I’m not sure what it was that possessed me to think of them as three sisters. They were three huge maple trees that stood on the creek in our front yard, right on the property line with Mrs. Lee, our neighbor. Several years ago, we had a family of screech owls nest in a knot hole in the one tree that was leaning over so far it looked like it would fall any day, but it held on with its roots deep into the side of the creek bed.
A few months ago, I think it was March, we had some terrible high winds. When my bride told me one of the big maples had fallen, I assumed it was the one that had been leaning so badly. I was wrong. It was one of the two that were standing tall and proud. When we cut it up for firewood, we found out it was pretty rotten at the bottom.
In one week recently we had about seven inches of rain in two days. Not much wind, but I have never seen the ground so saturated. As it turned out, I had just gotten up that morning and was looking out the window at Rappahannock Peak wondering when the weather would clear. I was saying to myself that the leaning maple had to be affected by so much groundwater. Linda walked in the room and said, “I hope you’re feeling gritty.”
I turned and said, “Did that big maple tree fall?”
She just said, “Yep.”
I don’t know what I did to be blessed with so much firewood. My cup runneth over and then some. But I am also blessed with some very good friends and a good family. With my friend’s huge dump trailer that I was able to pull with my truck, and a very large, fast cutting chain saw, and, more importantly, the hard work of my son and his wife, and my daughter and her husband, we were able to get the latest disaster down to a working size in one full day. Then my life partner and I worked on it at our own pace for a day or two, and the job was nearly done. As a recently departed neighbor once told me, ibuprofen is my friend.
The next task was the ground itself, around where the tree had fallen. After getting in there on the soft ground with trucks and tractors, the front yard looked like a NASCAR dirt track. But, I have more friends. And one of them loaned me a homemade lawn roller. A neighbor had made it for him, and it was quite ingenious. It was a piece of 14-inch diameter culvert pipe, about 5 feet long, filled solid with concrete. The thing weighs a ton, almost. But it was just what I needed to get the huge mounds and lumps and ruts out of the front yard.
I pulled it with my biggest lawn mower and told myself that I would be careful not to get too far into the muck. My thought was I would slowly work my way down towards the creek, where the ground was the wettest. Wait a day or two and work down a bit further. Unfortunately, as often happens with me, impatience got the best of me and it was working so well that I just kept getting closer and closer to the muck. At last count I have gotten stuck six times, causing me to get a bigger tractor to get the lawn mower and roller out and thereby making an additional mess. And I am not mentioning the wagging finger of my bride. Deal with it. I’m a slow learner.
I don’t know if the photo I took will do it justice, but picture this. Linda had a pretty hosta garden around the base of the giant tree, and she had some beautiful maidenhair fern and other plants. When the tree went over it took the whole side of the creek bed and the hosta garden went with it. What resulted was a vertical flower bed. It was really quite lovely in a strange looking way. When my son made the cut at the stump, the stump and the flower garden resumed their original position, almost. I am also glad to report that except for a lump on my shin about the size of a goose egg, no one was harmed in the clean up of this fantastic mess.
In another week or two, those of you to the south of Flint Hill will think you are seeing the northern lights. What you will be seeing is me burning the biggest brush pile I have ever accumulated. And anything that has made its nest in the brush pile will have to find somewhere else to live. I can’t make everybody happy.