Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Big Cottonwood

Between 1981 and 1986, I made 500 round-trips between Radium Springs and Truth or Consequences. I got to know the scenery pretty well. About 8 miles north of my home, across the river, was a bosque filled with large cottonwood trees. One of these trees was distinctively different, and I followed it season after season, year after year as I drove past on my trips to T or C. It was more upright than the other cottonwood trees – like a perfect stalk of broccoli. It greened up earlier in the spring. Wintertime leaflessness revealed beautiful silver bark. Plus, it was free of mistletoe. It seemed like a superior tree in every respect, and I was determined to wade over there some day and saw off a limb to plant in my front yard next to the river.

I talked to my friend Skip about the tree, and he was interested in cutting a few limbs for his own place. So we agreed to take our bow saws and harvest some limbs. I was keeping a journal at the time, and have the exact date: Thursday, January 9, 1986. Here’s the journal entry:

“Went up and harvested cottonwood limbs with Skip. I got 3 big ones and 7 small ones; Skip got 5 medium. They are heavy. Had to carry them along the drain, across the sandbar, across the river, and up the arroyo to the truck. I am EXHAUSTED.”

The next day I planted the three large limbs next to the river. I used a post hole digger and made as deep a hole as possible, then stuck in a limb and filled the hole with dirt. I watered them frequently during the first summer. Evidently only one tree survived; but then again, maybe I figured (correctly) that 3 was too many and got rid of the extras.

This is what the tree looks like after 23 growing seasons:

It’s in a great spot for a cottonwood – only 10 feet from the river. I built a fence around it to protect it from beavers. That’s Laura giving a sense of scale. I printed this picture, measured Laura and the tree, and calculated that the tree is 54 feet tall.

Here’s a close-up of treehugger Laura:


Anonymous Jacques Conejo said...

Great story... Great Photos...

11:02 PM  

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