Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘pine trees

Pinnate Leaves

leave a comment »

Back when our regional DNR Forester paid us a visit, he pointed out how many ash trees we have. I had been mistaking many of them for butternut trees, but closer inspection, and a noticeable lack of nuts, changed my perspective.

As a result, now my first impression of our trees with pinnate leaves is that they are likely ash.

While we were sitting with the chickens on the edge of our driveway the other day, I gazed skyward and became aware of a large umbrella of the pinnate leaves looming over us. Mentioning it out loud to Cyndie, I assessed it as a big ash that we didn’t even know was in that spot.

Until I saw the nuts.

Oh! So, it’s back to a butternut again.

From the class we look last winter, I was quickly able to detect one of the simplest identifying differences: the petioles or leaflets of the compound leaf.

The ash tree has about 7 leaflets arranged in opposing orientation along the stem.

On this butternut, I counted repeated occasions of 13 leaflets, and they are arranged in alternate orientation along the stem. Combined with the obvious groupings of nuts, there was little question about what kind of tree this was.

I’m a bit surprised by the significance of the canopy of leaves on this tree because the butternut canker disease is stunting the progress, or outright killing most of the butternut trees in the area. It is possible this tree has an inherent resistance to the fungus.

That would be great luck. Offspring from this tree could lead to additional trees with resistance. Invert the pyramid, I say!

On another note, I received a reply from our Forester about my findings on root girdling on the red pines. He found the report interesting and surmised the trees weren’t planted properly. He still concluded with, “Your trees may have still actually been killed by Diplodia.”

Another fungus. What’s up around here?

I blame climate change.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

August 2, 2018 at 6:00 am

Wondering If

leave a comment »

While trimming the remaining grass around all the pine trees over the weekend, three things triggered a new hypothesis about our ongoing loss of red pines. I’m wondering if it might have something to do with girdling from the trees being root bound.

I did some searching to see if being root bound might contribute to the way so many of our red pines are coming out of the ground at about a 45° angle before eventually turning to grow straight up, but didn’t find any hint of that connection.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Then, while writing to describe my latest discoveries to our regional DNR Forester, it struck me that the eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow that fell in May of 2013 tipped many of our trees, but not all of them. In fact, mainly the red pines leaned over. If they were planted without proper attention to the roots, well, a root bound tree would have a hard time standing straight under that kind of load in the wet ground.

While laboring to walk through the cut growth with the power trimmer on my shoulder, I stumbled over an old stump of a long-dead tree. I was curious about an obvious circular root growth, but just tossed it to the side.

Later, while trimming beneath pine branches, I caught a brief glimpse of a girdling root on one tree which triggered a memory of long ago, when we lost a tree in Eden Prairie to root girdling. It led me to go back and reclaim that old stump for a picture, finally thinking I might be on to something.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It occurred to me that I should also take a picture of the girdling root I had just spotted on that live tree. I retraced my path to find it again, but to no avail.

I was hot, tired, sweaty, and covered with weeds and grass shrapnel. I didn’t have the energy or mental acuity to execute an intelligent search. I am confident it is out there somewhere, unless maybe it was just an optical illusion that my mind used to help guide me further along this theory I was concocting. I’ll allow for a possibility it was all in my head.

If I receive a response from our Forester that lends credence to my thinking, I’ll undertake a more organized research expedition through that grove of pines again.

I realized, in afterthought, that my tired searching was mainly focused on looking at the leaning red pines, in support of my hypothesis. Maybe the root I noticed had yet to cause a problem, and was on one of the trees that still looked just fine.

It all definitely has me wondering. Did these red pines have already compromised root systems when they were all planted? There are several stumps still in the back yard from trees I cut off at ground level after they died. I could always exhume those remains to collect a little more evidence.

Put that on the “someday” list. For now, I’m going to wait to see if our DNR Forester thinks my latest findings could possibly explain our red pines slowly dying, year after year.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2018 at 6:00 am

Prickly Problem

with 2 comments

Historically, I have been much less inclined than Cyndie to worry about identifying and controlling all the multitudes of potentially problematic invasive plants that loom as threats to our fields and forest. My main beef was with the Common Buckthorn tree. Cyndie had discussions with an agent from the county extension office who pointed out many other troublesome plants, first hand, on a visit to our property.

