Thursday, May 20, 2010

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Sometime in the early 90s I spotted a tractor tire at a dump near Hatch.  It thought it would make a splendid planter.  So with great effort we loaded the tire into our truck, drove it home, rolled it into the pasture, and filled it with multiple wheelbarrow loads of dirt.  Then I cut off a limb from our big cottonwood and kept it watered for a couple of years until its root system was established.  Little did I suspect that using a tractor tire as a planter wasn't such a good idea for such a big tree.

Cottonwoods have large buttress roots that extend for a great distance in all directions just under the surface.  These roots provide the necessary stability to withstand high winds.  The tractor tire, as it turned out, strangled normal root development.  We weren't aware of any problems until a month ago, when we noticed the tree leaning at a strange angle.  I knew that one strong wind would knock it down.  And sure enough, that's exactly what happened.

Here's the mess we were confronted with, totally blocking access to the dock.  It's amazing how massive a large tree is when it's lying horizontally and needs to be cut up with a chainsaw.  The beavers helped out, chewing off the bark and hauling off some of the branches.  Laura is holding a chunk of wood the beavers cut off, showing the typical pointed beaver cut. 

That pile of firewood on the right side is one of our old globe willows, mostly dead but still standing, that was reduced to kindling by the falling cottonwood.  Green cottonwood is very heavy, and the kinetic energy of the falling tree was enormous.  Fortunately, I had been planning to cut down the globe willow anyway.

The tree just barely missed our dock.

A couple of weeks later we put Neil to work cutting the fallen tree into firewood.  This was his first major chainsaw job since he was 10 years old.  We can now walk to the dock.  We are considering leaving most of the tree in a horizontal position, sort of as a monument to itself.