Toppling the Giant

You’ve heard me bitch about our oak trees before. Look, I’m not some nature-hating monster that wants to destroy the planet, but I’ve really come to despise oak trees over the years. Now I know when some of you think of oak trees, you think of wide, sprawling beauties with gnarled old limbs – maybe something like this:

But oaks that grow in close proximity look nothing like the one pictured above. They’re all trunk with a much smaller canopy far above.

You can’t climb them. You can’t attach a swing. You can’t build a tree fort.

You can only watch as they rain garbage onto your lawn.

Growing up, the oak trees that littered my parents’ yard dropped countless tons of scratchy dry leaves that my sister Margo and I had to rake up each fall. It wasn’t a small lawn, folks. That was a lot of raking!

At some point, my dad forked out the cash for a monstrous 8-horsepower leaf blower, and then the leaves became my sole dominion.

Every autumn.

The leaves. The endless leaves. The towering piles.

But time’s river eventually bore me from my childhood servitude unto the unholy Dry Leaf, and I became a man.

I lived in cities and worked in tall buildings.

Nature became a thing that was kept far at bay by asphalt and concrete, steel and glass.

On occasion, I’d recall my youthful toilings in the yard, and I’d chuckle to myself at the poor fools still engaged in seasonal battle with a foe that will outlive them ten-fold.


Yep, I had it made in the shade. No more yard work for this guy!

But isn’t it funny how life just loves to throw wrenches into settled plans.

Take my life, for example. In 2009, I was living an easy life as a bachelor. My worries were few, my responsibilities fewer, and my possessions fewer still.

And then along came Handan, and that life was detonated and crumbled like a dilapidated factory building razed to make way for a modern skyscraper.

You must sometimes destroy to create something better.

I forgot about my city ways.

I forgot about my adolescent labors.

I forgot the face of my enemy.

Handan and I trotted around the globe, and then we stopped here.

In Connecticut.

In Glastonbury.

A scant few miles as the heron flies from the (work) yard of my youth.

And we bought a house on a lot full of trees.

Oak trees.

We were enamored with the place. We were smitten.

And still I forgot the face of my enemy.

But the illusion soon shattered. When the ink had dried on the papers, when the deed was done and the Deed was ours (well, mostly the bank’s, but you get the point), I remembered the face of my enemy.

It drifted down and landed on my head as I stood surveying my new domain.

The dry and rustling oak leaf – one of millions set to bring misery and suffering along with their brothers-in-arms, the acorns.

And each year since that fateful Halloween signing that delivered me into the bosom of my enemy, I have engaged in mortal combat with my childhood foe.

I have learned much more about my enemy these past 5 years. I’ve learned that leaves and acorns are not his only weapons. Oh, no. Those are but two arrows in his quiver. In spring, he torments with clouds of pollen dust, choking the life out of all who venture near. And then he throws down infinite strands of pollen to sully everything within his reach.

And though he seems dormant in winter, it is his preferred time to launch wooden missiles down into the yard when the winds and snow converge.

All of this combat takes energy, and he fuels his rampages with water – tons and tons of water that he steals from every cubic inch of his surroundings, starving anything foolish enough to try to compete for his resources.

He is Lawn Killer.

He and his ilk have dried the lawn in front of our house and hardened the earth around him until the grass turned stiff and yellow. He has buried 1000 acorns in the yard – all future oaks that will endeavor to rule one day. He has soiled our new deck with disgusting yellow pollen. He has littered my lawn with dead leaves, even after snow has blanketed the yard.

Well, we had enough of it.

We wanted our yard back. We wanted a view. And we wanted our house to be safe from the monstrous oak that threatened it from the side garden.

So last year we hired someone to take down 4 trees. His name is Brian, and he’s a climber. He takes the trees down limb-by-limb as he scurries up the tree. He came highly recommended.

Brian did an awesome job, so we invited him back this year to take down 11 more, including the huge oak in Handan’s garden.

We now have an open front yard, and we’ve already started to bring in new life. We’ve planted 4 trees so far with plans to plant 2 more.

Smaller trees.

Ornamental trees.

Beautiful trees.

We will be pouring ourselves full-time into that project next spring. You’ll be the very first to see the transformation.

