In Which We Achieve Maximum Giving Tree

At the front of our property stood four ash trees, which were lovely but over the last few years became diseased, in no small part because of emerald ash borers, which landed in Ohio in 2003, apparently, and have taken out a substantial number of trees. Including ours; three of the four were basically dead trees standing, and the fourth was on its way.

So, today, down they came, all four of them. In their place, for now, are four piles of firewood which we will use in the fire pit out back, and later, four new trees, probably maples, more or less where the ash trees stood. It will take time for them to grow to the height of the ash trees, but, you know. We’re not planning on going anywhere at the moment.

I was sad to see the trees come down, but as noted they weren’t exactly healthy trees; bringing them down was the right thing to do. In the coming months, as the nights get colder and suited for fires in the backyard, I’ll toast some s’mores in their honor.

47 thoughts on “In Which We Achieve Maximum Giving Tree

  1. I don’t think we have any more ash trees in Toledo at all now. The City took down all that were on City owned property, and Pearson Metropark had to take out several thousand.

    There’s still a ban on bringing firewood back and forth across the OH/MI line, which is a hassle because we shop on both sides of the line.

  2. You should find a local wood turner and have them make a couple of wooden salad bowls out of the bigger pieces. That’s always a nice way to keep the old trees around in spirit. (And the turners always love the extra wood)

  3. the ash trees become ash…

    Those pictures are lovely, but looking at the first one I could think only “Pour encourager les autres.”

  4. Do you have a trailer for your lawnmower so you can haul all that wood to the fire pit? Those woodpiles look very heavy….

  5. Ash has a nice density and grain. Maybe have a couple slabs (3″-4″ thick) cut from a log and put aside for drying. After a year or so, would be great for making an electric guitar (or mando). The dense would makes for great natural sustain. Not sure if ash would be good as bow wood (doesn’t show up on this chart: http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/bow-woods/). Hickory and Osage Orange are great North American bow woods.

  6. Know how ya feel. Had to bring a very diseased tree down from our front yard once, which was sad yet necessary. That tree had been trimmed insanely in the past but kept trying to live with what it had. I ended up planting a douglas fir in the backyard. We’ve moved out of that house since, but last I saw the douglas fir was maybe 10 feet if not more.

  7. Most Ashes are pleasant-looking, fast-growing, “weed”-trees that would probably have needed to be replaced pretty soon even without the Beetle. Some Maples will last fifty or a hundred years longer. But I’d seriously consider something like Black Walnut… simply for the abstract pleasure of planting & growing something that can be harvested in two or three hundred years (if it’s pruned properly) as broad planks suitable for making d dower chest, hed headboard, cradle, rocking-chair back, or coffin.

  8. Seconding the suggestion to have a couple of bowls or platters turned from the wood; it’s too bad you don’t live nearer to Jim Wright. :) Also, IIRC, ash has been a traditional wood for tool handles…

    I didn’t know that there’s a problem with ash trees, but then I’ve been out on the left coast for about 40 years now.

    (My favorite trees have always been elms… which, even when I was growing up in upstate NY, were on their way out. We had a couple that were probably five hundred years old, or more – didn’t think to count the rings when they were taken down, but they were humungous, as in stereotypical several-people-joining-hands-to-reach-their-circumference size; too bad my father never got pics of us and neighbors when we did that.)

  9. Since everyone else has added sincere thoughts about the trees, I shall instead add this:

    Don’t you mean you’ll roast some s’mores over their corpses?

    Or is that too soon?

    Seriously, though, I like the bowl/plate idea mentioned if you can find someone and understand the loss.

  10. Mmmm… S’mores! Are you *trying* to awaken the stalker in me? Fortunately, I live in California…. And I’m lazy, at least when it comes to stalking, so I won’t come sniffing around your fire pit looking for S’mores and campfire stories…

  11. My compliments to your arborist / tree assassin – they did a very tidy job of stacking all the cut wood. (The last tree I had to have cut down, after it had half broken off and fallen on the neighbor’s front yard and porch, became a random pile of logs, branches, brush, and TEN GAZILLION DEAD LEAVES all over our front yard.)

  12. The Autumn Blaze maple I planted in my back yard 10 years ago was about 8 feet high at planting and is now almost 40 feet. Certain maple trees grow quickly – mine at a rate of 2 1/2 to 3 feet a ;year.

