by Matt Bartmann
“What are you doing?” asked a neighbor, as I was finishing up my latest project.
“Planting a tree!” says I with a smile.
“But it’s dead. Aren’t there enough dead trees around here?”
“Yep. But none quite like this! Isn’t it beautiful?”
Earlier this year, a tree fell in the woods. This particular tree, an aspen, had grown next to a large spruce tree, rooted in a hillside. This awkward location (coupled with genetics, perhaps) caused it to grow abnormally, with no low branches and a big gnarled, twisted top. A wonderful tree worthy of display.
Unfortunately, due to saturated ground, or wind, or both, the tree came down, very close to our driveway. So close, I feared it would get smashed by our plow over the winter. I had to save it.
“Hey! How you doin’? You care to help me load a large, heavy thing onto the roof of the car?” I begged of a friend who happened to be passing.
“How about right now?”
Only about 20 feet tall, 8 inches diameter at bottom, this was not a huge tree. But, being “green” still, it weighed about 500 pounds. Friend and I managed to muscle the tree onto the car (sorry, Car!). Most important, we only broke a few twigs.
I took the car and the tree back to the house. Two days to ponder how to off-load it and plant it. Without breaking any more branches. And lifting by myself.
Engine hoist? Check. Chains, ropes, various tiedown and tow straps? Check. A hand winch? Check.
The right tools for the job? Hardly. But I figured it should work.
First I parked the tree-laden car near the hole I had already prepared. Then backed the pickup truck down to the side of the car. I set the hoist up in the back of the truck and chained it down so it couldn’t move in the bed. Using straps, I hoisted the tree off the car…slow, safe, steady. Then I backed the car out from under the suspended tree.
It started to snow. Too late in the day to finish. I got the base of the tree in the hole and propped the top off the ground so it wasn’t hanging precariously.
The next day, I repositioned the truck and hoist, and using the hand winch, I got the tree standing proudly in its hole. A couple of bags of concrete, and our new tree was planted.
Estimated project time: 2 hours.
Actual project time: 2 full days and worth every bit.
But why plant a dead tree? I’d like to say that dead trees are for the birds. But no. It’s for us. A staging area for our feeder birds, so we can see them from our living room window. It’s also great for taking natural-looking bird pictures.
Not your “normal” Christmas tree, but we love that the birds love it. Blue Steller’s jays, a dozen golden evening grosbeaks, little chickadees, all our usual feeder friends come and go like living Christmas ornaments, to and from the twisted branches.
I’m reminded that I need to update my list. An electric winch, and a tractor with a loader, please. Thanks, Santa! That’d be great!