Over the weekend the Pacific Northwest mountain snows began, heavy lowland rains returned, and the winds howled through the trees with winter strength. For the first time in years, the wind did not make me nervous.
Huge, wonderful conifer trees that not infrequently shed large branches in the first winds of the season back our house. This shedding is a natural occurrence: a way that trees prune themselves. We are accustomed to driving down the back roads after an autumn wind, and noticing many branches along the forest edge. However, living under them, it’s nerve wracking to hear a crack in the middle of the night, or thump on the roof.
This October, we hired a skilled arborist to climb our trees and do some important and proactive “limbing” and pruning. Two men spent nearly two hours climbing the huge Douglas fir tree that sits within ten feet of our back rooms. It was surprising how many limbs they cut in the process of giving the tree more “sail”—i.e. ability to let strong winds move through the mass. Despite the pile of branches carefully lowered to the ground and run through the shredder by the third member of the arborist team, the tree looks better than ever—still artfully gracing the landscape with drooping boughs and magnificent whorls of branches. In total five trees were cared for.
I know it is important to get trees periodically pruned, but I have been shocked at some of the jobs done by tree services that do not have licensed arborists. Too many people who call themselves a tree service love the notion of climbing trees and using chain saws—yes, and using spikes on their boots to climb up the trunk—and just limb up a tree without considering the balance of weight needed by the whole organism.
It costs more money to hire an arborist, and it took us several years to save for this investment. There’s been a lot of cutting in the neighborhood this year: two new houses going up and some clearing for a septic field. Each tree removed also changes the wind pattern. We decided this was the time we needed to tend the Doug firs and white pine that shelter our house so that we were in a relationship that felt respectful of their needs and ours.
Whatever happens this winter, I deeply value the sense of relationship we have with the trees that surround our house.