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