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Death of an Oak Tree

A couple of weeks before I was to move into the house, I got a late night call from my soon-to-be next door neighbor. We had been in contact since the beginning of the renovation to discuss logistics and to make sure construction wasn’t impacting them too much, so the fact that he was calling wasn’t unusual. The late hour, however, made me a little nervous. It was one of those alarming calls that starts with a drawn out “soooo…” followed by a “no one was hurt.” As it turns out, half of a large, forked oak tree had fallen from the back right corner of my lot and landed in the backyards immediately and to the left behind mine. This is how I met the neighbors behind my house. Friendly!

This is also how I learned that a fallen tree is the legal responsibility of the property owner whose yard it fell in. The oak looked perfectly healthy, so there was no negligence to speak of; it was simply an “act of god” (or of invasive arboreal disease), but it was an unfortunate way to enter the neighborhood and a brutal injury to a very old oak tree. The problem then became what to do about the standing half of the tree, which was leaning precipitously over the yard of my next door neighbor. Several meetings with arborists and tree removal professionals yielded mixed opinions about the survival and structural integrity of the tree, and the urgency with which it might need to be taken down. This one tree was turning into quite the pain.

Ultimately, the standing half had to come down. The tree developed a steadily growing crack at the base. Even the notoriously protective City of Atlanta Arborist Division recommended that the precarious tree, tilting ever so slightly downward each day, come down. Our chosen tree removal company did not feel comfortable sending up climbers, so they brought in a crane. While it was incredibly exciting to watch them use the crane, I would have happily passed on the added expense. Here are some photos of the whole operation:

The crane had inches to spare getting between the houses.

The crane squeezed between the houses with inches to spare.

A climber worked closely with the crane operator to safely bring down the whole tree.

A climber worked closely with the crane operator to safely bring down the entire tree.

By the end of the day there was two trucks full of wood chips and a full load of logs.

By the end of the day there were two trucks full of wood chips and a full load of logs. Notice the hollow, rotten core of the trunk in the street.

You might be asking if I did anything particularly sustainable during this process and the answer is, no, not really. I did find a company that would take the logs and mill lumber for me, but it was going to be too expensive. The renovation was also nearly complete, and I had little need for lumber. I did get about a load of wood chips to use for landscaping, though.

Of course, once it was too late, we realized we could have use the logs as pavers for our theoretical future backyard oasis. Fingers crossed that we don’t get a second chance with the death of another tree, but we are keeping a suspicious eye on all of them.

Wood Slice PaSource

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