Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all
I always thought that was an unusual nursery rhyme to be singing to a kid, especially a young child. Boughs breaking and cradles falling from trees with babies in them. Pretty unsettling stuff, actually.
And unsettled is where my next door neighbor, Billy West, and I were at the moment.
|Work begins on cutting the tree.|
But the tree was a serious problem. It was located at the end of our properties along an old trash alley, and it had an obvious lean to it, maybe 10 or 15 degrees off perpendicular. Furthermore, it was leaning toward our 100-year-old houses. And as if that wasn't enough, the troublesome tree was tearing up the asphalt in the alley. I could no longer drive over the annoying root bumps without scraping the bottom of my car. That didn't used to happen, thus giving me a clear indication the tree was slowly tilting toward our houses, degree by degree.
So we made the difficult decision to bring the tree down. I got estimates from two companies. One was for five figures. The other guy said he didn't want to touch it. He measured the tree: it was 170 inches in circumference, and probably 100 feet tall. It was a monster. If it fell, it would take out (or at least severely damage) three houses. Call someone else, please.
Billy found a company he'd used before when he lived in a different location. J & K Land Management out of Clemmons gave us a reasonable estimate, telling us they could take down the tree in two-and-a-half days as well as remove the stump and level out the ensuing crater with fill dirt.
|The crane removes a bough.|
Kim and I love trees, and so do the Wests. This wasn't an easy decision for any of us to cut this one down. But then a planning official from the city dropped by a day into the project, took one look at the lean of the tree and the odd nodules growing halfway up the trunk, and told us "this is a dying tree. Those are tumors."
Because we are in the historic district, we needed a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove the so-called Treasure Tree. The COA gave the reason for the project: "...tree is diseased and leaning, causing a public danger to life and property."
Suddenly, there was a sense of urgency in the take-down.
It was a fascinating project to watch. They brought down the tree bough by bough, tying off each bough to the crane, making chainsaw cuts, and then using the crane to lower the bough onto the grassy field at Mountcastle Insurance (Many thanks here to business owner Andy Calvert. The use of his field as a temporary sawmill was critical in making this a much less complicated process than it could have been).
Ryan Kemp, the "K" in J & K, was operating the crane and he had a computer that could weigh each pick he made from the tree. "That last bough weighed 10,000 pounds," he told me before they stopped for the day on Wednesday. Yikes.
|The trunk is ready to come down.|
The trunk of the tree came down on Friday, and with it came another revelation. The tree was rotting from the inside. There's a big hole in the center of the stump. When you look down into it, you can see the ground. There is no wood there, no there there. Only air. And a colony of carpenter bees. That figures.
That means the base of the tree was hollow, the upper weight of the tree being held up by the perimeter strength of the trunk. I have no doubt the tree could have fallen in the next windy day, or with the weight of the next ice storm.
Our alley gets a fair amount of foot traffic. Joggers. Strollers. Dog walkers. I figure by taking the tree down, we added another 100 years to our houses as well as to the general public safety.
• Just a note on nursery rhymes. As scary as Rock-a-bye Baby can be if you take it literally, there is a theory that the lullaby could be a satire of the Glorious Revolution, with the baby being the son of James II as a Catholic heir, with the wind representing the Protestant force of William of Orange from the Netherlands, and with the cradle being the Royal House of Stuart.