And we now have a worry-free house. Handan used to freak out during every blizzard and thunderstorm thinking that big oak would come crashing though the roof. She’d tense up at every gust and howl of wind. Our house is safe now, and Handan’s mind is at ease.

And for those who still hate to see trees cut down, please understand that we have dozens more on our property that are safe. We live in a part of the country that is choked with trees. Removal is occasionally needed. Nothing will go to waste from what we’ve taken down. The mulch road is now a weed-free access road for my tractor to dump or collect rocks from my pile in the forest. Most of the logs will be split into firewood that will help heat our house in the winters to come. Some of those logs will become stools and side tables for our deck and patio. And some other logs – the ones with rot or carpenter ant cavities – I’ll fill with epoxy to make some beautiful woodworking pieces.

Toppling the Giant

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  1. Sob, wail, wah, sniff, Greg i didn’t think you could ever depress me. I can’t bear to see beautiful trees cut down , Oaks are my favourite. I always wanted a big garden with trees, I’m off to bed now with a giant box of tissues before my laptop gets waterlogged.

    1. Hi Catherine, I update the post with a little more info about the trees. Don’t worry, nothing will go to waste, and we’ve already planted some trees in their places! 🙂

  2. I hope there is a second part to this story, where you tell us you’ve planted some nice new saplings, (maybe not oaks ) to replace the trees too took down, and maybe a third party where you say you’ve have kept the wood and are planning some nice oak furniture once it’s properly seasoned…

    1. Don’t worry, Suzie, there is! It’s a story for next year, but please go back and check the post again. I wrote some more explaining our plans and what we’ll do with the wood. I meant to write that in the original post, but as I got into my battle story, all that flew out of my head! 🙂

      1. Thank Greg – I was but joking with ya anyways (it looks like the tablet decided not to send along the smileys in my comment) – if you can’t live with a thing then you can’t – and it really doesn’t matter what those who don’t live there have to say – but it is good to know the rest… and the battle story was so well written too!

  3. I can see why people are upset you took down so many trees but until you live with them you can’t understand. My parents had maple trees (of course, Canada!) which unfortunately became ill and the city removed them but not before a large branch crashed onto my mom’s car! Luckily it was just her car and not the house! They also have several pine trees that are much taller than their three story home and the mosquitoes they attract ruined many a summer day playing outside and they killed all the grass around where they grow. While trees are great for cleaning the air they can be problematic!

    1. I agree, Giselle. We both live in areas with no shortage of trees. Just like deer need to be hunted around here to keep their numbers from exploding, trees need to be culled to keep the whole state from turning into a forest again. I know some would see that as a good thing, but there has to be a balance. And yes, pines are the worst. We had a big one that we took down when we moved in. What a mess it created!

  4. You speak my words as we have 3 live oaks in a medium suburbia neighborhood. Those leaves never break down and never blow away is high winds. We live on gulf coast and we did during IKE have a huge limb twisted by a tornado that never came down and took out our power.Those tassels that stick in the fur of our golden is frustrating too then she tracks them in and I am for ever vacumning them up .I too love trees and my stomach had a pit in it when I see them clear land just to build an empty small shopping center that sits empty.But oak tree do kill grass around them and when the roots want to come up so does everything around it.They get into our plumbing so once a year we have to rent a industrial snake with cutter on the end.When we bought this home 39 years ago I am telling the truth we had 19 trees in our back yard.5 Live oaks 1 we china berry(Alicia 1983 took out).Rest of them were supposed to be a privacy hedge that got out of hand they were ligustrum that were some 8 foot some 10 foot and we had one evergreen that was so skinny my then 8 year old son took it out with a small axe with Dad supervising of coarse.He’s 48 now and has his own trees and he know what and how to do it.Sorry so long but this really it me. I guess I vented my dislike of oak but love the furniture it produces.

    1. Oh wow, I can’t imagine if these oaks were messing with my plumbing! Thank you for writing and telling your story, Debbe. It must be wonderful to be on the Gulf coast!

  5. I have no problem with you cutting down those monsters. lol It is your yard, the house and deck are your investments and those trees were a potential hazard and were keeping you and the family from enjoying your spaces. Also – you were clear in the post about already having planted some trees and the plan to add more…so, I don’t think there is a place to criticize you. I can’t wait to see what sort of plan for plants (and maybe…..a water feature?) that you & Handan come up with. Enjoy your leaf-free(ish) autumn! lol
    On another note…what about those roots…will you have to do something about them?

