A Treemendous Project

Last March, when FD’s mother passed away, our first big endeavor was to clean out the house, and go through items in the garage, barn and garden shed. Overwhelming as it was, we managed to get through the worst of the hoarding in about six months. FD still needs to go through the garage with a fine-toothed comb but, mostly, the junk has been hauled off, and what remains just needs to be organized. There is still a heap of junk stored up in the rafters of the garage and barn that his grandparents could not part with. Like many people of their time, they tended to hoard items and could not throw anything out because “they might need it later for something”. Most of it looked to be saved cardboard and wood crating, old carpeting and extra roofing material, and saved wood and metal. This all under layers upon layers of dirt and dust.

The rock house as it looked before we started tree removal.

We had known for years that FD’s mother had let the house insurance policy drop after she moved into the home. Not up to code, and having an asbestos roof, the house was not insurable in its current condition. We knew our best bet was to assure there was no threat to the house and buildings. FD’s mother was a lover of trees and refused to cut anything down so, in the forty years she lived in the house, trees and shrubs took over. The yard became a jungle, and some trees near the house and garage became monstrous. Eventually, so many trees and shrubs took over from the street view too, that the house virtually disappeared in the greenery, and sometimes looked as if it was an abandoned structure. Looking around at all this overgrowth, we vowed to remove all of the trees and most of the shrubbery around the house as soon as we could manage it.

Shortly after FD’s mother passed away, a couple of fellas from a tree service came through the neighborhood asking about possible work. I took a business card from them, but I knew FD hoped we could do the tree removal ourselves. We had priced having trees cut down in the past, and it was just way too expensive. A couple of weeks later, after seeing one of our neighbors was having some tree trimming done, we discussed the difficulty of removing trees that close to the house and all along the garage. With that, FD called the tree service and, though it was a lot of money to part with at the time, it was a good move. This would be so much safer since this crew had all of the necessary equipment, and they were professionals. They took out five huge trees that day, and the crew even did some extra trimming for us in the barnyard area. We were impressed and pleased with the work they did.

We usually do our own tree felling. FD uses his ranch chainsaw to cut the larger pieces, while I use my battery-operated chain saw to cut up smaller limbs and branches. Running the burn pile for days on end is a pleasant task for me!
Every truck was filled with pecan wood that the tree service would sell for milling, and smaller limbs for firewood.

Then nearly a year later, this past February, the brother’s that own the tree service came by to say they had a small job in town, and wondered if we had any additional work for them to do. They indicated because of the COVID-19 outbreak, business was way down for them and they needed work to keep their crew employed, if at all possible. Under these circumstances, they were willing to cut us a good deal if we had anything for them to do. So I pointed out a few trees FD and I had discussed taking out ourselves.

We had three trees with rotten trunks around the pool fence, just waiting for the right storm to bring them down on our fence and pool! And we had an old elm that was shading a new oak so much that it was not growing well. There was still three huge cedar trees at the rock house that needed to come down and a very tall pine tree that really posed a problem. Not only did they threaten the rock house and old barn, and our metal storage building, but they were in the electric service drop from the house to the barns.

After looking the work over, the bid was made, and that included stump removal. Apparently they had just purchased a stump grinder and wanted to try it out. The price was right for all of the work we were having them do. So another seven trees came down, the huge elm in front of our house got a trim, and stumps were ground on all trees – even the ones cut the previous year!

I did not take note of how many fellas were working that day, but I’d guess around ten. I never once saw anyone standing around. And when they left, all areas of tree removal were spotless. Every bit of the hackberry wood was hauled off for use as firewood, and the cedar and pine for milling.
One huge limb of the old elm had to be removed to allow sun to the oak we’d planted back in 2008. Lack of sun kept its growth to half that of other oaks planted at the same time.
Taking out three trees around the pool fence made for a blank landscaping canvas.
View of the rock house from the street after tree removal.

What a relief to have all of this work done! And I find myself very thankful that this crew of fellas arrived when they did. We needed their skills, they needed the work, and the price was right for all. Now, the next phase of work could begin… moving dirt.

Our next big project will be to dig out forty years of leaf, vine and shrub root debris from around the house and outer fencing.

