Thursday, January 28, 2010


I drove to campus this afternoon to pick up some student work to grade and it seemed like there were tree limbs on the ground everywhere from this morning's sleet storm. Here are a couple of large ones I saw on campus:

This one was in the middle of the street this morning; someone has graciously moved it onto the lawn:

Worrisome and dangerous.

The storm is supposed to continue through the night into tomorrow morning, making me a little anxious for a couple of big limbs on one of our live oaks. The bottom of the leaf canopy is normally about ten feet off the ground at its lowest. This is the same tree that was sideswiped by a car last fall. It's been a rough year for it; I hope it survives:

As Bette Davis once said, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's gonna to be a bumpy night."*

UPDATE/DAMAGE REPORT: Well, shortly after I posted, this limb came down:

There's another that has fallen on the other side of the tree. The tree that I was worried about now has two limbs that have splintered but not fallen, so I went down to Home Depot and got some caution tape and traffic cones to warn people off:

I expect that they will fall sometime in the night, but in the meantime, I don't want anyone walking near them until the limbs are down on the  ground. My neighbor Randy came across the street while I was out there working on them and offered to help me cut the limbs down, but I think conditions are just not safe enough for that. A slushy sleet/snow is falling pretty heavily right now, so we will probably lose more before the night is out. Here are some shots of the desert willows in the front yard, one bowed to the ground:

and one we so tenderly transplanted a few short weeks ago, now uprooted:

Finally, for your amusement, the bird feeder in the chaste tree, now on the ground:

Here's the thing: This is what trees do. It is probably much more devastating for us to see than it ultimately will be for them. We love them, we worry for them, we tenderly prune their branches and limbs to get just the right look. But trees and ice have lived together for a long time. This is just another day at the office.

If we can keep people and property safe in the short term, we will all come through this to the other side.

*Edited to correct the quotation.


  1. Oh my. Not good. I hope the worst has passed, despite the forecast. It moved through our part of the world more quickly than the predictions, but then weather in the mountains is always hard to forecast. I'll keep my thoughts positive for your live oak! (I am always astonished at how beautiful ice storms are, destructive potential aside.)

    Susan Tweit (of the indigestible typepad id)

  2. Since this story is written on the day it occurred, part of its impact is from the immediacy of the story...which implies the value of the medium of delivery. (Facebook)

  3. Great photos - hope there's no further damage!

  4. Wow - you do get some interesting weather down there! Ice is so hard on the trees.

    We lost a huge boxelder years ago to an April ice storm. There was a large boulder at the base that was catapulted down our steps(24 of them) when the tree was uprooted. It has taken us years to get rid of the stump (it was close to 3 feet in diameter).

    Hope the damage is not too bad - and the clean-up goes quickly!

  5. Hi Susan,

    I hope the oak's branches can bounce back...but by the sounds of them 'splintering' it doesn't look so good. I like your perspective about 'another day at the office', but of course, that's easier said than 'felt';-) Good luck weathering this storm tonight!

    I just found you on FB so fanned your blog and can see more of you this way than I did before...I have my blog listed there, too.

  6. PS...I meant to congratulate you on your books...they look lovely from the outside, and seem like they'd be the same inside. I will look in the bookstores!
    Also, to recognize the approaching celebration of Earth Day, I'm asking people to write posts about what they do to live, or contribute to, a sustainable lifestyle...and leave a link on my blog...then, there's a giveaway. Right now it's gloves but I'm hoping to have more than 1 item. Since you basically LIVE sustainably daily, I thought of you. Hope you can join in!

  7. Ouch. I'm really sorry to see the damage to the trees and shrubs. But we go through this on average every year, and it's amazing how the trees do often bounce back. Between hurricanes, ice storms, more wind storms and other weather tantrums, trees are remarkably resilient. I hope the weather straightens out soon, though. We're all winter beleaguered and it's only the end of January.

  8. Ice storms hold equal amounts of beauty and devastation, don't they? You are right that most plants will come through just fine. But it can be hard to watch them bow and, sometimes, break.

  9. Mother Nature can be a cold hearted bitch when she prunes. I believe I hear the clink of her clippers headed this way.

  10. Susan--It looks like this one is settling in for a couple of days; no significant new flurries, but it won't thaw out until tomorrow.


    d.a.--you and me both!

    Wildknits--this kind of weather is probably small potatoes compared to what y'all get up there!

    Jan--I fear we've lost those branches. They are unsafe now, so even if they don't fall, I'll cut them down. BTW, I found your fan page, too and joined it!

    Jodi--Yes, I kept reminding myself yesterday that this was just a part of the whole picture of garden life.

    Pam--I am pretty broken hearted about losing the limbs on one of those tree (the one sideswiped by the car). It's a favorite for its lovely shape. Now it will look radically different.

    Les--hunker down.

  11. Ugh, I hope you get a thaw very soon. This is one humdinger of a storm. Fortunately for me it's just rain. But a lot of it.

  12. Wouldn't be wonderful if each bioregion could have a group of writers/photographers that would be willing to post daily, and create a daily bioregional online "magazine"?

  13. Gorgeous photos, but-wow-what a bite taken outta the tree!

  14. Jean--It was indeed a humdinger.

    Burr--That's an interesting idea...

    Pamela--Yes, but now that the trees have been pruned, I think it's an improvement.

  15. The "benefit" here is we are - or used to be - fairly consistent weather-wise for about 5-6 months. Cold and snow - a few weeks with temps never rising above 0F. All stuff you can live with, if adorned properly (humans, flora and fauna). The past few years have been different - weather going from one extreme to another. Hard on everyone/thing involved. Not too long ago it was almost 50 at my house. The other day it was -10.

    Sounds like natures pruner had a little help - tree looks okay? I find it hard to see my trees get damaged - but then eventually learn to appreciate the new shape.


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