Category Archives: trees

Damage and cleanup

We were lucky. On Monday, a tornado passed about a mile 2500 feet to the North of the house. We did sustain damage, but thankfully not to the house. The worst tree damage was to our Bradford pear tree. The poor tree withstood two pretty heavy ice storms since we moved in but was taken down by a 57 mph wind. I call it Twoface now. The South face is still full and green, the North face is cut away. After I cleaned up the branches I had at least a half rick if wood.

The fruit trees fared really well. The only damage was one branch off the peach tree.

Peter’s antenna mast didn’t fare so well. Luckily we have replacement parts. When we fix it, we’ll set up proper guy anchors for the mast, so this won’t happen again, unless of course we get a direct hit.

My biggest worry is this dead fall. This is what’s called a widowmaker, a fallen tree hung up on a neighboring tree branch, just waiting for the opportunity to fall on someone (probably me while hanging laundry). We’ll have to deal with this soon, and our neighbor has offered the use of his tractor.

Our saddest loss, although inevitable, was the fall of this cottonwood. This dead tree stood on it’s own out in the open near the pond and was a favored perch for just about every bird around. The Mississippi Kites would use it most often in the summer as a resting perch between hunting flights. I’ll miss it. It’ll stay where it fell, creating a new kind of wildlife habitat and eventually returning it’s nutrients to the soil.

More Blackjack Oaks in front broke in half, but oddly there was very little new damage in the back half of the property. I suspect Blackjacks are more adapted to interior forest, rather than a savanna setting and, if weakened, can’t tolerate strong winds. Eventually, I’ll replace the broken trees with Bur Oaks.

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Stop touching me!

At this time of year, before the big trees leaf out, it’s the perfect time to examine competition between trees. The picture to the right is a prime example. Look at the three tall trees. The tree on the left is a walnut tree, big and shapely. The tree on the far right is a pine tree, straight and tall. The pine tree in the middle is the interesting one. It looks like it’s pulling it’s branches on the left side towards the trunk. You can almost hear it saying “He’s touching me; stop touching me”, like two children in the back seat of a car. Even the trunk has grown a slight curve, away from the walnut. The walnut is unaffected. The tree branches mirror what’s happening underground. We can’t see it, but the roots are also growing away from the offending tree. The offense is chemical; substances exuded by the roots of the walnut tree to repel competitors.

I found another case involving a small Sycamore tree and a Black Locust sapling that I had planted too close. The sapling, after two years of growth, is leaning to the North, away from the Sycamore. Similarly a fruit tree in the back yard, near a Blackjack Oak, looks like it’s been trimmed to avoid contact with the oak branches. These two cases are likely caused by shading.

This is important information to keep in mind when planting new trees. In the case of the walnut, especially, careful research and experimentation has to be made before planting within the root zone of the tree. Some plants can tolerate the chemical onslaught, others can’t. Luckily an internet search yielded a good list of understory plants that tolerate juglone (the chemicals produced by Walnuts), so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This will be critical as I develop our food forest, since we have 3 mature walnut trees.

Painting a tree

I noticed the other day that our Bradford pear was starting to break dormancy. It was high time to get our big fruit trees pruned. The peach tree has been suffering from peach scab, a fungal disease. The organic treatment is lime sulfur which can only be applied in cool weather, preferably while the tree is still dormant.

I set about drastically pruning the tree, cutting off as much of the diseased wood as possible while still leaving a crown. There were a lot of dead twigs, as a result of the fungal infection, that had to be removed as well. No point in spraying dead wood. It took all morning to prune the tree and clear the litter.

After lunch I mixed up the lime sulfur solution in my sprayer, and started spraying. Not five minutes into the job, the spray hose clogged and the liquid is flowing up out of the pressurizing pump. Drat! Well, there was nothing to do but to dump the liquid into a bucket and start painting. It took about 5 hours over two days to paint every last twig. I sure hope it does some good. I’ll get my sprayer fixed, or get a new one, before I have to tackle THAT job again (in three weeks). Now I need to find some good compost to gently feed the peach tree. Hopefully, it will recover and start producing some edible peaches.

Learning and Growing


I was checking on some plants the other day and was surprised to find a fig on my fig tree. I only have one (well, had one), but for a tree I planted this spring, that’s pretty cool. I had to search online to figure out how to tell when a fig was ripe, and according to the information I found the fig has to droop. It looked droopy to me, but unfortunately it wasn’t droopy enough, and I picked it too soon. There was a hint of the sweet flavor to come when I tasted it. Oh well, I’ll know better next year, but now I have to wait until next Spring to savor this fruit.

The fruit was a lot bigger than I expected. I should have searched for images of ripe Celeste figs before I picked it, then I would have known they should be brownish purple when ripe. Oops! But I’ll be the first to admit I know nothing about figs, except that I like to eat them. I did the same thing with a melon as well, not knowing what the variety should look like when it’s ripe (unripe melon tastes like watermelon rind). Now, I know. We learn as we grow, and growing (fruit) takes a lot of learning!