Sunday, December 23, 2012

Unexpected consequences

The log-out described in previous post is finally finished. Well, at least the tree-dropping part. There’s a whole lot left over that still needs attending to, both by them and by us.

Their part is finishing the cut: limbing, bucking, hauling, stumping, and, for the big tree in the yard, chipping. Whether this will be accomplished sooner rather than later remains to be seen, as we now have snow and ice on the ground.

Our part is cleaning up slash still in the way around the perimeter, filling in innumerable holes, removing or repairing items that got damaged by dropped trunks (i.e., my garden). This must wait until spring.

That leaves the pond. During the first phase, two trees were most safely dropped across the pond, which had a good ice cover. Those trunks were then dragged out and processed, leaving limbs, branches, and pine needles galore floating around amid and atop the now shattered ice.

A few days of wacky weather thawed things enough that we could launch the good-old aluminum Grumman canoe and extract debris before it either sank en masse to acidify the water or plug up the outflow during spring thaw. Armed with paddle and rake, we poked and pulled and dragged until the boat was so burdened that we literally couldn’t move! A stiff breeze didn’t help.

Oh, for somebody with a camera! We looked ludicrous stuck ten feet from shore, laughing hysterically, while mixed moisture spat down from a steely sky and limbs longer than the boat dragged their branches like sea anchors along both sides.

Musclepower (and lack of options) eventually hauled us to land. But before we could ease our frozen and strained muscles in a hot shower, we still had to dump the load above waterline and drag the canoe back to storage for the winter.

Within 24 hours, the pond had refrozen. Although we didn’t remove half the debris in there, it has now sunk out of sight. So all that effort was probably for nothing. We’ll know in April when winter’s grip lets go.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Us vs. Them

For the 15 years we've lived here, our dooryard has been dominated by 100-plus-foot white pines growing dangerously close to the house. Two years ago, we ponied up the money to have an ominously leaning quartet taken down. It was an awesome display of human agility and power, in a confined space, completely cleaned up afterward. So when opportunity arose to deal with the remaining half-dozen potential guillotines, we called in the same arborist to get a quote for their removal.

Ouch!!!!! Too many zeroes for our pocketbook to handle.

A competitive quote introduced the option of taking out all the pine that could conceivably reach the house, and then some (adding up to almost 30 trees). It happens that the mill price for pine is up, making it economically attractive for loggers to harvest. So we struck a deal that would fill their trucks, remove the menacing trees, and make the least dent in our wallets for some profit in theirs.

It has proven, however, to be very painful. For those of us who hail from urban or suburban environments, the violence of rural logging is a shock-and-awe experience. The tearing and splintering and explosive boom! of giants crashing to the ground, which you feel through your feet inside the house, makes you want to duck and cover. The air reeks of sap and diesel exhaust, and the brrap-ing buzz of saws drills through your head. When the smoke clears, the area looks like a bomb zone. And this is controlled, selective logging performed by careful and respectful lumberjacks who minimize their impact the best they can. I can't imagine what a clear-cut must be like!

No matter the scale, each downed tree deprives birds, beasts, and insects of food and shelter, as well as plays a role in the forest chemical dynamic. Why oh why did I agree to this slaughter?

Because: If one of those aging, splitting trees hit the house, we'd be out umpteen thousand dollars and possibly injured, dead, or dealing with fire. We've already had one tree nail a car, and dodged a few near misses with large limbs.

Because: Their removal opens up a huge amount of sunlight to heat the house and nourish lesser growing things. At the same time, the wood being removed will build and heat other people's homes; and, because our own home will be warmer, we'll indirectly be killing fewer trees in order to burn them.

A secondary benefit is freedom from the constant carpet of pine needles in the lawn, on the steps and deck, in the garden; clogging the vents and other apertures of cars and equipment parked outside; and the inches of acidic compost that accumulate on top of storage buildings and material piles. Not to mention what gets tracked into the house and befouls the vacuum cleaner.

Plus, our view is now undisturbed. Step out the door to a magnificent bowl of sky! See the pond that has for decades been screened! (Conversely, anyone driving in can now see into our uncurtained living room, and observe that the house's exterior is stained and shabby, and we have plastic over the windows and tarpaper on the roof and cars in the backyard.)

So, are all the benefits worth the destruction? Well . . . it depends. The law of the jungle is kill or be killed; something must die so that something else may live. You can't get any more "natural" than that, and all the warm-and-fuzzy, tree-hugging, green idealism won't change it. You can even make a case that the upheaved terrain will benefit plants and animals. While some lose habitat, others gain it.

So why do I feel like a murderer, and mourn every time I look around? Reminds me of the lawn-mowing exercise blogged about in July 2011. It's just so damn hard to take care of yourself without taking out something else.