on a gentle western slope near the summit at a reasonably high altitude, wind is a near constant on the farm. i count days before i can safely burn brush. i curse it in winter when it brings below-freezing temperatures down to subzero windchills. i goad it in spring when i need it to blow away the blackflies that swarm around my face as soon as it’s calm. i cherish it in summer when it’s ten degrees cooler up here than it is in the valley. i’m used to the wind. hurricanes, nor’easters, southern breezes, howling west winds, bitter arctic fronts: we get them all. a dead tree or limb has a limited vertical life. sooner or later, they all blow down. occasionally, a live branch will come down. usually a pine branch and usually because it’s weighed down with ice, but this is pretty rare.
yesterday, the wind came up in the afternoon, screaming and rumbling like a freight train all night long. a piece of aluminum trim blew off the house while i was out doing chores. i picked it up, socked it away under some lumber, fed the horses in a sheltered spot and got indoors before a house fell on me. one daughter got almost home and found a tree across the road within fifty feet of the driveway. she detoured around the back way, a trip that takes about twenty minutes and found a tree across the driveway, too. she left the car at the bottom and walked the quarter mile home in the storm. she let her sister know to take the back way home, but another tree had come down and was blocking that route, too. she had to take refuge at a friend’s house for the night.
before bed, i went outside to peek around with my headlamp and noticed that my treasured tamarack tree was listing badly to the east. in the beam of light, i could see a crack running vertically up its mighty trunk.
because i was trapped, i worked from home today, which meant that i could get out at lunch time with the dogs and survey the damage. there was a lot. these trees that have stood every storm finally succumbed. every acre had at least one casualty.
of course, i spent a huge chunk of my time last summer rehabbing and fortifying the shade garden that grows under this amazing tree. the tamarack will have to come down now. it’s not safe leaning like that. but what the heck do i do with all my shade-loving perennials? i’m having one of those gardening-is-pointless crises. six varieties of hosta (three established), a half dozen astilbe, and some lovely, delicate ferny thing with variegated foliage whose name i can’t keep in my head all need to move, but i haven’t got a clue where. i’ve got wet sun and dry sun and wet shade, but no dry shady spots that aren’t already chock full of coral bells and astilbe and shrubs. that i planted last summer because i had all the room in the world. oy.
because i was out and about, i decided to get a picture of controlled destruction to share:
that tree on the left is peeled twenty feet up. (none of the ponies are twenty feet tall. it’s pony math.)
despite the work that will go into cleaning up all those branches and the juggling of plants in my shade garden that i’m dreading, today the sky was blue, the dogs were happy, and this might be the earliest deer track i’ve seen up here on the hill ever.