’s and there wasn’t really a market for us Caucasians to do those things then. Too late now.

        But still I write and I try to do it proficiently. All of my college instructors and professors harped on ‘writing like you talk,’ and believe it or not, my writing sounds exactly like me (minus the ums and uhs and you knows we modern Americans pepper our language with)–so maybe I learned something back then. Point of view? I am something of an existentialist, and my views are the aggregate of my life experience, my actions, and a well-considered life. My point of view is constantly evolving.

        I have been building, making, and creating various and sundry things for over twenty years, and have some nice Japanese chisels and and Daizuke saws, a whole raft of quality power tools. Still, my dovetails occasionally need filler and glue, sometimes my saddle joints need a hidden fastener. I am sure my teachers and mentors would agree–purely striving for perfection is generally as close as anyone can ever come to it. I’d be interested to hear what craft CAN be perfected, let alone in only ten years. I hope that you are not some sort of bot that made it past the spam filters, and I hope you are not just one of those who leaves provocative and cryptic comments on boards and blogs late in the night, anonymous dave. I hope you are interested and visit again. In the meantime, friends and vistors: anyone ever perfect a craft? How long did it take?

  2. Carolyn says:

    Gotta watch out for those nasty alders… they will turn on you at will. Interesting post!

    • calvincaley says:

      Carolyn, I know! I’m glad to hear from someone who understands–one day they are over there, just tree-ing, a couple days later they are over here, watching you sleep. It’s time somebody did something.

  3. Bonnie Murray says:

    Hi Calvin…
    Just had to let you know how much I enjoyed your story of the ominous alders…so much, that I dragged my mother into my computer room so I could read it to her…Thanks for lightening my day
    Bonnie from Canada

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you, Bonnie! That is very encouraging. I firmly believe that when life hands you alders, since you can’t make lemonade you should make a fire. Then you can smoke some salmon! Best to my neighbors to the north! Calvin

  4. rainyleaf says:

    I can’t believe the rules and regulations in our dear little town….maybe you should become an arborist?! Glad to hear your house is safe and sound.

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