I quickly got on board against one other invader when Queen Anne’s Lace grew to dominate our hay-field. A review of the Wisconsin DNR invasive species photo gallery provides a whopping 118 examples of potential problems. I find it too much to bear.

Cyndie is able to focus on battling dandelions in our lawn, where I see the effort futile. This translates to most other plant invasions as well, so when she would verbalize concern about the dozens of other threats appearing around every turn, I would tend to glaze over and save my focus for challenges already known.

In the fall, when all the leaves have dropped, except for the Common Buckthorn, I kick into a high gear of eradication. In the spring, when the leaves haven’t sprouted yet, except for the prickly bushes that drive Cyndie nuts, she wants to do the same.

I wasn’t so inspired, until she spent time to identify the thorny pest. When she came upon the Prickly Currant, one detail got my attention. It plays the role of host for a blister rust that kills pine trees.

Well, why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?

Now I care as much as her about not wanting these painfully prickly nuisances growing everywhere.

Once I started looking for them, it became clear the bush is thriving on our land. It is very easy to spot this time of year, as the leaves are some of the first to appear. Luckily, I discovered they are relatively easy to pull out of the ground.

It grows a lot like the raspberry bushes, with the long sprouts drooping over to the ground and taking root in a new spot. Since the stems are so thorny –worse than the raspberries– it makes for a very annoying hazard when walking off the trail, like one might do when hunting to pick berries.

We spent much of yesterday pulling and digging to extricate a surprising number of these stabbing hazards along the edges of our back yard, where there used to be about ten more lovely pine trees, back when we bought this place.

Now there are only two on the back hill, and they aren’t looking very good.

I never imagined how much knowledge and effort would be involved in being a good steward to manage what grows on the land. I figured nature would take its course and come to a healthy balance. Unfortunately, one plant’s ‘healthy’ can often lead to another’s demise.

To protect the plants you desire, a little lethal effort is sometimes going to be required.

I am enjoying renewed respect for Cyndie’s capacity to comprehend and react to all these details which too often overload my mental resources..

Now it’s time for me to go fret over getting all our grass mowed.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2017 at 9:40 am

Preventive Medicine

with 2 comments

We have now received three diagnoses for what has possibly been killing our pine trees over the three years that we have lived here.

The first guy thought it might be related to spider mites. He offered to treat all our trees with over $1000 worth of insecticide.

The second guy became very alarmed over the visible damage from sap suckers. I am grateful that the second guy was at least thorough enough to have also taken needle samples back for further analysis and consultation with other experts.

We are feeling most confident with the follow-up diagnosis he came up with of a fungus. Given that we are not interested in applying toxins in hopes of treating our remaining trees, I have responded to advice from the arborist to give our remaining healthy trees plenty of food and water for the best chance going forward.

DSCN4529eWhen he suggested giving them a good bedding, I pointed out that I have plenty of composting horse manure.

“That would be great for bedding.” he said.

Done.

Well, one done. Many to go.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

March 21, 2016 at 6:00 am

Losing Trees

with 2 comments

DSCN4209eIt’s so incredibly sad to be losing more pine trees. Our pine trees have slowly, but very consistently every year since we bought this place, been dying off.

Looking back, I believe it probably started before we arrived. One of the first things I noticed after we moved in was a small, dead pine in our front yard. It had just endured a very dry autumn, so I left it stand over the winter, in case it showed any sign of new life the following spring.

It didn’t.

I cut it down and accepted the loss as a single unfortunate occasion. However, the next year there were more.

DSCN4210eSeveral trees began showing signs of stress and I figured they were suffering from another very dry summer and autumn. I tried watering them to aid their ability to withstand the rigors of the approaching winter. Little did I know, it would be very extreme winter.

I wasn’t surprised when the trees weren’t able to survive that double whammy.

