I am a tree hugger, I admit it. After all, there are so many reasons to love a tree. They provide blissful relief from summer's heat and valuable wind break from winter's chill. Trees are shelter for song birds and squirrels, home to owls and woodpeckers, hunting perches for hawks. I love the sound of the wind through their leaves. Trees consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen, thus purifying our air and protecting our planet from human attack. A good tree has form, beauty and function. I simply love trees.
Except for one little problem. My growing passion for urban farming has caused me to glare annoying at some of the trees in my own yard. How can I possibly grow crops with only a couple hours of direct sunlight? What benefit is my little greenhouse when it's shaded most of the day? Will my raspberries ever stop reaching for the sunlight and get down to the business of making berries?
We were blessed with a well-developed yard when we bought this place six years ago. There is a mature honeylocust tree which forms a large canopy over the front yard. There is an equally huge maple tree shading my back patio and deck. Both of the side yards were covered in a thick mat of suckering hydrangea bushes. The hill behind the garage was covered in nine (yes, count them) sprawling juniper bushes. But the crowning glory of my backyard was six enormous spruce trees, each of them approximately 40 years old, towering over the entire property.
Over the last few years, I've trimmed the lower branches of the spruce trees and pondered their fate. Late last summer we removed the smallest one to make space for the greenhouse. Finally, this winter we decided to become dedicated urban farmers. We hired a tree company to remove three of the remaining five spruce trees. And the fateful day was yesterday.
I was excited and nervous. I thought it would be a bittersweet day and that I might mourn the loss of these healthy trees. Nobody was more surprised than me when I found myself cheering for the tree guys. I was happily taking photographs and singing "Let the sunshine in" (while visions of the Fifth Dimension pranced through my head.) I performed a little jig when the trunks finally crashed to the ground. It was an amazing day. By suppertime last night, I could see all the way back to the chicken coop. The greenhouse was no longer hiding behind the spruce trees, the raised beds were clearly visible under the snow. For the first time, I could watch the sunset over the woods.
We have no lack of trees. There are still dozens of spruce trees visible from my dining room window. But now, with a little luck and good compost, perhaps I'll be able to grow a respectable crop of tomatoes. Maybe my raspberries will stop reaching so desperately for the sunlight and finally get down to the business of growing berries. And the huge pile of spruce mulch in my driveway will slowly return to the land.