For the Love of Trees

Ah, trees. Since childhood, I've preferred them to most humans; they're non-judgmental, and won't abuse or betray you. It's been my fervent, lifelong desire to live in the woods. But I honestly never though I'd get to see that dream come true.

And yet here I am, surrounded by hundreds of them. When I first arrived at this property in 2013, I immediately sensed it was perfect: it had a ravine in which to tuck my home and realize my goals.

From the outset of the project, I strove to orient my home such that I could enjoy the best view on the property while keeping the number of trees I'd have to cut down to an absolute minimum. Indeed, my initial plan placed the house near the end of the driveway, facing—but not within—the ravine, where I didn't need to cut down any trees (below), and rely instead on careful pruning to enhance the view.

But shortly after purchasing the property, a storm blew down a tree from the stand in the middle of the ravine (below), compromising the rest of the stand. They all had to come down—otherwise the chances of one or more of them falling on the house was very high. One big benefit of their removal, however, was that I could move my house into the ravine.

So, in October 2014 I had some major tree work done. My contractor carefully studied all of the surrounding trees, and removed those that were dead, dying, or posed a real threat to the house. It wasn't that many. But placing my house in the ravine meant having to drop one good tree—the young beech to the left in the image above. It was heartbreaking.

As each new contractor arrived to do their job, I firmly advised them to do their utmost to avoid damaging existing trees and shrubs, and that I'd refuse to remove any more unless absolutely necessary. They all took my requests to heart, and some even went above and beyond doing so—the septic system people actually built a temporary road across the ravine so they wouldn't have to take down a clutch of small trees in order to drop the tanks (below).

The excavators also did their very best to comply. One small tree near the garage was particularly vexing; the excavator operator grumbled (semi-good-naturedly) how much trouble he was having, and swore he'd knock me senseless if I later removed the little guy he struggled to avoid; I assured him that would never happen. And it never has.

I confess I sometimes wish I'd been born a Native American around 1300-1400. Seriously. They understood how to live in harmony with nature.

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