Once, there were trees

Hey all, happy 2013.

I know it’s been quiet around here. Lately, life has been very much all about the no.  But the good part about a new year is the ability to shake off the bad and move forward, so let’s do that.

And it’s not as though the home renovations stopped along with the blog.  Au contraire!  We’ve been buried in projects from landscaping to bathroom remodels.  So let’s start with the biggest and most impressive project: tree removal from the front of the house.

Our peaceful cottage in the woods.
Our peaceful cottage in the woods.

Lovely, right?  Well, let’s move in a little and look at the tree closest to the house:

Still lovely, but in a Big Loomy Death way
Still lovely, but in more of a Big Loomy Death way

I started to have honest-to-God nightmares about this tree sometime back in May.  Serious terror-filled cold-sweat nightmares.  So we called around to local tree companies to get a few estimates.

Tree hugs!
Tree hugs!

Tree companies make their money from removing trees (thank you, thank you, Captain Obvious will be here all week) and I’ve found that when they come out to quote a price on one tree, they just sort of happen to find all sorts of other problems in your forest.  Termites, beetles, diseased wood, rotting limbs… there’s a whole host of reasons to cause a tree to come crashing down in the middle of a cold and windy night, and we had all of these.  They were mostly added to pad the estimate, but the tree companies did make some good arguments to take down a few more trees around the house.  Especially the two large twinned pines that were holding each other up directly above the power lines, and two oaks next to the foundation.

So the trees came down.  It was unexpectedly heartbreaking.  The day began with a cool, sheltered mossy lawn and ended with a barren, ruined landscape.

Before.  Aw.
Before. Aw.
After.  Aw!
After. AW!

This, Brown and I agreed, had been a huge mistake.

Although… Once the trees were gone, I found termites in the stump of the Big Loomy Death tree… and one of the twinned pines turned out to have been rotting from the roots up…

Okay, the tree removal had been a Sensible Adult Decision, but still.  The front yard was suddenly depressing as hell, and our once-secluded house was exposed from the street.  Not to mention all of the mulch.  I had requested that the tree uppers (limbs and unusable wood) be ground up and left as mulch, rather than hauled off and dumped.  The tree guy asked me if I was aware that raw untreated mulch had a tendency to kill anything underneath it.

To which I replied, "Buddy, I'm f*@&ing counting on that."
To which I replied, “Buddy, I’m f*@&ing counting on that.”

Four massive piles of mulch were then spread over the ivy and the wisteria in the front yard.  I have done a heck of a lot of research on ivy, and mulch is not recommended as a control strategy because the minimum mulch depth needed to successfully smother ivy is between 6 to 8 inches.  Fine.  I grabbed my rake and went over the front ivy to rip up its surface, then hauled out the Roundup Poison Ivy Plus* and saturated the leaves.  Then I dumped 10 inches of raw mulch on top of the entire writhing mass.  I have no doubt whatsoever that much of the ivy will still survive, but it’s been ripped, poisoned, smothered, and cooked during the driest months of a North Carolina summer.  Short of setting it on fire, this is literally the most damage we can do to it.

And the end result looks better than before.

Mulched.  Die, ivy.  Die.
Mulched. Die, ivy. Die.

The next stage is some landscaping and to add a lawn.  In late January, we’ll kill the remaining grass and weeds.  Then in late February we’ll regrade the lawn to fix the drainage problems, and add sod and pavers in early March.

*We’ve given up on pursuing exclusively organic ivy control.  We still remove as much as we can manually, but chemicals are now used.  This is not a recommendation for Roundup Poison Ivy, though.  It’s the most effective product I’ve found, but that’s not to imply it kills ivy.  No, it merely distracts the ivy long enough for a rake to tickle its innards.

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4 thoughts on “Once, there were trees

  1. UrsulaV

    Yeah, he was full of it about the mulch, unless there was a Norway maple in the mix (which is indeed a killer.) Mulch will smother plants under it, which is the point, but it being “raw” doesn’t mean a damn thing.

  2. I hope 2013 is a better year for you and your husband (and anyone else in your family who needs a boost) than 2012.

    Having said that, I’m glad you’re blogging about the house work again. I have minimal knowledge and experience with renovation work (aside from drywall and sheetrock…thanks to my Dad, I’m a master at both of those), but I’m eventually going to be in the market for a house. Your blog paints a very clear picture of the frustration, sweat, and potential reward of DIY projects in a home. The entries about your interaction with professionals are great, too (particularly the ones about the hardscape guys).

    So uh…thanks for sharing? I can’t figure out where to go with this comment and I don’t want to fangirl out (because that would be creepy and inappropriate), but I love the blog.

  3. Pingback: Stump grinding! «

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