  13. Wonderful post. There is a reverence for trees many have lost. It’s good to see so many people still care. There is a great book I just read, “The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees, and a Plan to Save the Planet.” It’s filled with facts about trees I never knew, why they are so much more susceptible to disease and insects, and what we can do. “When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. The second best time? Today.”—Chinese proverb. Please read it, and share.

  14. I’d suggest against putting in a black walnut. The thousand cankers disease may not have hit your area yet, but it’s wiping out the Denver-Boulder area’s black walnut trees. The record for stopping the spread of these things is not good. It’s good that you were able to get firewood from the trees; we had to have the remains of ours specially sealed and hauled away.

    We still miss that tree. It shaded the back deck, and cooled the west side of the house; migratory birds loved it. The cats walked around the place it had been for months.

  15. We’ve a great ancient ash in the back yard behind the garage, and I am dreading the inevitable day – which I know is in the relatively near future – when we’ll need to bid it farewell. It still appears vigorous, but the Emerald Ash Borer is encroaching in our part of the state, and I know its days are numbered.

    If you are looking at possible replacement trees, one that could be worth consideration is the River Birch. It’s not the variety with the white papery-looking bark; it has a reddish-brown bark that flakes away in interesting patterns, and that looks absolutely stunning against a stark white snowy landscape. It’s not a tree people enjoy mowing under; the branches swoop down gracefully, almost reaching the ground, and they create a haven of shade and privacy round the trunk, so if Krissy doesn’t want to swat branches aside as she traverses the lawn in her riding mower, those might not be the best choice. But oh, they’re lovely, they are. And relatively fast-growing, too; we planted three in our front yard fifteen years ago, all three of them twigs maybe a foot high, and today they are easily 30 feet tall, graceful, lovely, and they do a perfect job of shading our east-facing kitchen windows in the morning.

    Peace to the departed trees, and many years of vigor and shade and beauty to their replacements when they are planted.

  16. I remember the elm shaded cathedral streets I grew up with, before the beetle took them; regretfully, that community (close to O’Hare and its international trade with China) chose Ash trees to replace the Elms; the views were just recovering when the Ash Borer hit.

    So I’d advise against a monoculture approach.

  17. My aunt just had to get one of her ash trees taken down. It wasn’t in bad shape, but the borers had gotten to it so it was just a matter of time. Better to have an arborist take it down in a controlled fashon than have a storm drop chunks of it on the roof.

    I’d actually recommend against a black walnut, unless you know all your neighbors are honest. I used to know someone with four nice big black walnuts along the side of her home, and when the neighbor “needed” to get some equipment in his back yard (and she was at work) he hired someone to chop all four down and haul away every scrap of wood. He told the city the trees were blocking access and they threw out the complaint :( .

  18. We had a dozen or more elm trees around my parents’ house; then, back in the 70s, Dutch Elm disease took all but 1 or 2. Every year for a decade, we cut down at least 1 elm. Sometimes they would come down in a storm. We have 1 ash on the property; we’ll see if it gets spared from the emerald wood borer, or if it will go too.

  19. It’s always a bit of a shame when trees have to go. But at least you can use the wood. When my parents had to get a huge gum tree lopped down in our back yard (it was tall enough that it would have caused real problems if it had fallen over – either hitting the house in one direction, or the railway reserve behind us in the other) I think they wound up getting the upper branches chipped for mulch. As an Aussie I doubt I can really contribute much to the discussion of what to put in as a replacement (somehow I don’t think Jacaranda trees do that well in the USA, which is something of a pity – they’re gorgeous in flowering season, huge canopies of purple blooms) although I’d second the recommendations to try for a bit of variety rather than a monoculture.

  20. megpie71 – Jacaranda do grow here, at least in California, but unfortunately they’re usually planted as street trees, which makes a godawful mess on the sidewalks! But oh, my, they are lovely in bloom.

    Years and years ago my father turned a rolling pin for me out of ash wood. It’s two inches in diameter and solid enough to work chilled butter into croissant dough. Such a nice, tight grain.

  21. It’s always hard to take down trees, but sometimes it’s for the best. We have a corkscrew willow that finally needs to come down. Hate to see it, but it has to happen.

