Make Like A Tree… And Get Outta Here.

We love our trees. We’d live inside a tree if we could, but too bad we’re not termites. Our ace builder Clint retained as many trees as possible on our acre block and we’ve planted dozens more in the last 3 years… he also put our house on poles so we could look out upon trees and treetops and be surrounded by sunlight and greenery. The neighbours have nicknamed our place The Treehouse, which is how we think of it too. We love living in the forest but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me sometimes, especially during storm season.

Two years ago neighbours with considerably fewer trees around their house had a large eucalypt smash a  hole through their roof and front wall during a storm. Other storms have seen trees snap in half, be struck by lightning, crush fences, block roads, and a bit further down the hill, completely uproot and topple over. We have more trees on our block than most, yet so far – *touch wood* – we have escaped house damage, possibly thanks to our trees sheltering each other, but probably just dumb luck. Our closest call was last summer, caused by a tree we hadn’t suspected would be any trouble. Its top limbs snapped off in high winds and somehow flew 10 metres through the top of the tree next to it to land in our driveway. On the way down it clipped the garage roof. One single corrugated tin bump was dented.

See the massive dent on the roof? OMFG. I’m amazed we’re still insurable after this catastrophe.

We recently had four dangerous trees removed; two big ones near the dining room, a dead one at the back fence, and a little one next to the carport that only grew new branches so it had something to throw at the house during storms. I was sad to see the biggest one go, I adored that tree. For half the year it was heavy with creamy white clusters of blossoms, which I’m sure aggravated my hayfever but sure looked pretty in the setting sun and the birdies yummed them up.

I just love
I loved how the pale blossoms turned rosy in the last of the sunlight every day.
Two little lorikeets sitting in a tree… P-A-S-H-I-N-G.

We didn’t want to cut it down but we had to; it was a solid, heavy, 23 metre (about 75 ft) eucalyptus microcorys – Tallow Wood – and it was just a matter of time before it fell and landed right across the middle of our house. It was obvious which way it would go; the crown was a full 5 metres closer to our dining room than the base was. It also sported a large scar at the bottom, and a secret cavity full of greedy, selfish little termites.

Just a little cavity, not like this one we discovered last year; these rounds are from quite high up; there wasn’t much tree left. I have no idea how it stayed standing during two summers’ worth of storms plus three days of Cyclone Oswald in February 2013. Maybe all the termites were holding hands!! We were ridiculously lucky.

So we stopped pushing our luck and got the professionals in. We’ve done some smaller stuff ourselves, and I quite enjoy reliving my tomboy childhood climbing trees and breaking branches. J once spent an extremely masculine farm boy nostalgia weekend chainsawing down about 200 non-fruiting casuarina pine saplings. Another highlight was when a midsized dead branch threatened the kids’ cubby house; I tied a rope to a piece of wood, threw it over the branch (eventually – it was about 8 metres up), then yanked hard and dived for cover as the branch crashed onto the platform over my head. Frickin’ awesome – I felt like Indiana Jones! The small stuff is fine, but doing anything bigger ourselves tends to go a little pear-shaped.

For example…

Back in April J had some of the lads around to help cut down a couple of small trees, maybe 10 metres high. They tied a rope to a suitable spot up the trunk of the first one, then as they chainsawed, tied the other end to the back of the ute ready to pull so it would fall where they wanted it. This was a great plan and might’ve actually worked if it wasn’t for our gang of overexcited kids who started screaming “Go! Go!” at the top of their lungs so that Gordon (the ute driver) couldn’t hear the guys yelling “Stop! Stop!” As a result the tree didn’t fall where they’d planned and broke half the branches off the casuarina next to the fire pit. (We’ve since farewelled that particular tree.)

For the next one we banned the kids and all went fairly smoothly up until the tipping point; Scotty, Malc and J were all tugging on the rope that they’d looped to guide the tree down and just as the tree started to topple over toward them Scotty tripped and stacked it in a ditch. In that split second I thought the tree was going to land on him. It didn’t, it was just the angle I was watching from, but I nearly had a stroke. Scotty came up laughing and the rest of the boys thought it was hilarious; I did too, after my heart rate returned to normal and I stopped having visions of giant logs pounding Looney Tunes characters into the ground.

Anyway our professional tree guys took care of it all this time, and they did a great job.

Bringing down the tallow in stages. Watching him 20 odd metres up juggling a chainsaw gave me the slight willies. I was a bit on edge… when this bough BANGed the guttering on the way down I got such a fright I hit the roof myself.
…so when this bough BANGed the guttering on the way down I got such a fright I hit the roof myself.

All went without a hitch, though we have a new huge crater in the back lawn where the dead tree came down, and the path got a bit busted up when some upper limbs of the tallow were dropped. The big moment when it was time for the trunk to come down was slightly nerve-racking, mainly because of that 5 metre lean. I videoed it, half for fun and half for insurance purposes.

They dropped it neatly between several other big trees, no problem. It took a few little branches off one of the casuarinas, but there’s still plenty for the red-tailed black cockatoos to munch on. As part of the council’s approval of our application to chop our own trees down we have to do four ‘compensatory plantings’ during the next 12 months – apparently having 50+ trees left on our block isn’t good enough. It’s cool; we’d been planning on putting in some bottlebrushes anyway.

By morning’s end we had firewood for next winter, a great stump for a big new birdbath, a massive pile of green mulch that will smell amazing for the next few months til we can spread it, and of course greater peace of mind. Bring on cyclone season!!

There were a few confused lorikeets in the neighbouring trees that afternoon; they miss the tree too. But wait 'til they see their new birdbath!! I'm off to find a good one...
There were a few confused lorikeets in the neighbouring trees that afternoon; they miss the tree too. But wait ’til they see their new birdbath!! I’m off to find a good one…

– Michelle

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