I’m a big fan of trees. I actually used to serve on the Fairfax County Tree Commission. I mention this because last week we had to have a two-hundred-year-old oak removed from next to our house and it was upsetting for a variety of reasons. At first, it was upsetting because a limb the size of a large tree fell off of the main tree and filled up our front yard and part of the street. The fire and rescue department had to come and cut off the limbs that were blocking traffic.
The next day, our friend the arborist, came out to assess the damage and remove the rest of the limb. The assessment wasn’t good. The falling limb left a hole that went more than half way through the base of the tree. Since the diameter of the base was six feet, the hole was quite large. There was no way the tree was going to survive, even though the rest of it looked fine from the outside. There is a lesson in there somewhere about not judging something by it’s outward appearance, but at the time, I wasn’t concerned about that as much as I was upset about losing the tree. It was a grand old tree and it provided a great deal of shade to our house in the summer, which saved us money on our electric bill. It was also beautiful and probably the nicest feature of our yard.
I was also upset about how much money it was going to cost to take it down. It was a lot. Much more than the cost of your average tree, although the estimates varied quite a bit based on whether or not the company had it’s own crane. Cranes are pretty expensive to rent and we needed one. One company just wrote “You need a bigger tree company,” on the estimate sheet that they left in our door. That was probably my favorite. We settled on JL Tree Service out of Fairfax and they did a wonderful job. Hector and his crew came out and worked from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening without stopping. The crane was able to move long straight lengths of oak that could be planed into boards on to a dump truck. Smaller limbs were chipped on site. The broad base of the tree took the longest time to cut down because it was wider across than their biggest saw. When they finally were able to pull it over, I got really upset. The base of the tree was rotting, and the rot got wider and wider as it approached the ground until it reached the roots which were in terrible shape. None of this was visible from the outside.
I could take the toe of my shoe and push off chunks of sodden oak off. Below that the roots looked desiccated and were black like rotten leaves. Since everything above where the first limb fell off was solid oak, what we had standing next to our house was a ticking time bomb. The tree was incredibly top heavy and had that initial limb not fallen off, we never would have known that. Had it fallen, it would have gone through an intersection, hit two of our neighbors’ houses, taken out power lines for the entire street and pulled out part of the foundation of our house. It could have killed someone or several someones. Standing on the stump, I felt very lucky.
It took Kyle and his crew two days to grind the stump and above ground roots and haul away the resulting mulch. They did a nice job and now we just have a large area of the yard that we’ll need to seed in the fall. I suppose the moral of this story is to be mindful of the trees in your yard. They are beautiful, but they can also be deadly.