Here is a Red Oak (Quercus rubra) in our front yard. It would be a regal beauty today had it not been topped years ago, causing unnatural growth above the cut and making it top heavy. The multiple cuts opened the tree up to rot and the regrowth was weaker than its original limbs would have been. It’s just too close to the house given its weakened status. Even so, look at that canopy!

The main reason given for topping is to limit growth, keeping a tree small. This doesn’t work. Growth rates increase in a deciduous tree after being topped in an attempt to replace its missing leaf area which is what allows it to manufacture food for the trunk and roots. It won’t take long for a topped tree to return to its original size, making topping an act of sheer folly. It is far easier to plant trees appropriate to their setting.

This oak was just outside my office window and provided a pretty screen from both the penetrating morning sun and road traffic. Now its trunk and limbs are laying on the ground separate from each other. Stuart took the limbs off as far up as he could reach with his long arm saw. A day or two later he took the rest down with help from Herman. Normally I would delight in how accurately he fells a tree, but not this one. Mostly because of my appreciation of this tree, but also because I’m a sissy. The tree would be falling in the direction of Herman, power lines, our strawberry patch, me, and trees that separated my car from all of this. I’ll spare you my internal dialogue.

Here is the action in pictures:

The pulley.


Operating the winch.


Making the first cut.


Pulling the wedge out.


Here is a better shot. Not the best time for the pulley cords to get tangled.


Fixing the pulley.


The last cut.


Oh my!




Here the water damage is visible.


And here is the hole in the crotch that allowed that water in.


Stuart landed the tree perfectly between a woodpile he’d started with the limbs and a dogwood and it was a good few feet away from the winch where Herman stood. My worry was for not. I had resolved to stand and take pictures the whole way through, but the power of a falling tree this large had such an impact on me that I simply stood to watch as it gained speed.

It’s taking some time to adjust. On the bright side, we’ll have more room for fruit trees and garden beds. We’ll also either have oak planks or firewood, depending on the extent of rot inside. It will be easier to navigate the movable chicken pens should we decide to bring them around. But I’ll still miss the shade. And the gold finches (Spinus tristis). And the pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) and its cousin the red headed woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). It will be nice to see them again once our saplings grow up.

We’ll miss you Oak.