    1. Well thank you, Claudine, you are exactly right! 🙂 You’ll have to wait until next summer to see the plans for the front yard…we don’t even know them yet, lol! As for the roots, we are already finding them in those front gardens. When we do, we either chop away at them with an ax or cut them with loppers if they’re small enough.

  6. We have a broad variety of trees surrounding our yard. The most beautifully shaped and lush specimen is the one that needs to come down. It is a glorious and fertile tree. Hence the problem. It is a Norway Maple and I live in Vermont. Norway Maples are one of the worst invasive plants in New England and under-appreciated as a threat to Sugar Maples. Your comparison with deer is spot on. Culling is wise management.

    1. Thank you, Derry! I’ve heard about the Norway Maple, and it sounds like a right pain in the ass. One thing is certain – New England will never lack for vegetation, though it does seem like more and more invasive species are taking over. Something about the fleeting summer in a land of seasons that brings out the tenacity in Mother Nature.

  7. At first glance, I thought, Oh, no, don’t cut your oaks. But after some consideration, I came to a conclusion. You feel about oaks, the way I feel about willow trees and silver maple trees. Ugh! Lovely to look at……….in someone else’s yard! They are a huge mess that never ends! So I tip my hat to you. You had a continuing problem in your yard and you dealt with it; more power to you! And I look forward to seeing the new trees you plant. (Just don’t plant any willows or silver maples! lol)

  8. Hi , I live in Florida. and the mighty oak is a protected tree(god I hate them). My yard is covered end to end with them. Uprooted and broke my driveway. Now trying to break house foundation.It the roots tunnelled into the plumbing lines Still trying to get that part fixed. Need permits to cut trees down.Not a happy person. It has been 9 months and the tree is still winning. Now rainning, ground to wet to use electric chainsaw

    1. Hi Shelley, Handan says her hometown of Izmir in Turkey is exactly the same. They need permits to cut anything, and permits are NOT easy to get. Because of that, she cherishes trees, but even she couldn’t stand the oaks, lol!

  9. I AGREE!!!!!! We bought this house in Indiana……we had in a subdivision, mind you….55 trees in our yard taken out! Anyone recall the horrifying tornado outbreak in northern Indiana in 1965??? Well not only did those level 5 tornados destroy people,homes etc…..they caused many of these oaks to turn and twist toward them. Thus …our yard of godawful trees. All 55 we had removed from this 1/2 acre yard were empty inside. And we still have 12 stinkers in the side yard. COUNT ‘EM….12. And ours don’t necessarily drop all their leaves in the fall! Oh no! Some of those stinkers wait until spring! And then come the pollen strings and the …..yeah. I totally get your frustration with these 80 foot messy ………….I am so with you on this!!

    1. Holy crap! 55 trees in a 1/2 acre?? Holy crap! Though I wasn’t born, I have read about that tornado outbreak many times over the years. Absolutely horrifying. And yes, there is nothing worse than an oak that doesn’t finish its polluting until spring!

  10. Our big, old oak is coming down next Wednesday for all the same reasons! Yay!
    Five lovely ornamentals are waiting for the guys to plant on the same day. Again…Yay!

  11. I feel the same way about Silver Maples! I prefer the oaks. Hopefully the thinning will allow you to get to your landscape dreams. Looking forward to seeing your progress.

  12. just so our sweet handan doesn’t have to worry is reason enough for me to take the giant down xx

  13. Sounds very responsible to me ! We live close to the Oregon coast. The highways that go over to the coast have large fir trees on either side of the road. We have heard of accidents happening where the tree has fallen onto the road and cars because of the rain. Accidents and deaths. Taking care of the earth means ..taking care of it,subduing it,because when it gets out of hand,it causes big problems. I remember the forests in Connecticut ..grew up in new london. I still love the colors in the fall,but when nature causes a problem,time to rethink a bit. The city of Woodburn gives us free trees on Arbor Day. We got a small Japanese maple this year. But there are codes so people don’t go bananas. Looking forward to the next step on your beautiful home and yard.

    1. Thank you, Bernice, I completely agree! I think it’s great that your town gives out free trees, and by the way, I’m totally jealous that you live in one of the top 3 pinot regions of the world! You lucky, lucky lady!