Sad as it may seem, I will hang onto plants, generally houseplants, willing them back to life, long after they’ve gone off to the big compost heap in the sky. They sit in the corners of the house, quite obviously on their way out but I’ll still tend them until the very last vestiges of life have long since gone and then, most reluctantly I’ll take them to the tip for a rather emotional ‘goodbye’.
Why am I going on about dead plants? Well it’s so that when I now tell you that I am slowly decapitating a great oak, that you take into consideration the fact that I do try and preserve plant life wherever possible, but the great oak is such a troublesome creature that it just has to go, bit by bit.
Look at the picture. This thing is enormous. I reckon that it’s about 60ft tall and has, at a conservative estimate, some quarter of a million leaves on its branches, half of which seem to end up covering everything in sight and then rot, and the other half end up at the bottom of my pool ….. and then they rot. It’s not a pretty sight.
So two years ago when we moved into our new house, which is about ten yards from the great oak at most, I decided that the beast had to be tamed. I got my extending ladders out. I got my chain saw readied and then my old French neighbour came down to the fence and asked me what I was doing. ‘Taking bits off the tree’, was my reply. ‘Ah but eeet is my tree monsieur’, he said. ‘No it’s not’. ‘Yes it is’. ‘No it’s not’. Etc etc – you get the picture. Anyway, I went off to get my plans to prove to him it was my tree but by the time I’d got back he’d gone off and as Frenchies are never one to back off of an argument when it concerns land, fences or trees, I assumed that he’d been trying it on for some reason or another.
Anyway, I took down a couple of the easier branches and left it before I fell off of the ladders which generally were perched on the branch I was cutting down – yes you’ve all seen it in cartoons! I did this for the first two winters and then last summer, old Frenchie came down to the fence again and in amongst other questions, asked me when I was taking more branches off the tree. It transpires that the tree is so tall that it obscures his views over the valley and so he was keen for me to risk life and limb (pun intended) to remove the bigger branches, some of which are so big that they could be trees in their own right.
So last weekend, now most of the leaves have left their branches and are settled nicely at the bottom of the pool, Guy and I got all the gear out to remove a few more branches whilst Frenchie was in his Paris retreat. We’ve removed all the easy bits but now we’re at the larger branches which hang over a series of electricity boxes, so we now need to proceed with a greater degree of care.
We’ve refined the process over the years. I climb the ladder whilst Guy tries to start the chainsaw. He doesn’t manage it so I go back down the ladders and start it. I climb the ladders and Guy pulls on the rope which hoists the chainsaw up to my level but invariably, as soon as I grab it, the motor cuts out so we have to go through the whole process again. Generally, I am completely knackered before I’ve even started cutting!
The first two branches were so big we had to tie the half-fallen boughs to the car’s tow bar and pull them off, but the third branch was in a totally different direction and we had to cut it virtually all the way through and then run as it crashed to the ground.
After we’d cut the fallen branches into logs and cleared up, Guy and I found ourselves looking up at the tree and saying the same thing, ‘after all we’ve cut off, there’s no difference’! And indeed, it is true. I have run my wood burner on this tree now for the third winter and the tree hardly looks touched. Next year I’ll sort it out.