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


19 thoughts on “A Treemendous Project

    1. The landscape is more open now and the rock house is taking on a new look as a result. People stop by all of the time to comment on the new look. The work the tree crew managed on two different days would have taken FD and I a few years to complete. It’s a relief to know our buildings and the pool won’t suffer as much from storm damage.


  1. Wow! What a difference. What town did she live in and are you getting it ready to rent or sell? Good job folks!


    1. Hi Becky! The rock house is on the same property that our house is on, so it’s just a short walk across our lawn and on the other side of the barn. We still don’t know what we’ll do with it – we may rent it or use it for a guest house since we entertain out-of-state family a lot. The interior work will be huge too. When FD retires, he will have plenty to keep him busy!


    1. I am amazed at how skillfully the tree service guys worked. Each had a task, and they communicated constantly. The new stump grinder that they’d purchased was fascinating to watch as well. It was remote controlled! But the real entertainment was the guy who worked from the bucket in the bucket truck. He ran the controls and zipped from here to there. I had real admiration for his skill and knowledge. And for all of them, that is a LOT of hard work!

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      1. Yes, it is very specialized work. That is why I am as offended by hackers who pretend to be arborists as I am with those who pretend to be gardeners. The horticultural industries are collectively like Star Trek, with all those different cultures trying to get along with each other. Nurserymen are like the logical and efficient Vulcans. Arborists are more like the passionate and honorable, but formerly misunderstood, Klingons.

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  2. What a huge lot of work! Here trees are very precious as they grow slowly, but every now and then we have to have one taken out. I would always rather entrust that work to professionals, as it is dangerous work. That is good you were able to get it done for a good price. We are getting some good prices on work here at the moment, trying to keep workers with a bit of income. Good luck with the next stage!


    1. Well, Ardys, you will have a good laugh at the next stage. Taking on the rock house has been an adventure from the start, and a lot of work. But the thing is, FD and I are enjoying it all. Good things have been happening for us ever since we started this journey.


  3. Too bad there wasn’t a trick you could have used, like the one Hercules resorted to when he cleaned out the Augean stables:


    Your post includes an appropriate play on words: “they were willing to cut us a good deal.”

    I checked the Mayo Clinic website to see about hoarding disorder. Here’s what the site says:

    “It’s not clear what causes hoarding disorder. Genetics, brain functioning and stressful life events are being studied as possible causes…Hoarding usually starts around ages 11 to 15, and it tends to get worse with age. Hoarding is more common in older adults than in younger adults. Risk factors include:

    “Personality. Many people who have hoarding disorder have a temperament that includes indecisiveness.
    Family history. There is a strong association between having a family member who has hoarding disorder and having the disorder yourself.
    Stressful life events. Some people develop hoarding disorder after experiencing a stressful life event that they had difficulty coping with, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, eviction or losing possessions in a fire.”


    1. What a great story! I too wish there had been an easier route to get that house cleaned out, and it was a bit of a Herculean effort to get through all of that rubble! I will be busy culling smaller trees from the property this summer. I wish that was an easier task too, but I think a tornado is my only hope to clear things out quickly!!

      It was interesting to note that when we were going through the house, it seemed most of my mother-in-law’s hoarding was due to her mindset about the “end of days” preparedness that her religious beliefs dictated, and several tragedies that she suffered in her life – most that were brought on by a strong dedication to these religious beliefs. Her last husband had some serious issues with hoarding and an addiction to purchasing infomercial products. Not knowing him all that well, I finally realized as I was going through boxes of his deceased mother’s items that he had never dealt with in the years since her death, that his addiction was maybe related to his relationship with his mother. I also feel he had a mental disorder of some kind. I find it all fascinating. I am not one to hold onto material things and I don’t put a lot of sentimental value on things, but after going through the rock house, I was inclined to go over my own collections of things and start culling. I have a much freer attitude about parting with “things”.

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  4. That’s the thing about trees and shrubbery… it’s all good until it’s not. By then the task is huge. We value our greenery but have had to cut back or remove a couple of trees, and afterwards thought we should have done it sooner. A part of my Tafe course requires me to redesign our garden space, and it’s made us see how much better it could be used. I forsee hard work in our future. How fortunate it was you found good tradespeople and they you. Our neighbour had a fallen tree cleaned up and it cost her over A$1000.


