What God and Mother Nature took thirty years to accomplish was torn asunder by a man named Adrian, a homeowner named Hazel, and a chainsaw. But let me begin at the beginning.
When we first moved to the farm in 1984 I was distressed that Roy’s parents had done no landscaping other than planting a shelterbelt row of spruce trees. Okay, That’s not entirely true. They also planted a lilac at one corner of the house. Two spruce seedlings that were commonly given to school kids in grade two in the late 1950s were also planted smack dab in the front of the house.
In the early days, I was seduced by the amount of available space, misjudged my energy levels in the coming decades, and was quite inexperienced in site planning. Most of the trees we subsequently planted came courtesy of the Alberta government’s shelterbelt program. The trees were free but some species were nothing more than twigs.
So plant we did. We added another spruce shelterbelt parallel to the road. We did specimen plantings of sea buckthorn (with orange berries and sharp barbs on the branches), Russian olive (short-lived trees with gorgeous silvery grey foliage), Mayday (large with fragrant white blossoms in spring), birch (papery white bark), and others whose names I’ve forgotten.
Fast-forward thirty years. The ones that survived had long ago made mowing a challenge in avoiding decapitation. They began encroaching on each other’s space. They effectively killed the lawn beneath them. Flowerbeds nearby soon became light and moisture starved.
Of course it wasn’t all bad. Trees provide shade and privacy and trap the dust that is so much a part of rural life. The birch outside the kitchen window was especially beautiful with its delicate leaves and gorgeous trunk. The feeders for either suet or black sunflower seeds turned our window into a big screen playing a perpetual nature program starring blue jays, chickadees, and so many more.
In the last few weeks we’ve been looking at our yard critically trying to decide where to site the new garage (yeah). Locating the underground utilities was part of the decision. I can be (and am) very patient. I can rationalize, excuse, forgive damn near anything but when I make a decision, or lose patience, things can’t happen fast enough for me.
Adrian was hired to help Roy but made the mistake of asking me if I needed anything. Hell, yes. Let’s cut down a tree, I said. Do we have approval, he asked. Nearly smacked him.
Two mature but diseased trees bit the dust. Both had significant woodpecker damage and the mayday was plagued with black knot fungus. We salvaged the trunks for firewood. We’ve created breathing space for the remaining trees and opened up the yard to more light. I can’t rule out more selective culling. The good news is there are more beautiful trees to plant for another thirty years of enjoyment. And now, we even know where they should be planted, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..