TreeStory, part 2

I downloaded two PDFs from the Michigan State University Extension on identifying ash trees, and their information has made me feel pretty certain that the eastern tree in our front yard is definitely an ash, but I am now unsure about the western one (which everyone else agreed was an ash) because of the lack of seed pods/copterish things. However, all that was yesterdayʼs post. Today we want to talk about our other trees (including one I didnʼt count in yesterdayʼs total of seven), the ones we planted ourselves.

The sand cherry (we believe) with Janetʼs antique chair and its resident geranium in the shade beneath. The ash on the eastern end is dangling its giveaway leaf clusters overhead.

Our first tree was supposed to be a shrub, and not a very big one at that. We think, nowadays, that itʼs a sand cherry; it has all the earmarks. The tree was a gift from Janetʼs folks when we first began to put something in the yard besides grass (I had for a while really enjoyed the blankness of the yard, particularly because that meant I could just whip the mower around the space in straight lines of cutting in almost no time at all — less than half the time it takes now). However, eventually Janet successfully persuaded me that some trees and bushes might be a good idea (discounting the wild bush that had grown up just outside the fence between us and the cow pasture — ah, those good old days when amusing cows and not annoyingly loud and clumsy teenaged workers and huge stacks of creosote-smoking lumber were our neighbors). So we bought a tree (which iʼll discuss soon) and some bushes (none of which, I believe have survived to the present day, except maybe the big forsythia), and of course Bing and Betty brought the reddish “bush” theyʼd bought for a gift.

We put the gift about six feet from the southeastern corner of the house (actually the garage), thinking it would only grow about as large as an ordinary bush, maybe a lilac. As you can see, it has grown much larger than that, overshadowing that corner of the garage and necessitating much trimming (needed right now) in the part that overhangs the roof and the gutters. So the sand cherry is our first new tree.

Our second new tree died about six years ago, a victim, we still believe of the creation of the shopping district to our north (replacing the much loved cow pasture) and a sudden cold snap late one spring (and the updraft of frigid air from the nether regions excavated to created the grocery store and Gasser True Value). It was a fruitless fruit tree (a pear, I think), which provided me pleasure in the June and July of 2001 after my double hernia surgery. I couldnʼt move much, and I was delighted to be able to see its topmost leafy branches growing into the window view outside our dining room that summer. But then it withered, and eventually with assistance from Dawn and Kevin, we cut it down and attempted to enjoy the resulting fruitwood for our fire pit.

Our heroic little maple, grown more than twenty feet tall, as seen from the north, with a branch of the poplar in the foreground right and some of the big lilac outside the office on the left.

A year or so after the fruit tree went in, we planted two more trees on the western side of the house, a maple outside our bedroom (hoping for eventual shelter from the bestial heat of the afternoon and setting sun, which has just begun to be realized) and further north on the western side, a poplar. As you can see in the pictures, both have survived. The maple has been threatened twice — first in the hailstorm that took out our western bedroom window, the siding on two sides of the house and the shingles. The tree was battered nearly to death by the hailstones, but it has survived. Later, when the new parsonage went in, the contractor wanted to tear out the maple as too sickly to endure, but we refused, and the valiant little tree now rises taller than the house, even from the valley that now exists between the two properties (which the contractor had wanted to fill, having raised the new house to a level equal to our own, but which we wished to retain for superior drainage away from our house). Because of its struggles, we hold the maple in special esteem.

The poplar with the Rose of Sharon in front of it.

The poplar has had an easier time of it overall, the hail having been vortexed in an apparently narrowish band right against our house, especially on the southwestern corner. It has shadowed our big basement picture window from the western summer sun for years now and has almost made the back patio bearable in the summertime (if we only had enough money to tear out the old shattered concrete and pour a new area). Dawnʼs now-departed dad always felt poplars were a menace after one had fallen on their cabin in Maine, but we like ours, arising perhaps thirty-five feet this summer and broad enough to be just visible outside my western office window, thus (with the help of the huge lilac) providing privacy for me as I hunt and peck in here. The back yard is getting nicely enclosed and shaded by this tree, some others to be discussed and the various bushes.

The tree takes a lot of wind (even commercial construction in the artificial infernal pit to our north and the new parsonage visible beyond the poplar in the picture on the left have not diminished the gales our hilltop retreat endures), in which it bends and sways plentifully, but it seems to stand strong and amazingly vertical. (One of my worries when we plant a tree is getting the tree to not arise at an angle.)

And that leaves us two more trees to discuss. But as this post is nearing its thousand words, and knowing I have even longer ones already slated for some days ahead, letʼs save the backyard trees (where the fruitless pear once stood) for tomorrow.

Thanks for the responses I got on what kind of trees our ashes might be, by the way!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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