Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Tree Falls -- Again

I thought it was thunder. I thought the barbarians were on our roof. I didn't know what to think! I had dinner on the stove, so I turned the fire down and went to see if maybe Tam had an especially loud computer game running.

Nope. It was outdoors. We grabbed flashlights and headed out.

Between our house and that of our neighbor to the North, a limb -- a huge one -- from the hackberry in our back yard has been growing for years. It was kind of drooping today but I didn't think much about it.

That was A Clue. It had a weak spot and it went spitting and cracking and slamming onto our roof, failing fairly gradually but inexorably. Our neighbor was asleep but the noise woke her after the bulk of the limb was down and she called, worried; I met her on the lawn with flashlights and we took a look at the damage.

This limb is still slightly attached to the tree but the bulk of it, after nearly a half hour of ever-quieter complaint, has sagged to the ground and the fence. By some miracle, it appears neither house's air-conditioner condensing unit has taken a hit bad enough to stop it, though they're both in that area.

Our tree guy? He's run a couple ropes, put down a tarp, but has not been much in evidence. He hasn't been here when Tam or I have been here and that takes some serious dodging. He's some weeks overdue for agreed-on work in that tree -- and this is one of the branches he was supposed to work on. I am not especially happy. Okay, I'm happy now; he has been chasing emergency calls. He also pointed out that if the limb was weak enough to break on its own last night, it very likely would have broken under his weight earlier. Yeah, he's insured and so am I but 'tis better to avoid trouble than call 911.

And considering my bedroom is on the corner of the house closest to the hackberry, I'll be bunking down elsewhere tonight.


JC said...

Death to all hackberries! Dispersed by incontinent birds, with a wood that isn't worth milling, a growth rate rivaling that of a MLB player on steroids, and a repreductive rate like unto that of the common rabbit in Australia. they must be fought root and branch.
Silver bullets won't kill'em. Even the RPG assisted chainsaw has limited effectiveness.
Texas record, IIRC, was 14 foot diameter @ 5 feet above ground. In my ex's back yard. When a high wind knocked it over it was found to be rotten to the core, and sheltering on the order of 50 rat warrens.
Yeah, I'm the guy who showed up with the chainsaw.
No good for lumber, no good as firewood, can't even build a decent treehouse in one of them sumbiches.
Only thing worse is the Cinese Tallow tree, which I don't recall seeing in your state at all.

Shane said...

In the part of California where real people work for a living (except the Sacramento and Stockton blue blight areas) we have digger pines. Multiple pine trunks that rot out from the base (kinda like the previously mentioned blue blight areas), they grow fast with shallow roots. One of the trunks let go several years ago and took out power in the entire neighborhood. A couple of years later another trunk laid down perfectly between our house and the neighbor, missing both structures by a foot and a half. It stretched the power and phone line but didn'r sever either one.
They make for lousy firewood, but when you burn through half a dozen cord each winter, there was no shortage of takers.

Roberta X said...

Goodness, not death to this hackberry, a huge tree (5' diameter trunk) that shades my back yard and roof and helps keep my air-conditioning bill down. It would be a terrible job to take it down and if t fell.... There's no safe direction.

Matt G said...

JC's right, 'Berta. They have very, very heavy limbs but very little strength. This is of course a recipe for disaster. Look, I've got a large one next to my house that is the source of almost daily arguments with my wife and my mother (who lives next door). They love the large, shady tree. But my points are: Dangerous to the house, dangerous to the family, and you CAN'T love a hackberry tree!!! To say they do makes me question their feelings about me. Now, if it were an oak, or a pecan, or a hickory... well that would be different.

At some point very soon, I'm going to take a chainsaw to ours. I will probably pre-arrange a place to stay, first.

Matt G said...

Oh, also of sad interest: when you dry out the wood, it becomes as light as balsa, but far mealier. It is of zero use for firewood. Apparently it's got tons of big pores to hold water, but little in the way of structure. When the water dries, there's not much left.

Roberta X said...

That still leaves me short of the price of dropping a 100' tree, 12' from my house, 10' from my garage, 15' from my neighbor's house....

Plus, it's shading the black shingles the previous owner put on about six months before I bought the place. Oh, the next roof will be as white as I can buy, but 'til then, shade helps.

Anonymous said...

If you can't take that trash-tree down...

(and the bigger and older it gets the more subject it is to shedding big hunks of itself; and it will never stop growing...we have a similar situation in FLA with melaleuca trees that were planted to dry out wet areas but which are an absolute menace in a storm when they get large)

...then consider having singing hippie tree guy pick up some of those 1" nylon strap ratchet tiedowns (8 in a pack for $20 at tractor supply), and tying off major limbs that could hit the house to the main trunk. Half-inch nylon or one-inch manila rope with some clove-hitches will work too if you trust the hippie's rope skills). Then if they snap off or slowly crack off as this one did, they will be held in tight to the tree and can be more easily dissected for removal.

And more importantly of course, might save your life and/or a big hunk of dough should a limb hit your roof full-on. Voice of experience; this saved the pool cage at my house during hurricane season of '04 while my neighbor lost half his garage to his melaleuca droppings.


Roberta X said...

Good advice!

DJ said...

If there is no time, nor money, nor will to take it down BEFORE it falls, damages several houses, and hurts or kills someone, then how will there be time, money, and will to clean up the mess, repair the houses, and pay the tort judgements that will arise AFTER it falls?

Mother Nature has given you a warning. A judge or jury will ask why you didn't heed it.

Roberta X said...

DJ: Got insurance. Got a credit card. Let's have the man look at the tree before condemning it and spending money I'll have to pay plenty extra to use.

Roberta X said...

(People swap money for total safety all the time, DJ -- what kind of car do YOU drive?)

Firehand said...

I believe it was a hackberry that grew by a house I used to rent. Damn thing grew in a 'V' from the base, the arm toward the house(naturally) being the biggest.

I pruned the hell out of it as it had branches touching the roof, but it just kept slowly sagging over time; I'd prune it'd ease back up a bit, then start sagging again. Finally had to call the owner and him send out a crew to take it down.

Roberta X said...

This one is getting lightened up a lot; I can afford to do that, and have all the deadwood taken down now.

DJ said...

"Let's have the man look at the tree before condemning it and spending money I'll have to pay plenty extra to use."

Good. The point is that a tree such as you have described WILL fall some time in the future. The difficulty is predicting when it will happen.

My younger brother has been there, done that, twice, and is about to do it a third time. The current monster is a cottonwood tree about 60 feet tall, with a trunk about five feet thick that splits in half only a few feet out of the ground. It overhangs much of his house.

He and I cut down its twin last summer using a rented boom lift. It didn't overhang the house, but it dropped a big limb on his fence and was making ominous crackling noises.

A local tree trimmer has offered to take this last one down in chunks, safely, without damaging the house, and leave it all on the ground to be cut up, for $600. Renting the boom lift would cost $200. Soon after the heat breaks, it's gone.

"(People swap money for total safety all the time, DJ -- what kind of car do YOU drive?)"

A Toyota Tundra.

Roberta X said...

...It was a trick question, of course; there are things to criticize on any car, though some Scandahoovian makes are proud of their safety features and record.