wind

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.

pine tree with fresh scar on its trunk, the broken trunk is lying on the ground
split pine trunk in the winter pasture
a large pine limb is broken in half from when it hit the ground; there is a glove on the limb to show size
massive pine limb that cracked on impact, with awful worn out monkey paw work glove for scale.
pine tree with a large scar on its trunk where a limb broke off
scar left behind by that massive pine limb
a standing pine tree on which all the branches on one side are broken
a tree in the path of the falling massive pine limb; most of the north side branches were smashed.
a tree is shown broken off near the base of the trunk with splintering
maple along the back stone wall of the winter pasture.
the trunk of a pine tree that had two trunks. one is broken off and the other is marked where the broken one struck it.
double trunked pine in the summer pasture, now single trunked with oozing scuff marks.
a pine branch against the blue sky with the broken end high in the air
another big pine limb that went down head first.
a view through the woods where one tree is broken, but still attached to its trunk and another large branch is lying on the ground
widow-maker lurking over a big pine branch that hit the ground along the driveway.
a view through the woods that shows a tall pine trunk with no top. the top is on the ground next to it, but difficult to see
this pine tree along the driveway was decapitated completely (the top is the green blotch to the left of the trunk).
a standing tree leaning to the left
my lovely tamarack listing eastward badly (camera is vertical, tree is not).
a long vertical crack in the trunk of a standing tree
doom, doom.
a deep vertical crack in the trunk of a standing tree
it’s deep.

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:

a cluster of standing trees that have had their bark peeled off
what three bored, bad ponies do for fun in the winter.

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.

deer track in hard crusty snow
ruminant was here.

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