  22. It could have been saved, but sometimes trees are like animals when getting old… If you have the heart to put them down when they cannot help themselves anymore, or they’re in pain – then it’s the best thing to do… It’s the same with trees… If it gets older, it discontinues to do what it usually did for you – If it’s not taken care of correctly..So to spare it’s feelings (which trees do have – ecosystem – we just don’t hear them scream) we get rid of them and cut them down…

  23. If you are up for some more unsolicited suggestions on replacements, then I offer the possibility of Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana) . I just think they are a great tree and people should plant them more, no other reason. Or apricot trees, they are cool too.

  24. Apologies if you are a seasoned wood seasoner, but bear in mind wood takes a long time to season, or dry out enough to be good firewood. If I’m not mistaken, ash is a hardwood, and as such takes 1-2 years to dry properly. Good thing you’re not going anywhere soon.
    http://www.wikihow.com/Season-Firewood

    If you do consider making some useful objects from the wood, may I suggest cutting thick round slabs off stumps for either dining room placemats or coasters (or both to make a set)? Thick stumps can also make cute outdoor seating.

  25. I pulled our young and still relatively happy ash tree about 8 years ago because it became infected with borer. I didn’t want to give the damned things a home to reproduce and spread from.

    I’m thinking now that I’m going to collect up a bunch of acorns from our other trees and see how many oaks I can get going on our side lot.

  26. I’d second the comment on river birches (I particularly like the ‘Heritage’ cultivar), although they tend to like moist places more than dry. Some natives to consider include Yellowwood, Black Gum (great fall color, and food for birds), Sourwood (also good fall color) Shadblow, and, of course, the Ohio buckeye.

  27. I hope your eventual maples grow like the one in my mother’s backyard did. She had it taken down in 2012 because it was SO HUGE she was terrified of it falling and taking out her house or a neighbor’s house. Seriously, it was the height of the oak tree next door. (And I can’t say she was wrong. Six months later, Sandy blew through, followed the next week by a Nor’easter that leveled hundreds of trees in New York. It was like the Tunguska Blast hit Queens.)

    The arborist said it was the biggest maple he’d ever seen, though it turned out to be only about 70 years old (going by the rings). The diameter of the main trunk was nearly four feet.

    There is something in my gushy, fantasy-reading self that always feels bad when we take trees down.

  28. we are having similar issues with the hackberry trees in our neighborhood here in Central NE. I don’t know that it’s a single insect like the emerald ash borer, but we’ve had 6 or 7 of them become diseased and quickly die in the last few years. We have a little maple that sprouted up by itself in one former spot, but we’re struggling to get another tree started to replace the second one that we just had to have removed.

    look to Linden trees if they are available. They grow nicely, seem to be fairly disease resistant at this point, and have the most wonderful smell when they bloom in the spring…

  29. If you want a good fire and/or coals for the marshmallow toasting portion of the s’more ritual, wait a year. The wood has to season (i.e. totally dry out) before it can burn well. Newly cut wood is too wet because of the sap. You’ll get a weak, sputtering fire.

  30. Weird personality quirk of the day: I love to split wood and do it for free. Ash is always tasty to split.

    I bring my axe with me on vacation and hang around mountain bars propositioning strangers to split their wood. Most have no wood. Some think it is a scam. I can usually find someone though. I just like to split wood. It isn’t a favor. I just like doing it.

    I work with computers all day long and often do not see the product of my work. When I split wood for a few hours, I see a pile of wood stacked up when I am done and feel proud of myself.

  31. Sorry to see your trees have to come down, but a rule of thumb from older relatives in my family is that ash makes *THE* best firewood, period.

  32. I’m with you on the sadness part. We have one of the few lots in our area that still has trees on it to any extent. Look at the MapQuest satellite photos and you can’t see the yard for the trees. Unfortunately, we have arranged to cut down four of them. One is at the side of the yard and leaning quite vigorously toward our neighbor’s house. A second in the backyard is a less stable version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa heading toward our house. The third is a very tall pine in front in a precarious position – fall in one direction and it takes out our entire house, fall in the opposite direction and it takes out our neighbor’s house on the other side from tree #1, fall at ninety degrees and it takes out all the power and phone lines along with blocking a major road to and from our town. And poor tree #4 is very ill, essentially hollow and cracked at the base from rainwater seeping down through the trunk.The yard will be empty without them. At least one and maybe two will be replaced by something decorative and graceful, but it won’t be the same.

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