I read somewhere that there are upwards of 2500 different kinds of palm trees, which seems incredible to me. Also a little excessive but, y'know, whatever. I'm not in charge of palm trees. While I am not as adamantly anti-palm tree as my Mother was, I must admit that Palm trees are not my favourite. I don't actively dislike them, but if I were planning a landscape from scratch, I probably would not have any palm trees in the plan.
That said, when we bought our house, the yard and "gardens" such as they are, were already completed. The mature growth trees, many of which are, indeed, palm trees of one sort or another, and the many different kinds of shrubs were already fully established. And while it perhaps wasn't entirely what we would have necessarily chosen, it was at least done.
Therefore, our first concern, as soon as we moved in, was concentrating on bringing the inside of the house up to snuff. Any thoughts of changing the outside were going to have to wait. So for now, any existing palm trees - whatever their names are - remain. I trim them, I pick up the fronds when they drop (it's like having a yard full of 3 year olds!) and unless they are enormously huge, when they die, I cut them down. If they are of the hugely big variety of palm tree, then we have to hire a professional tree service to cut them down and since yes, we have had to do that already here, we know it's very $$$$$.
So far it seems to have gone well. Or well enough I suppose. However, over the weekend, I did notice two palm trees that seem to have died. One in the front yard and one in the back. The one in the front was a spindly little one, no taller than me so on Wednesday I easily chopped it down and threw the trunk into the ever-present pile of stuff for the lawn guys to take away at their next weekly visit.
The one in the back however was an entirely different kettle of fish. Or Palms. Or something.
This part of the story might be a little creepy, a little scary so I will warn you in advance that if you scare easily, you might want to skip the rest of this post. OK? Ok. Here goes:
In the dang middle of the back yard, one of the previous owners decided that it would be a great idea to cut down a perfectly good (and yummy) mature, fruit bearing avocado tree and instead plant an "island" of various palms. None of them looked especially healthy when we moved in and many of them have since died and I've cut them down. One of the remaining palms is, well, it's unusual. It's very short and kind of shaped like a barrel. The fronds, instead of being sleek and feathery are thick and spiny. Come to think of it, it looks as if someone crossed a barrel cactus and a palm tree. It is not a friendly tree.
Whenever I have had to trim off dead fronds with my chonkers I have to be sure to wear long pants, long sleeves and thick gloves otherwise those prickly spiney bits will slice me up and I come back in the house looking like I've done battle with a cougar. It is not a friendly tree and I do not like it. BUT shortly after we moved in, we noticed that during a heavy rainfall, bunnies took shelter underneath it. Awwwwww. So while Tim and I both disliked the dang thing, it served a purpose and so it stayed.
And then, all of a sudden, seemingly overnight, it went from a live thing to a dead thing and dang it that means I have to get up close and personal with it. After disposing of the dead tree in the front yard I turned my attention to the one in the back.
I stood in front of it thinking. Hmmmmm. I circled it multiple time trying to decide how to approach the situation. Not only are the fronds heavy with what seem to be, for all intents and purposes, huge thorns but the darn thing is thick with these fronds. Layer upon layer upon layer of them protect the center trunk. I obviously cannot cut it down until I reach the trunk so the fronds have to go. Ratz. It looked like this. The part that's green at the bottom front is, apparently, a new offshoot?
It bears a resemblance to Cousin It of the Adams Family does it not?
Ok I geared up which means changing into more protective clothing then I dragged an empty bin around to the back to put the fronds in as I cut them away and brought both chonkers and the thickest, heaviest gloves I could find. I took a deep breath and got to work. Naturally I began with the outside layers of fronds and decided to do one pie-shaped section at a time. The tree is, after all, essentially a circle. And so it went, cutting off a few spiny fronds, placing them in the bin and then cutting off the fronds revealed underneath. Over and over and over. Until, at last, finally, the trunk is beginning to be revealed. Kind of cool.
As I peeped into the opening, I was shocked to see something inside move. Was it a lizard? I mean those little buggers are everywhere. And they move really fast. My instincts however, had me immediately take one step back. I looked again and saw nothing. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Was it a harmless little lizard? Or......
As I leaned in closer to check, one of these looked back at me:
Once again, instinctively, I immediately took a step back and then froze. I stared at the snake and the snake stared at me. After a moment, without saying a single word or making any sound whatsoever, I pulled myself together, abandoned the half filled bin of fronds entirely, picked up my chonkers and went back in the house. Once I could breath again, I put the chonker away, changed my clothes and washed my hands a lot. Why? I don't know, it just seemed to be necessary somehow. It took awhile for my heart rate to slow down.
Now I know dang well that particular snake is a harmless cornsnake. I know this. It's a fact. But it also does not matter to me one single bit. It was a snake. And we were in the same place at the same time and that is simply not allowed. To be absolutely fair, since he was clearly there first and knowing that possession is nine tenths of the law, I suppose it was his ugly palm tree more than it was mine. Still we pay the mortgage on this place and not him so I suppose that gives me the right to at least attempt to evict him.
The next day I stood in the window starring at that ugly, dead little palm tree trying to decide what was more important, finishing the job? Or just leaving it as it is and then having to stare at that really ugly dead thing out the window for the rest of our lives. Maybe it's time to move again?
Nope, I cowboyed up. I put on my armour, grabbed my weapon of choice and with narrowed eyes and a steeled spine, I went back outside to finish what I started. I felt much like the Earp Brothers must have felt as they approached the OK Corral. I made noise as I approached. I apologized for startling him yesterday, but strongly suggested that the snake find another place to call home. I righted the bin (which had fallen over), took a deep breath and Very slowly and Very carefully resumed cutting off the fronds.
I cut a few and stopped for a minute, cut a few more and stopped for a few more minutes. I took a short break after every layer I removed to thoroughly examine every inch of the stubby tree. I was looking for colour or movement or anything out of the ordinary. I saw nothing and so I continued. Finally the bin was full, I could do no more until garbage pick up day (I'm not leaving those spiny fronds for the lawn guys to pick up and get all shredded. Nope these can go out with the garbage). Only about a third of the fronds have been removed so far. Next week, I will work on it more. Very slowly and Very carefully.
I feel rather brave actually. I am kind of proud of myself. And once that butt ugly dead palm tree is completely de-fronded, I will cut it down with a song in my heart and a smile on my face. But in the meantime, I still have a few snake shudders to get out.
Thus ends my tale. I wish you a snake-less weekend :)
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.