After assisting with Cowley College’s GED graduation event Saturday morning and before attending two graduation parties, the grand fund-raising Duck Dash and another party, I thought I’d relax by cutting down an elm tree. Seemed like a good idea since this particular elm tree has been working on destroying our wooden fence for about twenty-five years or so.
At some point in the past, it seems that someone topped the tree at about five feet above the ground, just above the top board on the fence. The tree responded by sprouting three main branches at that point. These had in turn been allowed to grow for about fifteen years or so, with each reaching a diameter of eight-to-ten inches. Not too long ago, someone had cut out two of those, leaving the third one to continue growing. It was about thirty feet tall.
As you may know, as long as a main branch is growing, so is the trunk. A foot above the ground, that tree is now about sixteen inches thick. The tree grew up through the middle of our plank fence. Most wooden fences do not benefit appreciably by having a tree nearly a foot-and-a-half thick grow up through them.
This particular fence was built with twelve-foot planks on a horizontal weave pattern. In between the end posts of each section is a center post. The planks bend around the center post on alternating layers to create the weave effect. A four-inch center post provides a functional space for creating the desired aesthetic effect. A sixteen-inch tree does something else.
It tears the fence up.
Thanks to the slow growth of the elm, some of the planks bent to a greater arc. One of them popped loose from the post at one end, splaying out toward the neighbor’s house. Another plank broke and yet another one is now embedded in the tree trunk. The fence is ruined. And I declared war on the remaining branch. And I won.
With a hand axe, I notched the tree with the intent of felling it beside rather than on top of our small storage shed. I waited until the wind was out of the north so it would be less likely to fall across the neighbor’s fence and hit his storage shed. Or house. Then I took my battery-powered DeWalt reciprocating saw and set in to work. Just in case you’re wondering, elm is fairly dense. It takes a while to cut through. But, when the cutting was done, the tree fell exactly where I’d hoped it would. After two or three more hours of cutting, stacking, loading and hauling, nearly every trace of the tree was gone.
Except for the stump, five feet tall and sixteen inches thick, still standing in the middle of the fence. Along with a dozen other smaller trees that were allowed to grow up through the fence at various places around its perimeter. Every one of those could have been pulled up by hand at one point. The fence could have been preserved and protected with only a small amount of effort. Pulling up sprouts is easier than cutting down trees.
I’ll need to remember that next time I take a look around inside my life.