Monday, May 13, 2013

The Dead Oak Blues

I suspected last fall when I cut down 16 dead trees and then hired four more next to the house cut down in early winter, that I hadn't seen the last of them. After several extremely wet years followed by one of the driest in history, the stress put on the trees was just more than they've seen in decades. Unfortunately, it seems as if the hardest trees hit were the black cherry and red/black oak trees. Of the 20 I have had removed, I think 14 were black cherry, 5 oak and one hackberry. Technically the hackberry was a living tree but it was an extremely poor specimen that was leaning way over my garage.

I had three more large oak trees that were losing bark all winter long. All three had leaves on them last fall and all three had buds on them this spring but I suspected that they were all three dead. Two of them were in locations that even I could fall them without endangering anything but one was in a tight spot. It was near a city light pole and the street out front and perhaps of worst of all, was leaning heavily in that direction. I wasn't comfortable with my skills for falling it without landing it across the street or taking out the light pole or both.

A couple weeks ago, my younger brother was up for a visit and as it happens, he is an expert when it comes to falling trees having taken lots of classes and then used those skills for decades with the forest service. I decided to ask his opinion on the oak in the tight spot and he volunteered to help me fall it down the very next day. The next afternoon, he and my father came up and within about 15 minutes, he had fallen it exactly where we wanted away from streets and light poles. It took us another 2 hours with two chainsaws running to cut and stack everything up.

What surprised me was that though the oak tree had buds, it had died after that because all the branch ends were dead and brittle. Based upon that knowledge, I was fairly certain that the other two oaks were also dead but we didn't have time to cut them down so I decided to just wait for everything to leaf out and make sure. Two weeks later, all the oaks have now begun to leaf out except for those two suspect trees. Now I have two more to cut down and process. If I play my cards right, I may be able to time things so that I'm free to do so this fall when my brother is back up for another visit.

Fortunately I still have quite a few living trees scattered around the property and now that things are getting thinned out, the remaining trees should get much stronger since they don't have to compete so much. Next spring, I hope to do some repopulation measures but scattering out some red bud and service berry trees along the perimeter to get some color into our spring.

6 comments:

sage said...

Did you have any of it cut into lumber? Around here, there are a lot of people with small band saw type sawmills that will cut timber into lumber. With your boat building interest, too bad you didn't have some white oak.

Ed said...

Sage - I didn't. Most of the dead oak trees were now very good specimen for lumber and hence probably one of the reasons they died. The one large oak that would have made good lumber was up next to the house and ended up going with the tree trimming guy who cut it down as part of the deal.

Although there aren't many around here, there are at least two sawmills that I know of that would take a tree that someone hauled over to them. But that requires someone with the equipment to get the log onto a trailer, it requires a trailer and a truck to pull it plus it requires someplace for the person to store and properly dry the boards. Sadly I have none of those things. Perhaps when I get my shop built to build boats in, I will have some of the tools and room to do things like that.

woodysrockyridge said...

A bore infestation in confluence with the drought killed a great number of our black and white oaks. I dropped six Sunday and have several more that I would like to get off the hill. Firewood will not be in short supply for the next few years.

warren said...

With bugs and drought and all, I worry about my trees too...it is sad and somewhat spiritual to cut down a large tree. I just hate doing it...

Ed said...

Woody - I hadn't heard of a bore infestation among the oaks. I'll have to look into that. Perhaps we have some of that too.

Warren - It is, especially when they are older than I am. But I console myself with the fact that they will go to better use with me cutting them down and burning them for heat than just rotting away piece at a time.

roaring40 said...

It's always sad to see trees go before a saw. But when they are dead dieing or generally too close to a dwelling it's always better safe than sorry.
An uncle of mine is a cabinet maker who years ago change to making hurley's for our national game. They use Ash butts as the curve of the timber gives strength to the grain in the finished stick. In general though he is the only market for Ash in the county. But unless there are at least 50 trees it isn't cost effective to extract even if the tree is down.