It was always 1 or 2 trees in a bunch, while others, often the larger ones around them, seemed unaffected. I would cut down the dead trees and assume that was that.

Each time, the decline of the trees happened so slowly that I wasn’t forming an opinion there was more to be concerned about. I had researched the symptoms, and came to believe (probably due to a confirmation bias) it was weather related. Knowing I wasn’t going to control the weather, I resorted to sadly accepting the loss without feeling there was anything more to be done.

When we spotted it happening again this year, on the few remaining trees in all of the several locations of previous losses, we called for an analysis by a professional. I had hoped that one look would reveal to an arborist some known predicament indigenous to this region.

Unfortunately, he arrived in the middle of a pouring rain. Cyndie was home at the time, and walked with him, trying to hold an umbrella that kept folding inside out in the wind. Not conducive to making close inspection or pondering possibilities.

What he did offer was the disconcerting news that no matter what the problem is, possible treatments wouldn’t start until next spring. He left us with the impression he would return later, in better weather, and take a closer look. One of Cyndie’s to-do tasks today is to call the tree company and inquire, because we haven’t heard anything for weeks.

Maybe when he said better weather, he meant next spring.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 17, 2015 at 7:00 am

Burdensome Weather

leave a comment »

Our weather has been chilly and wet for a few days now, enough that it is beginning to feel like a burden to face it. I suppose the fact that the temperature is dropping below the freezing point and the wind is picking up to gale force gusts, may be contributing to the desire to batten down the hatches and snuggle indoors under a thick blanket.

Today the precipitation is more likely to be in the form of snow than rain. This is a harsh reality after having been coddled for so many days of autumn with temperatures more akin to the comforts of mid-summer.

On top of that, our chimney liner has not been replaced yet, so we haven’t been able to have any fires in the fireplace. Takes away one of our favorite tools to offset the chill. A little warm air flowing from the furnace vent just doesn’t satisfy in the way a crackling fire can.

IMG_0960eYesterday, Cyndie got a local tree service to send someone out to assess what might be continuing to attack our long-needle pine trees. I raced home through the poor visibility of endless road-spray, a half hour early, in hopes of being here for the visit.

I just missed him.

Cyndie said it was a rather abbreviated visit due to the unfavorable conditions, and that he planned to return another day when he could more readily investigate what critters might be killing the pines.

At least he got a chance to orient himself with our specific areas of concern. In addition to the ailing pines, we are seeking advice on recommended pruning needs of several of the largest oak and maple trees. I don’t expect the assessment to render a very affordable quote, but seeing the cost of professional tree service will help us plan our next move in tending to the precious resource that is the trees on our land.

It is a burden that we are honored to be in a position to bear.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2015 at 7:00 am

Creatively Repurposed

with 10 comments

We lost 8 long-needle pines in the last couple of years due to a combination of dry summers that sandwiched one long and very harsh winter. It was pretty obvious last fall that they were beyond recovery, but I just didn’t have the heart to take them down until this spring.

When the time came to finally face that chore, I decided to see if I couldn’t find some creative way to honor the memory of the pines. It just didn’t feel right to cut them all off at the ground. Of course, I have some history with this ploy of not cutting a tree to the ground and then using the remaining stump for something new.

At our home in Eden Prairie, I saved the 2-3 inch diameter trunks of a cluster of 3 choke cherry trees that had sprouted in an unwelcome spot of our yard, and then balanced rocks on them to create an interesting visual display. I liked the results enough to resurrect the concept again. In this instance, however, I have one item that will be more functional than a rock. It’s a birdhouse (Thank you, Mel & Greg!).

DSCN3422eWe have some really nice rocks here, so putting a few up on tree stumps is irresistible to me. While I was cutting down this tree which was leaning significantly, I discovered a twiggy young oak tree growing  beside it. If that oak survives the abuse that some critter has enacted on the bark of its skinny little trunk, someday it may tower over the end of our house beside our bedroom in the spot where this pine was unable to survive.

DSCN3425e.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2015 at 6:00 am