NVDAILY.COM | Lifestyle/Valley Scene

Posted August 22, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Old trees removed, allow for welcome spaces

By Roger Barbee - redhill@shentel.net

In the past few years I have learned quite a bit about white pine trees out of necessity because our back lot has a jumbled grove of them. Like everything else, however, their lives depend upon their foundation, and these 30 odd trees had a poor foundation.

Their planting was too random and no thought of their maturing was, it seems, considered because they were planted too close together and thus could not fill out as they grew. Branches, instead of being full boughs of needles, were often stunted or dead, making them bald on one side but full of life on the other. However, since they had been planted in the 70s and they provided a screen, we lived with them as they were. The space beneath them was sort of a wild land that we skirted.

Then the big snow came three winters ago, and we were introduced to one of the several weakness of white pines: their limbs could not support the wet, heavy snow which caused them to break off and some entire trees fell. After the melt, we decided to have the weakened trees removed along with broken limbs and to clear the underbrush to reclaim the land beneath. With the arrival of warm weather that spring, we began the slow process of killing off the poison ivy, honeysuckle and other undesirable growth such as the rambling mulberry tree that had taken root over the past 30 years and spread wild under the canopy.

Willie, one of our neighbors on that stretch of land, advised me to mow slowly with my blade as high as possible. He explained that would help kill off the ivy and honeysuckle. It did. Within two years, we had made the stretch of land presentable -- a carpet of needles full of shade and emerging wildflowers. We even began talking about building a picnic space out there. Then the deracho came and changed that landscape again, but worse than the big snow had done. Tops of tress and branches, twisted from the main trunk, littered the yards of neighbors and our own. Large limbs and some bigger trunks lay scattered. The only good was that no buildings had been destroyed, but the once improving land was now a danger and eyesore. Sadly, men with machines came today to our back field and began their work with chain saws, chippers, trucks, and a skid loader.

Noise, too. Lots of noise by men and their machines as they went about the work of clearing brush and damaged, unsafe trees. However, as I watched the work, one noise I could not come to terms with was the great crack of each tree as it gave way to metal teeth. Yes, they were not attractive because they had grown too close together, and they were heavy on one side because of unbalanced limb growth, thus a potential hazard. Yet each time I heard that crack just before one would sway and then fall, I went back to their planting, or foundation.

Had the planter, in the 1970s, considered their potential, he would have spaced them where they would have had sufficient space and be able to grow into the healthy, full, vibrant trees that they could have been. Had he planned and considered, those white pines would serve many purposes and give joy instead of being an eyesore and a hazard.

Kenny, another neighbor, told me how at the time of their planting, a state agency was giving young plants to anyone who wanted them. I can see the unknown planter taking more than he needed because they were free instead of planning his project. He wasted an opportunity to create something of utiliterian beauty. So today they come down and go to the lumber man, who will use them for something. Only their stumps, wet with sap and sticking up through last fall's needles, will remain as a reminder of their existence.

We are now facing a similar situation as the man in the 1970s -- what to do with that plot of ground between the back field and neighbors' yards. After the machines leave, and we rake out the land and remove the small debris, we will wait and see what happens. We will be patient and give the land time to recover from the shock of going from deep shade to full sun and the necessary clawing of machine treads. We will discuss options and then, I hope, we will plan and create a plan that has a foundation. I hope we see the potential of whatever we do so that in 40 years someone will appreciate the useful beauty of our labors.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs, and five cats. You may contact him at redhill@shentel.net

Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137