Have you ever made a BIG fool of yourself? I did. Today. Wanna’ hear about it? If so, read on.
Above: verbena bonariensis and salvia farinacea seedlings with red pepper sprinkled on the soil in case Elly (d0g) decides she might want to eat them. Aren’t they cute?
Recently, the company that owns our town’s power lines decided to trim the street trees. I get this. Really, I do.
If we have a storm, high winds, or even if we don’t, tree limbs and power lines don’t mix. Yes, trees need pruning if they are growing into the power lines, but this is the only thing the electric company and I agree upon.
Two weeks ago, bright green flyers began to appear on doors and were even hung on trees in vacant lots. I saw these flyers as I walked my dogs, but I didn’t get one at my house. And no, my flyer didn’t blow off. I looked in the bushes and on the ground around my house for one. Nothing.
This lack of a green flyer piqued my curiosity. Why didn’t I get one? Not fair!
Was this a notification of the local Green Flyer’s Club meeting, and I wasn’t invited? Worse, was this “The Lottery” in reverse? In other words, since I didn’t get a green flyer, would I be the one in town selected to be stoned? (Okay, ya, that’s overly dramatic I admit.)
I finally went to a neighbor down the block to ask if I could see his flyer. Turns out the flyer was an announcement of the electric company’s tree pruning.
I wondered out loud to a different neighbor why I didn’t get a flyer, and he responded, “You probably didn’t get one because your tree isn’t growing into the power lines.” My oak tree in the front yard is across the street from the power lines. What this neighbor said made sense, so I didn’t think about my tree anymore, until today.
Above: Tree pruned on Fowler Street by the AS_ Tree Company. This is the telephone pole tree pruning technique. There are a few leaves left at the very top. Been told they make take it down completely. Sad.
Last week, my next-door neighbor became upset when the tree pruning company pruned her trees. Her trees are mature historic oaks and not easily replaced should they die or be damaged. Were they pruning with aesthetics in mind? Nope.
From everything I’ve ever read or heard, it’s best not to prune live oaks and red oaks in Texas in the spring (after February). These oaks are best pruned in the cold of winter or in the raging heat of summer. Why? Because pruning at the wrong time of year increases their chances of getting a disease called oak wilt. Oak wilt usually kills trees and once a tree has it, there isn’t much to be done although people have spent thousands of dollars trying.
The beetle that transmits oak wilt is most active in the spring and in the cooler, but not cold, months. The beetle is attracted to open tree wounds and that’s how it transmits oak wilt by flying from a tree with oak wilt to the open wound of another tree that doesn’t have it. With that said, if an oak must be trimmed in the spring, most good arborists (tree surgeons) use tree pruning paint to seal the wounds. They also clean their tools in between cutting different trees so as not to spread the disease.
The good news here is that oak wilt appears not to be prevalent in our part of Texas, but my neighbor and I didn’t know that. Does this mean east Texas will never see oak wilt? No one knows for sure. Certainly, good pruning techniques can be used as a preventative measure. But was that happening? Not in my opinion.
My neighbor was hot under the collar about her trees, and I decided to help her as best I could by providing as much information as possible. In this vein, I sent an email to the forestry folks at Texas A&M University to ask them about oak wilt here.
In the meantime, the company stopped pruning my neighbor’s trees until their arborist spoke to her. He apparently said whatever she needed to hear to proceed with the pruning, and they finished trimming her trees. It seemed to me if she no longer opposed the pruning, then there was no need for me to say or do anything, so I blew it off.
And then today happened.
Suddenly, the company was pruning MY oak. MY OAK. MINE. I didn’t receive a flyer. My tree wasn’t close to the power lines. Why?
Above: My tree on the right.
Believe me when I say that my outrage surpassed any that my neighbor could come up with. I was like an earthworm freshly dug from the ground who is flipping and flopping all over the place having a fit.
“Get out of MY tree, right now!” I yelled up more than once to the man doing the cutting. I told the company man on the ground that I did not received a flyer, and my tree was not near the power lines and that I didn’t want it pruned. He pretended not to understand any English.
When the man in the bucket on a pole didn’t stop, I went a step further and when he saw I was VERY serious about him coming down or me going up, he came back to earth and called his supervisor.
Above: Another photo of my tree and the power lines across the street.
While I’m not one who normally swears, several exceptionally ugly swear words bubbled up. (If the man on the ground didn’t understand English then certainly I didn’t offend him, right?)
In the meantime, I asked to see the chemical used to clean their pruning tools and gee, they didn’t seem to know where it was initially, but finally found it in the back of their truck. Were they using it? I have strong doubts. How did they apply it from such a big bottle? I didn’t see a spray bottle or a dipping bucket anywhere. Why wasn’t the chemical out? Where was the pruning paint?
The company’s supervisor finally showed up. I explained I didn’t get a flyer and didn’t see why they were cutting my tree. He implied I was lying about not receiving a flyer so I ran to my neighbor’s yard and had him tell the supervisor personally, “No, she didn’t get a flyer so she asked to look at mine.”
I will meet with the tree company’s arborist tomorrow, but I doubt anything he says will change what I think. He works for the company. He needs his job. He has a bias.
This company has a D+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. They also have numerous complaints online including a negative Youtube video someone created about them. My guess is the electric company picked the tree pruning company based on a low bid.
In looking this evening at the cuts they’ve made to other trees in the neighborhood, I see lots of cuts that were done incorrectly. The angle at which one cuts off a tree limb and how far it’s cut from the trunk makes a big difference as to how or if a tree can heal itself.
So…how did I make a fool of myself?
Well, I gave the tree company all of my contact information so their arborist could reach me.
And when I got back inside the house and on my computer 30 minutes later, I saw a tree-related email, and I responded to the company letting them have it will both gun barrels blasting.
The company’s name starts with “AS” and I added an extra “S” after the first “S” in addressing them and said this additional letter was not a misspelling. I mentioned their D+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and all of their online complaints from customers. I told them I didn’t believe they were using any chemicals (disinfectants) to clean their tools. I told them that if my tree declined or died within the next 5 years I would be like the oak wilt beetle and crawl somewhere where they didn’t want me to crawl. I said I was pissed and not likely to become un-pissed anytime soon. I then hit “SEND”.
You realize once you press “SEND” (at least for the average person), you can’t press “UNSEND”?
A few minutes later, I had an OMG moment because….the email I’d received was not from the “AS_”tree pruning company. Nope. It was from the very kind and helpful Texas A&M University forestry person. Oh, why was I so stupid? Why didn’t I pay attention? I saw the word “tree” and saw red as the old saying goes.
I immediately sent a heartfelt apology and an “I am SO SORRY and embarrassed” email to the Texas A&M person. He responded kindly and said he understood why I was upset. Thank goodness. And now I can sort of laugh at my mistake.
Calm, positive, emotionally mature, & creative blog posts are forthcoming. This just doesn’t happen to be one of them.