One of the things we love most about these hills are the stout old trees -- mature oaks, maples, poplars and chestnut oaks that provide a verdant shade through the summer months and a raucous backdrop of color each fall before going into winter quarters, ranks on ranks of gray sentinels waiting out the cold season. One of the things we hate most about the fire of June 2010 was the toll it has taken on this part of the forest. By my rough count we have lost 35 of the trees surrounding the house that burned down that evening.
This week we took down eight of them, including a beauty of a maple that measured 43 inches across its nearly heart-shaped stump. The ground shook when these huge trees fell to Richard Boyd's chain saws, but he told us more than a year ago these trees might not make it. We took down 22 before the builder began reconstruction last fall, and five or so more in mid-project. But the ones we brought down this week we had hoped might find a way to survive. In the spring it seemed possible. Each of the trees put out a strong early showing of leaves, and we hoped for a damp year to help them along. Instead we had a moderately dry year on our hills, and by the time this fall's storms brought heavy rain our way, these trees were shedding bark almost as if they were molting. The brown leaves told the story.
We may lose more. There's a badly-scorched poplar just off our bedroom steps. Its leaves look healthy, but it was closest to the hot side of the first, and why it still stands I don't know. Stubborn, I reckon.