Friday, September 3, 2010

This Old Tree

When I bought my little cottage, I also inherited an elderly Norway maple.  Every time I hear of an impending Nor'easter, or snowstorm or Hurricane Earl, I get a little bit sick to my stomach wondering how my old tree will fare.

In my last post, I mentioned that I needed to remove this limb.  It's not only because it looks a little silly; the entire limb is in really bad shape.  So for all of my tree-loving readers, I want you to know I am with you.

This is a photograph of my neighbor's house from perhaps the 1920s and to the right you can see my tree.  Incidentally, this porch was removed at some point along the line and my neighbor used this photograph... restore it about five years ago.  I wished I had an old photo of my house.  I think it's so cool to have that reference.

Even before I moved in, one of my dear neighbors was kind enough to leave the number of an arborist in my mailbox that would maintain my tree.  (Yes, that's very Cambridge!  I've had other neighbors welcome me to the neighborhood with the gift of a recycling bin.)  The company who is an all organic tree preservation company thought the tree was fine; it just needed some chai tea latte injections or something like that. I'm all for being organic but I was a little skeptical about tea injections so (after having it done once) I called two more arborists for opinions.

Their opinion was the tree has numerous problems, the first of which is girdling roots.  As you can see, the roots are all twisted around the base, and as the tree has grown, it's literally choking itself to death.  They both advised I not put money into the tree.  Trees have a life span and its lived its life.

So what do I do?  I can't justify cutting it down yet.  But if I do nothing, I have a tree that's a liability.  If limbs fall on a car, or take out the power lines to the four cottages that are behind me, the financial burden is mine, not to mention the possibility that someone could get hurt. 

So last year, I spent $450 to have all of the dead wood taken off to see how things went.

And here I am one year later, with another large dead limb that hangs over my neighbors front yard and the street where someone parks...

...and this other decaying limb...

...has attracted a few woodpeckers which have been quite a neighborhood novelty... 

...and that sits precariously close to my electrical line.

So I've called the arborist again to have the dead and dying branches trimmed off and I just pray that Hurricane Earl will be good to me.

My old tree.  I love it and I hate it.


  1. I can totally relate. I have two 80 year old oaks, one in front and one in back, that are nearing the end of their lifespan (according to the arborist). They are both losing limbs at an alarming rate and I worry about one of them falling into a neighbor's house or my own (and I'm in NC aka hurricane country so that's a real possibility). And yet I can't stand the idea of cutting them down...
    Good luck with your tree and with Earl - he was good to us. Karin

  2. We had an old black walnut tree in front of our house when we bought it. There's nothing like an old tree in front of an old house, it's always so pretty. But our black walnut, although perfectly shaped, was rotten due to a bad pruning job that allowed water to run through the trunk. So we said our goodbyes...but we do plan on planting a new tree someday. My only regret is that you can't plant them mature! And buying mature trees is a fortune (I've done some research).
    So I guess enjoy your tree while it lasts as you'll probably miss it when it's gone. And it's amazing how trees create a sense of space. An old rental house in Maine lost its front yard tree in a storm and suddenly, I felt like the house had moved several feet closer to the road!
    Happy long holiday weekend Steve!

  3. Ahhh..Tree sagas. I think the relationships with our trees are of the love/hate variety. We have 3 huge(40'-50') pecan trees, 1 larger Sycamore-all in the back yard. I didn't know that pecans are notorious for dropping wood. Not leaves or twigs, wood! When it gets windy around here, I avoid the backyard. I was becoming a wee bit paranoid when branches started falling where I'd just been standing! Sycamores drop these ball thingies, again always in the vicinity of whoever is outside. They're like little golf balls! Then they split into a bazillion little seed floatie things-a real mess!
    Did you check with your electric company about removing the tree, or at least the areas around the line? My company came out and took down our branches that were in danger of falling on the lines so we wouldn't be injured. Gotta love small town life. That saved us a couple of hundred $$$s.

  4. Well, you know my tree saga. I hope it fares well in the storm.

  5. Hi Steve,
    My home is surrounded by 100 yr old Maple trees which, if they left, I'd have to leave! I cringe everytime there's a storm or a big truck driving by.
    Perhaps your new cottage needs a fresh new tree? .....nothing gold can stay.
    btw ~ your house looks fantastic! I love the wider stairs - great choice! I can already envision how pretty it's going to be.
    Hope you have a great holiday weekend...travelling anywhere fun and pretty? :)

  6. hey steve,

    old houses and old trees seems to go together. but old trees can be so dangerous. it's one of the reasons we moved here. our old house have over 50 large treees on the property. it was beautiful but costly and sometimes dangerous. since you are refreshing the exterior maybe it's time to refresh the tree. i hate to see old trees cut down but what are you going to do? i say bite the bullet. hopefully earl doesn't do it for you.

    happy labor day.


  7. LOVED Marblehead - how nice it would be for us just to be able to drive there for a good poke around.

    We know all about large trees! We had a huge blue cedar at our last home. We developed cracks in our sitting room wall and an 'expert' told us to dig deep barricades as the tree roots were growing under our foundations. In fact the tree was in the process of dying and 'heave' was occuring, the tree not taking up moisture from the earth as it had done for many years.Thank goodness we had not gone ahead with the barricades!
    Then we moved house and inherited some more large tree problems.
    (And, by the way, I'm a white haired woman under the libran sign and therefore qualify to be a witch all year round!)

  8. Being the proud owner of a long row of antique maples I can so relate! I say a prayer everytime we have high winds. I say keep tending it like you are (and that one limb across the front def. needs to go;) and then when the time to take her down you will know. I think she still has some life left in her!! Glad Earl passed on by, but was so hoping for some much needed rain!
    Hope you have a fun holiday weekend!

  9. Just wanted to stop by and thank you for your comment on my blog. I got the samples and have picked what I hope will be the perfect white and will be painting soon! Your house is coming along so beautifully! karin

  10. Hi, I just happened on your blog and I am slowly making making my way though all of your old posts...enjoying them all. Trees can be difficult, I have a very large old avocado tree that I feel the same way about; your is definately worth keeping healthy. I love your house, it reminds me of P Allen Smith's city cottage. I will definately be back. Come and see me sometime. (-:

  11. Hi, I know all about large trees, they are all around my house! I love/hate them too! They are beautiful, provide shade, attract birds but are so messy and expensive to look after. Being that your tree is on the footpath and interferring with power lines would your local council come into this. Perhaps just ring them up because here in Australia all trees interferring with the powerlines (on a footpath) are trimmed by council (atleast where I live anyway). Just wanted to say too your house looks lovely! take care, Maryann