Tending Our Trees

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.

Arborist in our Doug fir

Arborist in our Doug fir

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.

Arborists truck and our home

Arborists truck and our home



7 replies
  1. Meredith
    Meredith says:


    What a wonderful, thoughtful story! Also educational. As much as I love trees, it never occurred to me that pruning them would improve their ability to withstand winter winds. Thanks so much! And much love!


  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    If only everyone thought of relationship with trees. My heart has broken at the removal of trees around me. This fall we needed to take down a tree for the sake of the other trees around it – even that made me sad. I kept saying, “It was trying so hard to do everything right.” Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience.

  3. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    Thank you for this, Ann. My father took good care of the trees on our property. My mother, I think, worries about the wrong things, re them. I have wanted to trim up the Doug fir that blocks the view of sky and mountain, as my dad did. I didn’t know the part about thinning so the wind can blow through. Good information, beautiful written. xoxox


  4. Katharine
    Katharine says:

    Sig would appreciate this post, Ann. We, too, are shocked at the quality of tree trimming done by supposed arborists. Here on the prairies, there appears to be a preference for “topping” trees – shearing off the tops of trees – deciduous and coniferous alike. Not only an aesthetic eyesore, but also compromises tree growth and stability. And like you, we invest in having our magnificent laurel leaf willows tended to because we love our trees.

  5. Jude Rathburn
    Jude Rathburn says:

    Dear Ann – Thank you once again for an inspiring glimpse into the intentionality and integrity with which you build relationships within the natural world. I am especially moved by the lifestyle choices that go along with investing in the trees that surround your home. I hope to learn from your example – less consumption of energy, less accumulation of material possessions and years of conserving and saving to be an awesome steward of the land and keeper of the trees. With much love and appreciation — Jude

    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Dear Greeley, I wrote this quite a ways back, but appreciate your comment on this piece—especially since you are an arborist. Best of luck you you in this fine profession.


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