November was a difficult month for me. At the beginning of the month, I found out that our local electric company wanted to "take top out off spruce" (their written words) in my front yard. I know some might find it silly to be upset over something like this, after all, it is done in the name of protecting the power lines, but I have seen too much devastation in our area as a result of their extreme tactics. Beautiful trees have been cut in half or branches have been removed to give the 10' x 15' clearance the electric company has decided will keep their power lines safe. I guess I should be happy they don't fully understand physics or geometry, otherwise trees that were further back but taller would also be on the chopping block.
I love trees. I grew up in the city across from a park on a tree-lined street. This was unusual for an urban kid. Trees have always brought me peace. They bring the singing birds and the silly squirrels. Their appearance changes with the season. Beneath their arching branches and outstretched limbs, I feel protected.
This doesn't mean we have never cut down a tree. I keep an eye on the health of the trees in our yard. When we first moved in, we had a large oak that had been strangled by poison ivy vines and was rotting at its base. One of our front yard oaks had to be removed several years ago when it split down the middle during a storm. I cried over that one, it was as hard as losing a favorite pet. Last spring we removed three trees from our backyard. One was declining, one was dead, and one was leaning precariously toward a neighbor's house. We are very responsible tree lovers.
When I first got the notice, I was devastated. I've long lectured to my children about the importance of trees and about the dangers of improperly pruning them. Topping a tree stresses the tree, which can expose it to insects and diseases, and causes weaker branches to quickly grow at the crown. Now that this was actually scheduled to happen to one of our trees, I felt powerless, angry, and upset.
But then I got busy.
I started by contacting the electric company's customer service and shooting off an email to them. Not feeling that was enough, I started an internet search to see if there were any groups that had formed for the purpose of helping people dealing with our issue. I am very grateful for finding The Irvington Tree Preservation Project. Thanks to the help and support of Mark Gilliland, who runs the blog, my husband and I were able to get in touch with our town forester and we were given the tools we needed (the right questions) to prevent our spruce from getting topped. It is interesting to note that the electric company's tree pruning supervisor insisted it is not its practice to top trees. I've held onto the original notice. Some day it might come in handy. Especially when I consider my next donation to the Arbor Day Foundation. They named my electric company a "Tree Line USA Utility" for their "care and maintenance for trees within New York City and Westchester County along with its commitment to public education programs, all while meeting service objectives."
After talking to our electric company's representatives and exchanging many emails, we knew by the end of the first week of November our tree was not to be touched. However, since the electric company would still be pruning our large oak that stands next to the spruce, we figured we should stay watchful. The work was scheduled for after November 18th. That date came and went, and I was on edge, listening to the sounds of chainsaws one street over. If I left the house, my teenagers were instructed to call me if trucks pulled up. They finally came, the day before Thanksgiving. I immediately went out and asked what branches would be pruned and then my children and I watched from the window inside. They did a good job. I was a little nervous as they cut oak branches close to the spruce, but they didn't let anything fall on it. Our Christmas tree is safe for now, and I am planning to add some smaller evergreen shrubs near it, because in three years, it will only be taller, and I will have to go through all of this when the pruning trucks come through again.
My children learned a lot from this experience. We could have cried and sat idle as we watched our healthy tree get topped. I showed them that if you care enough, you don't sit still. You gather information. You ask for help. You speak politely to those who are against you and listen to what they have to say. My children learned that it is possible to take a stand for what you believe in and win.