October 19th, 2020
Almost like that famous painting, "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. You know the one right? The old farm couple standing in front of their home? The wife with her hair in a sensible bun and wearing her pretty brooch and best apron and the mister with a suit jacket over his Sunday overalls bearing a pitchfork and neither of them indicating any evidence of a sense of humour? Come on, I'm sure you've seen it. It looks like this:
I knew you knew it. When I saw this photo of myself that was the first thought that came to mind. American Gothic 2020. I had been outside doing some yard chores. Nothing big, a little weeding and a little pruning. I trimmed a few trees and then hauled the trimmings and fallen palm fronds around to the side of the house for the lawn guys to take away later this week.
The weather is ever so much nicer now so it's not such a hot and sweaty job. And in fact, I enjoyed just being outside for a bit. And I was just about to finish up when I realized that the palm tree in the front courtyard was not looking well.
I don't know a lot about palm trees (or any other Florida Fauna for that matter) but I'm at least smart enough to know when one isn't looking quite right.
For one thing nearly all of it's fronds were drooping and hanging straight down. Even the ones that were still green. That, even to me, seems like a bad sign. So I thought that perhaps if I trimmed all of the dead stuff and maybe even the not perfectly healthy looking stuff, then all of the trees energy could go back into healing and getting well.
That seems logical. At least it does to me.
The problem was while this isn't the biggest palm tree in the world, it's way way WAY taller than me. So I would have to either stand on a ladder to trim it (nope) or find a trimmer with a really long handle! AHA! We do have one of those. I retreated to the utility room to first find it, and then somehow get it down from the very top shelf (that did require a step ladder) and then navigate it out of the utility room and then out of the house without scratching or breaking anything along the way. Trickier than it sounds.
I felt strongly that this was the instrument of destruction that I needed to use for the job. As you may be able to tell, there is a saw of sorts at the very top and then a chopper than is employed by pulling the attached cord.
The entire thing is probably 9 feet long? Something like that. Not an exaggeration, it towers over my head. And as I am not particularly coordinated, a little tricky to use. But I'm stubborn, if nothing else, and I kept working at it.
gAnd this was the tree prior to trimming. You cam see that's it's quite tall and that there is a lot of droopy, brown not good looking stuff on it. Stuff that has Got to go to keep the tree looking and feeling it's best.
Because the tree is very tall and the tool is was using was really long, it took some time to get the hang of even balancing the saw/chopper/thingie so that it went where I wanted it to go. And then trickier still to snag the branch I wanted to cut (and only the branch I wanted to cut) before pulling the cord and CHONK! The offending frond would fall to the ground.
I kept wanted to yell, "Off with her head", but I didn't want to alarm any innocent passersby.
Eventually I started to get the hang of it. The process required stepping carefully around (and occasionally on - oops) other things in the garden as I moved around the tree from side to side finding the best way to approach each frond. The entire thing was complicated by the fact that the tree is up against the courtyard wall so one entire side of it is closed off to me as an option. Dang.
But eventually, everything that was dead or dying was trimmed. Whew! I gathered up all of the ick and added to the pile of stuff on the side of the house. I patted the tree and wished it well and gave it a little extra natural fertilizer (i.e. coffee grounds). When I was done, all that remained was the central spike (which is essential to a palm tree or so I've been told) and the young, healthy looking, bright green, baby fronds surrounding it.
It feels kind of brutal, but everything I know about keeping green things healthy says that occasionally under certain circumstances (such as this) trees and shrubs require a hard pruning. Which means cutting off everything that isn't healthy. Over and again I've been instructed to just trim hard and then later, I am rewarded when it comes back thicker and healthier and more beautiful than ever.
I felt pretty good about the job and that I had done a Good Thing, trying to help this tree stay alive, stay healthy and to grow strong and beautiful once again. A job well done, is what I thought.
Foolish foolish me.
I went out the next day expecting to see a very very happy palm tree in my courtyard only to find this:
The top spike and surrounding "healthy" fonds lay inside the courtyard and there is no sign of life remaining in this tree. Ratz. I now have a giant dead palm tree in my courtyard.
Of course we have a plan. Well we have two plans. Plan A is to take the tree down. Because it's beside a wall and near the house, it will have to be taken down carefully. Tim is thinking he will cut it down one big chunk at a time (from the top down of course). He will tie a rope around the area he wants to cut and I can guide the fall of the chunk so it doesn't hit 1) the wall, 2) the house, 3) Tim on the ladder or 4) me. So we have a plan.
Plan B is that I learn to carve with a chain saw and I turn this giant pixie stick into some sort of sculpture.
Most likely we will go with Plan A.
Meanwhile, I'm sad for the tree and I hope it's demise was not rushed along by me. But I don't think so. I'm pretty sure what I did was ok. But I also think that I won't rush to do anymore hard trimming of palm trees.
The tree is dead. Long live the tree.
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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.