    1. I think it’s wonderful about “valuing our greenery”, which Ardys mentioned too. The tree that bothered me the most to remove, was that tall pine. But it, and those two cedars just behind it, were the most dangerous. Every time we had a storm I worried about any of them falling and doing damage to all of the building structures in that area. The cedars, especially, are a horrible fire danger as well.

      When I was in Germany, the people we stayed with mentioned the value of all buildings and structures. They noted that American’s were quick to build new homes or barns, and just burn the old structures. I had never considered these thoughts, but it is true! The rock house will stay of course, and it’s a well-built home. FD keeps saying something will present itself for its future and I believe that is true. The old barn is in bad shape, but for now it is a decent shelter for the hens and Dale the rooster!

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  5. Yes, “cutting you a deal” for the removal of the trees. was a good one. You and FD were quite lucky to get a good deal on all that work and it was a lot of work! That little oak should have been about three times the size from the looks of the pic and the time that it was planted. It is sure to take off now and I bet it is already happy to get the sunlight and hopefully nutrients that the big tree was taking.


    1. You are correct about the little oak, Yvonne, it is taking off and looks better than ever! I hope that this year it will grow some branches on the west side where it had been shaded too much by the elm. The other two oaks planted at the same time are indeed three times the size of this one. And the cost averaged out at about $700 a tree which is a VERY good rate. Normally, depending on the size and location, rates here run about $800 to $2000 a tree. The two big pecans in front of the rock house and the two cedars and the pine were the most difficult to remove. And the rate we paid included a lot of stump grinding. It looks so nice around here!

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  6. What a difference the removal of those large trees made for the house.

    Whenever possible, just like you and FD, I try to take out trees on my own, which I did just recently when Mary Beth wanted all our white pines in the woods gone. But two years ago we had a huge maple with 7 trunks and a lot of ants that had to come down and a very tall, 70′ or so, pine that had to go. The cost for that job was @$3000. Just like your crew they carefully did the work and I got a lot of firewood to split and wood chips for mulch.

    Although I’ve never had to do it, going through a loved one’s hoard is a big job too. My employer’s mother in law and father in law were collectors of everything imaginable. The husband ran a flea market on their property. When he died Bill had to sort through all the junk, sell what was saleable and get rid of the rest. When the wife died he and Jackie had to go through belongings which included even bread bags and twisties. Not a thing ever was thrown out. It was very demanding work as they had no idea what was in what and actually found jewelry stuffed in some of the bread bags. Mary Beth keeps a lot of stuff and is not terribly organized so I guess it’d be good if I go first. 🙂

    Dealing with the ground will be a huge job.


    1. Oh, your mention of bread bags and twisties has the memories from last year flooding back. Much of what had never been dealt with was of the grandparents who originally built the home, and two siblings that died young. It was as if Mom could part with anything connected to her family.

      And mom’s husband’s mother’s things were in boxes that he had not dealt with in more than ten years since her death and he was evicted from her house in Texas. All of that sat decaying in boxes in the garage where mice, snakes and other varmints had ransacked the goods. There were some valuables mixed in with books, or bathroom toiletries, or tucked in clothing or inside kitchen electrics. Nothing packed together made any sense. One oddity that mother and son both shared was folding a napkin or facial tissue in quarters and then writing bible verses in bold, black marker on the face. These tissues were tucked in everything. I wore gloves and a mask going through much of it. So I was well-prepared when the pandemic hit!

      We’ve no more gotten started with the ground work, than it’s come to a screeching halt. I’ll have more on that in one of the next posts!


      1. I can understand your mother wanting all those memories and tokens of her lost family members. I am not very sentimental about such things so have very little from my folks. Of course, my father tossing almost everything into the dump that reminded him of my mother after she passed, including family pictures, didn’t leave much. When he died his possessions filled a grocery bag. We have much more from my inlaws.
        I wasn’t as prepared as you but did have a few n95’s left from my woodworking.


  7. You’re doing a great job. The trees were huge.
    When you’re done, we’ll see the picture of: before and after.


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