Gains and Losses: The Stumps.

I love trees.

I’ve lived long enough in one place to have seen saplings become trees.

Long enough to have cut down trees I’ve planted myself.

Sometimes you have to do that.

The greatest proportion of trees around the house are red and black oaks.

I remember learning about how trees add wood each year, in defined rings of spring and summer wood.

You can count the rings to find out how old the tree is!


Stump number one: Seventy growth rings.

It turns out that many of them, by the time they’re 50-100 years old, start to fail, one way or another.

Branches break, heart rot sets in, followed by carpenter ants, followed by collapse and senescence.

Or drought comes, plus three different kinds of caterpillars over a few years, and the tree starves to death.

In our area, a new plague for “junior senior” red and black oaks is a kind of gall wasp, which lays its eggs in the twig tips, causing edema, leaf and branch dieback, and often, death. The entomologists are not clear even on the life cycle of this critter, and so far there seems no control available. We hear there was an outbreak of this bug on Long Island a while back, and that eventually the “epidemic” ended. But not before many trees died.

Over the last five years we’ve been watching the wasps proliferate in the crowns of our oaks.

Two of them got so sick it became clear that it was time to cut them down.

Now there are piles of branches, and stovewood-length bolts of bole and branch on the ground.

The branches will be chipped or burned, the wood split and put under cover to dry, and will one day heat our home.

Now we have stumps where the trees once were.


Stump number two: seventy years of growth rings.


I refuse to go so far as to have the stumps ground down into little chunks by some powerful machine.

Time will take care of the stumps.

Where the crowns of these trees once were is now sky.

Through this new void will come more sunlight to our garden, which these two trees were more and more shading.

There is no loss without gain.


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