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Treemageddon in Texas

Visitors to Austin are usually surprised by how green it appears, especially when they're looking down into a canyon full of Texas (or Escarpment) live oaks, Quercus fuisiformis.  Over the past few days, those live oaks have been creating a symphony of deep popping, crashing sounds as their leafy canopies and limbs became heavy with ice, causing them to split and crash to the ground.

It's not pretty.  It's not fun.  But an energetic person with heavy gloves and a chainsaw could put a couple of kids through college by digging us all out.  It would seem many are doing just that.  

On a personal level, I learned a few things.

First, my neighbor's elm has looked like it's been on its last limb for at least five years now.  We've mentioned the very large, dangling limb that could fall with a slight breeze.  She ignored us.  She seemed to decide we were evil as a result.  Interactions became somewhat chilly.  And yet, when that and another enormous branch became ice coated and fell on my fence and the fence of another neighbor, she paid for someone to take care of it.  Was it a skilled someone?  No, basically a walking chainsaw.  But still.  The neighbor gets serious high marks for taking responsibility when she didn't really have to.  An insurance person would explain it this way.  If a tornado blows your car several blocks away and it crashes into someone's roof, are you responsible?  Does your insurance have to cover the sailing car?  No and no.   Same with falling limbs and fences, or roofs, unless said tree was clearly dead before it fell.  Guess in our case there was enough gray area about that last part.  I do still have the texts telling her about the dead limbs.

Two, regarding walking chainsaws, I learned to closely supervise now to head off nuclear level anger later.  In the nick of time, I was able to save my mature crape myrtle from a fatal trim.  I know they're not native to Texas, but I didn't want it dead or even fence level, and crape murder wasn't going to be something this gardener could deal with right now.

What happened?  Even though I said I only wanted the jagged broken bits trimmed back to the main limb, he was about to "trim" the entire tree to fence height (6'.}  When confronted by his stunned look and "it's what everyone does" statement, I had to patiently explain, "I let them grow like trees.  Which is what they are.  Like those over there?"  He still didn't understand.  It was just too much and I was another crazy person with too many plants so he agreed to let me deal with it.  

That's the big dying elm on the left, and on the right, the crape myrtle that almost wasn't.  Under that icy limb in the middle is one of the beautiful, last of its kind metal trellises that Bob Pool made for me before he moved away.  I still can't talk about the trellis.

Another lesson learned was the resilience of yaupon trees.  In the picture below, you'll see my yaupon attempting to perform an ice ballet.  The middle stood tall, leaning only slightly on the roof, while both left and right sides eventually bent all the way to the ground.  Lovely if I weren't so concerned about the left crashing into the pond underneath, or the right crashing and doing devilish damage in a way my brain was too frozen to conceive.  

At any rate, a day later and both sides have begun to return to a more natural position, although both still look like someone with a bad back having difficulty straightening up.  Like me.  We'll see, but I'm hopeful for both of us.

People are saying the good news is that we aren't seeing any mosquitos.  That's true but the constant buzz of chainsaws is a reminder that mosquitos will be here soon - maybe even before we're able to clean up all of the ice damage.

On a happy note, here's a beautiful blue yucca from a friend.  All will be well.  Hope you are, too.



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