This is not optimal!


Yeah, I can see why you would say that it was not optimal to have a tree right there.

Yeah, I can see why you would say that it was not optimal to have a tree right there.

Our friend Grif and I were touring the perimeter in the dark cold of the winter solstice, mostly checking to see if his theory that the previous owners had covered up a brick façade with vinyl siding was correct. Hey, it was the 70’s- people did crazy things. We went around to the south side of the house, and Grif said “Whose canoe?”
“Oh, it’s ours. We don’t take it out very much, and usually it is tipped over on its side by the side of the house.“ It had fallen over, and filled with snow and ice.
Grif was shining the flashlight on the tree growing out of the foundation. He wasn’t really listening to me. “This is not optimal.” He said. “Did you all know you have a tree growing out of your foundation?”
“Umm, yeah.”
“You really have to get this out of there.”
“Yeah, I know, we chop it down every year, but it keeps coming back from the roots.” Although, now that I think about it, did we chop it down this year? Because, it is like up to the peak of the roof, and we may not have taken it down last summer. I don’t go over to the side yard very much, and when I do, I think, yeah, I should probably take out that tree that is growing in the foundation of the house, but then I do something else instead. Like drink tea. Or read the paper. Or eat potato chips.
I don’t love the Sisyphean task of cutting it down, only to have it grow back from dormant buds. Or maybe it is more like a herculean task, where the tree is like the hydra, where you cut off the head and two more grow back. Now, how did Hercules solve that one? Flaming swords, I think, and help from his cousin. That is probably the one tool I haven’t considered.
So, how does one get a tree out of a foundation? Here’s the plan:
Step 1:chop it down before it leafs out. Plants store carbohydrates in their root systems in the fall so they have energy to grow again in spring. If I chop it back to ground level now, the energy from the underground carbs will be directed into dormant buds on what is left of the trunk. Every time I go to that side of the house, I can cut off any green leaves that sprout, and eventually, the energy stores will be depleted, and the tree will die.
Step two: with a sharp spade, dig around the tree on the sides that are accessible, and cut off as much of the root mass as I can reach.
Step 3: poison and shade I don’t like the official poisons that are sold to us as weed killer. It is partly that I am cheap. However, there are things that are not poisonous to me that may prevent the tree from coming back. Salt. Vinegar. Wood chips. MMMMMM…. Salt and vinegar chips.
Wait, focus- we need to get the non-optimal tree out of the foundation. Trying it this weekend. I’ll keep you posted.

Tree Killer


There are 2 types of people, tree planters, and tree murderers. No. Not really. Sometimes people who plant trees also kill them. Me, for example.
I have killed trees through benign neglect, bad cultural practices, and laisse faire policies. And occasionally, I have hired hit men to practice premeditated tree murder. (We’ve been watching a lot of Monk lately- I think it’s rubbing off.)

It’s like Justin Beiber’s bangs, in shrub form…

We have juniper bushes that were probably planted when the house was built, almost 50 years ago.They are hideous and over-mature- we have trimmed them in past years, but not the past couple of years. They half block the windows, making the front bedroom cavelike all year round. They have to go.
What has been holding me back?

  • Possible insulation value
  • Prickliness
  • Snake habitat

Does anyone know how to figure out the R value of 50 year-old juniper bushes? Me neither. Actually, there are places on the web where you can figure it out, but as far as I have been able to determine, the most value comes from bushes stopping the wind in winter. These uglies are on the east side of the house, and winter wind hits us from the north. I am not convinced they make much difference in gas bills in the winter. They do make a comfort difference in summer, I suspect, since, as I said, they make the front bedroom cave-like.
Prickliness- I don’t want to take these out myself. They poke, and make my skin rashy, and whaa whaa whaa. Plus they smell like cat pee. That is why I am hiring hit men to do the job- tree guys to get the junipers as well as clean out some dead wood on the ash trees. Since it is family policy to spend as little money as possible on anything, it has taken me a while to come around to this decision (and I am not bad mouthing DH here- the crazy penny-pinching mostly comes from me…unless we’re talking about lattes…)
Snake habitat- animal habitat in general, actually. Dense, prickly bushes make great protective homes for wildlife, not just the cute cuddly birds and butterflies that people want to attract, but also the garter snakes and rodents who are part of the environment but who don’t get the kind of  press that butterflies do. By taking out shrubs that are close to 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide, I am affecting beings other than myself.
Sigh.
I’m doing it anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes.