Clean up: trees in the old garden

We had such a lovely day today, even with fairly high winds, that I couldn’t resist going outside and doing a bit of clean up. This time, I decided to work in the old garden area.

As we clean up around the property, there is one thing I find myself struggling with that I did not expect.


In the decades I was away, my parents slowly reduced the size of their gardening, which made perfect sense. Unfortunately, at the same time, they planted trees. Poorly placed trees, many of which I am now having to cut down for various reasons, while trying to save as many as I can. At the same time, they also allowed self sown trees to grow where they really shouldn’t have. Some of them now need to be removed because they are causing damage. Others… well. Let me show you.

This is the before picture.

My mother had a row of raspberry bushes here. Elms and maples had self-sown among them. When my mother transplanted the raspberries (into an area that’s full shade!), she left the self-sown saplings. For a “wind break” she told me. The garden used to extend another 6 feet or so to the north. As they are now, the trees take up a space about 10-12 ft (3-3.6m) wide, and about 100 ft (30.5m) long.

That’s a lot of square feet of full sun garden space that can no longer be used.

Between these and the shade created by the trees they’d planted into the garden area on the south side, huge amounts of garden space have been taken out of production. Space that’s the closest to the house and water.

When I brought up taking them out and reclaiming the garden space, my mother was adamant that they not be touched. Apparently, if we take them out, we won’t have any wind break anymore or something, even though there are plenty of other trees and the lilac hedge to shelter us from Northern winds. :-/

Well, we’re not in a position to actively remove the trees quite yet, though the arborists recommended taking them out while they’re still small enough to be pulled out by the roots with a tractor. While trying to garden near these on one side, and tend the lawn on the other, I figured the least that should be done is to trim and clear them.

Yes, I know. This is probably the worst time of year to be trimming trees, but these are not trees we plan to save. They’ll do just fine, though. In fact, they’ll probably thrive. :-/

Starting at the end I took the photo at, I worked at it using both the baby chainsaw (aka: cordless pruner) and the long handled pruners. Loppers, I think they’re actually called. I used those quite a bit, because the branches and suckers were so dense, I couldn’t get in with the baby chainsaw to cut where I needed to. Which is fine. It reserved battery power for the pieces too large for the loppers. I got about 1 1/2 hours in before the battery died, then I continued for another half hour or so with the loppers.

Here is how it looks now.

That log that is now visible marks the corner of the mulched area we gardened in last year. I cleared until just past that log.

This is my branch pile.

I at first tried to trim the larger pieces and set them aside for potential use later, but that was taking up too much time, so I just added to the pile. When it’s time to deal with the pile, it will be easier to use hand pruners to trim any larger branches that might be usable for other things. The smallest pieces will go onto a chipping pile.

I did use pruning paint on the cut ends of the trees, though the maples were pouring so much sap, a lot of it was washed away! The elm sap isn’t running yet.

For all my mother’s admonitions to leave the trees alone, I found evidence that I was not the first to try cutting these away. In fact, some of what I found were growing out of stumps. Someone had tried cutting them down, and they grew back.

I also found this little group.

Three elms growing into each other! We couldn’t see this until I cleared things away. In fact, I couldn’t stand in the spots I was in to take the photos, either.

I worked on a maple just past this group of elms and found myself pulling out large strands of vines as well. The rest of the section has more of these vines. My mother had planted them (not here!) years ago, not realizing they were invasive. Now they’re spreading all over, and I’ve found at least a couple of trees that have been killed by them. So I stopped to continue another day, since more time will need to be spent pulling up these vines, which will need to be burned.

The irony of pulling up vines that are killing trees we plan to get eventually get rid of is not lost on me!

By the time I’m done with these, we should be able to walk through and around the trees without having to fight branches. I’ll even be able to mow past them without branches pulling off my hat!

Hopefully, their roots won’t make gardening near them too much of an issue. Eventually, we do plan to build some permanent, high raised beds in this area closer to the house, so it won’t be an issue for long. When we build the permanent garden beds to the south of the house, that will be where we will focus more on things that take longer to mature and get harvested in the fall, while areas closer to the house will be more kitchen garden type things that mature quickly, or have a continuous harvest.

Little by little, it’s getting done! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

A few interesting things today

While doing my rounds, I noticed something about the storm damage to one of our elms that I hadn’t before. I simply didn’t stop to look, since it’s still to wet and snowy to start cleaning the damage up, until today while doing my morning rounds.

This branch here isn’t just broken.

It’s broken off completely. The only reason it’s not on the ground is because it fell on another little branch that’s holding it up!

The girls and I had to make a trip into the city today, and while driving around, we saw so many damaged trees. Some were large ones that basically split apart at their turns, as heavy branches on different sides broke off in different directions.

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Clean up: west fence line and maple grove

Today turned out to be too cold and damp to do the mowing between the trees I cleared last year, that I hoped to do today. I thought I might be able to at least use my reciprocating saw to cut some of the smaller stumps of trees I took down last year to ground level, so I could mow over them. In the end, I decided it was just too damp to drag out the extension cords and use electric tools.

Instead, I worked on an area I left partly unfinished last year; a double row of elms leading to the garden gate at the west fence line.

Here is how it looked before I started.

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Catch up time

Yesterday, when it looked like the predicted thunderstorms were actually going to pass over us, we shut down our computers and enjoyed the show.

We didn’t get anything too severe, so it turned out to be unnecessary, but why take chances? 😀

We did get some wonderful, much needed rain, though!

First up, here is a kitten fix for you to enjoy. 🙂

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While walking around the trees in the west yard (because we can do that now!), I took a rake to the bottom of some of the tree stumps that are all over the place.  The taller ones, to prepare them for when we can cut them close to the ground.  Other, old and rotting ones, to uncover them and make them more visible, because I keep finding them by tripping over them!

There is a large elm tree in there that I’ve walked past many times, but it wasn’t until I started raking a stump next to it that I really paused to look at its trunk.

Where I realized I was looking at … another trunk?


It looks like a tree inside a tree.

With all the clean up I’ve done, and seeing so many trees growing against each other, I am guessing that this tree had suckers growing out the bottom that no one trimmed away.  Over the years, the main trunk simply grew around the smaller tree growing against it, absorbing it into itself.


It looks like there are two more of them on the other side!

I’m sure there is some deep and meaningful metaphor that can be seen from this.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: west yard trees – FINISHED!


It is finally done!

The maple grove/west yard trees are now finally cleared, trimmed and cleaned up.  After this, there will just be the basic maintenance to be taken care of in this area for the rest of the year.  Aside from maybe trimming the tall stumps, if we get a full size chainsaw before winter.

What a difference!

When I headed out today, the first priority was to clean up the branches and trees from last time.  In the process, I went digging around for downed branches under the last bit of trees I needed to work on, grabbed what I thought was a branch and found…

… metal.

This is what I dragged out.

I haven’t the foggiest clue what it is.

It went on the junk pile by the old garden shed.

Once I did that, I broke out the weed trimmer and went to town in all the areas I’ve been working on that hadn’t been trimmed yet.

Oh, my, does it ever look awesome!!!  (click on the pictures)

While I was using the weed trimmer, I kept having to stop and pull more branches out of the dead leaves, as I found them with the line on the trimmer.  My daughters cleaned away what they could find.  I had been taking what I cleared out of the last section (photos below) to the pile out of the yard, but by the end of the day, I was getting too tired to do both.  It was quite pleasant to work among the trees, but once I got out of the yard with the wheel barrow, or dragging a tree or two, it was like walking into a wall of heat.  So I started leaving things to the side, then the girls did a fantastic job of cleaning it all away, later.

While I wasn’t going to work on the rest of the fence line, I did go in with the weed trimmer.  I took the before picture when I last worked in the area a few days ago.

There was just the last bit to work on, over by the power pole (see below).  I went into it with the weed trimmer as much as I could, but there was a section by the gooseberry bush I couldn’t reach, because I kept getting stabbed by low hanging and dead branches!

This side will probably need to be thinned down more, but I will wait and see how the remaining trees do over the next year or two.  If the maples do well, I might trim the elms to give them more room to grow, because maples can get so huge.  If the elms do well, I may trim the maples.  The maple I’m standing next to as I take the photo (in the foreground, to the right) is going to need thinning, but it can wait.

Several times, I started to clear a maple, then thought, oh… it’s actually an elm.  No, it’s a maple.  No, it’s… both??

There were groups of trees where maple and elm were growing against each other.  !!

This next section shows some apple trees.

In the before picture, there is a crab apple tree that is part of the row of crab apples in the middle of this area, but this one had so many little apple trees growing around it.  Likely self seeded, as apples fell over the years.  As I went through them, trying to figure out what to keep and what to take out, I discovered the biggest one – the one that would have been originally planted – was almost entirely dead.  It had two younger ones growing next to it, so I left those.  They are too close together, but I will see which of them does better over the next few years, before deciding if they need to be thinned more.

The major challenge was the big ornamental apple tree.  The branches were so twisted and wrapped around each other, with living tangled up with the dead.  It was a struggle to get them free of each other.  Most of it was growing towards the East – the morning sun would be the only real sunlight it would be getting – and that’s there all the little apples is had are hanging from.

There were so many dead branches higher up on all of these trees.  The extended pruning saw got quite a workout.  Not just to pull down or cut dead branches, but to untangle them to get them down.

Sadly, I was not able to use my little electric chain saw/extended pole pruner.  I checked it over thoroughly (it’s really designed to be idiot proof) and everything looked good.  Yet when I tried to use it, it started screaming and immediately began to jam.  It was also dripping chain oil. 😦

Time to see how long the warranty is for. 😦  Or if it’s still covered.  All I can think of that’s different that might be an issue is the chain oil.  The oil it came with was perfectly clear, like water.  The chain oil I have now is generic, and red.  The paperwork did recommend using their brand of chain oil, but it seems not to be available in Canada.

This rather sucks, because it did make work go much faster, when it was working!

Still, I have the tools I need to do the job, and the next time I am able to work on the trees, it will be at the spruce grove!  Woo Hoo!!!

I love this work. 😀

The Re-Farmer

Clean up; west fence area trees

We had another cooler day today; after this it’s supposed to heat up again, so I took advantage of it to continue in the west yard trees.  I am so close to being finished here (I’ve decided not to do the rest of the fence line itself for now), I’m getting excited, because it means I can finally move on to the spruce grove perimeter. 😀  I’d like to get as much as I can done there, before I have to stop for the year.

The first thing I did was finally take down the two dead trees by the smaller willow. (The before and after pictures are taken from opposite directions)

The one that was about midway between the two willows was a bit of a job.  It was tall enough, and leaning enough, that it was well into the branches of the big willow.  Which means that, after I cut the trunk, the base just swung over to the big willow, and there it hung.  It did not want to come down!

The wood from these trees is going to be kept for the fire pit.

The tall stumps are being left until we get a full size chainsaw.

On to the next area…

There’s not a lot of visible difference here, since I worked in this area yesterday.  I took down the dead half of the maple trees.  After that, most of what I did was take down dead branches from above, except from the one mostly dead spruce that will be taken down entirely.

Next areas; the last of those rows of spruces!

Also, I found a third little tamarack hiding in them.

It really looked like a spindly, dead spruce.  I honestly probably should have taken it out, but I really want to keep the tamarack. I also should probably have thinned the spruces out more, too, because of how close together they are, but they look strong and healthy enough to make it.  So for now, they will stay.  Next year, perhaps, we can transplant the tamarack, instead.

After this, I finally got to working among the beeches.

The before picture, I’d taken yesterday.  If you look along the beeches, you can see a single trunk, slightly out of line.

It turned out not to be a trunk at all.  It was a branch that had fallen straight, and was standing there, held up by the other branches!  You can even see the broken bit it had come from.

I’ve been finding quite a lot of dead branches held up by others.  One I pulled down earlier and moved out today, filled the wheelbarrow all on its own!

In the northernmost row, I found another Colorado Blue spruce, with an elm tree growing right next to it.  Well.  Two elms, really, right up against each other.

The spruce was planted deliberately; the elm would not have been.  Because of how big a Colorado Blue can potentially get, I took out the elm and some small maples near it as well.  I probably should have taken out the maple to the right of the foreground in the after photo too, but it seems to be doing okay.  We’ll see how the spruce survives.

Here’s another view of the rows.


By this point, I didn’t really have the energy to keep breaking down the cut pieces and hauling them out of the yard, or dragging out entire trees.  I opened the gate at this end, so I wouldn’t be weaving through trees to the gate by the fire pit, then around the pile.  Instead, I was pushing my way through really tall grass, and wearing down a path.  As I was taking down bigger and bigger dead branches, and thinning out more trees, I just started piling it all in the space that had been plowed.  I will drag it out another day.

The row of trees closest to the beeches appears to be all crab apple trees.  Most have no apples, and the one that does, has almost none on it.  This is not a good place to plant fruit trees. :-/

Moving along the rows…

This area is not complete, though I might not do much more than this, this year.  The elms in the north row needed to be thinned out; one was right up against another, and it turned out to be dead.  The larger maple to the right in the photo will also be thinned down.  The side branches would have been suckers that never got pruned back when they should have.  The main trunk in the middle is suffering for it.  I wasn’t able to get all the dead branches out of it, and won’t be able to reach a lot of them until the side trunks are cleared out.

Once that is done, it will allow more light to reach the apple trees, too.

Speaking of which…

This is where I was working when I stopped to take a phone call.  Which was well timed.  I was at the point of telling myself it was really time to stop for the day, but I kept doing just a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit…  and before I knew it, an hour had passed. 😀

I don’t know that I’ll be able to work in here again over the next few days, but when I do get back to it, I will continue thinning the crab apple trees out.  There is a big one at the end, with large branches reaching towards the power pole.  That part of it is covered with apples (it looks like another of the ornamental apples trees, they are so tiny), but only where the morning sun touches those leaning branches.  The rest of the tree is struggling, with few leaves and many dead branches.  It’s all just too crowded in there, with elm and maple tangled around each other in the canopy, blocking the light for most of the day.

The eastern end of this area of trees is where they are growing under the power line, and where the arborist will be trimming some of them back.  They can do the tall stuff.  I will do the short stuff! 🙂

When I came out after my phone call to get the last after pictures, I got a couple of others of interest.

Last month, I decided to take down a small elm tree because it was growing directly under the power lines.  As I have been doing in many other places, I left a tall stump to go back to later.  You can see it here, next to the spruce tree I’d pruned the lower branches from.


This is what it looks like, now.


Maples and elms are very resilient trees.  You can cut them back like this, and they will start growing back!

I could leave it to grow, and just keep pruning it short so it will never reach the power lines.

I don’t know if that’s a good idea, though.

A decision I can make another time.  For now, I will leave it and see how it does.

Later, while visiting Beep Beep and her kittens by the old garden shed, I saw something I’ve been finding in a number of places around the yard.


A whole bunch of holes, dug into the ground.

I’ve found some in the open area between rows of trees behind the storage house.  Now that I’ve cleared up so much of the trees, I’m starting to find them there, too.  I am guessing it’s a small animal digging up insects or grubs?  Some of the holes are quite deep.

Anyone know what might be making these holes?

The Re-Farmer