Jacques says he loves to be this high off the ground. Not me!

Pining Away

I’m not pining away, but the pine tree is. Or was.

This week we tackled a big job that I’ve been wanting to do for a few years, which was to remove an enormous old pine tree near the bank of Lake Massawippi. The photo below from 2014 shows the beginning of the end of this tree… needles on the upper branches are much thinner than they should be. It also shows how the tree towered above the ones around it.


This photo shows how the pine tree towered above the trees around it.
The boathouse may have been built more in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I haven’t been able to find an exact date but we know it is old.

Several years ago we cut off the dead branches at the top of the pine and not long after the branches below began to die back, leaving an unsightly blunt end to the trunk and dead branches silhouetted against the sky. I looked out over this pine from my desk and from the dining room deck where we eat many meals in warm weather, and with each glance the visual irritation became more acute.

The blunt end of the trunk and the dead branches sticking up into the sky had been a visual irritant for a few years.
The pine on the right in this photo looks taller than the one beside it, but only because it is higher up the bank.


Last week, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, the job finally began. We didn’t measure the tree before we started but we estimate that it was 60 feet tall or more.

That height and the position of the tree made removing it a complex job. We didn’t want to damage the surrounding trees, the boathouse nearby (just out of the photo to the left) or the play structure that our grandchildren use regularly. To be safe we had to remove the branches one by one, winching each down to the ground. And in order for that to happen, someone had to be at the top of the tree, cutting and roping and lowering the branches and sections of the trunk itself.

Jacques Gosselin is a skilled worker. Here he is safely roped in. Even so I held my breath as I watched.


Jacques has cut many trees in his years of garden work. But how often has he been 60 feet off the ground, standing on a single branch, seemingly quite relaxed?


Jacques says he loves to be this high off the ground. Not me!
Jacques says he loves to be this high off the ground. Not me!


It took many hours to complete the job. And what a difference removing the tree has made. No more dead branches silhouetted against the sky. No more blunt end of a trunk drawing attention to itself. Only a larger opening that shows more of the lake beyond.


No blue sky on the day I took this photo, unfortunately.
No blue sky on the day I took this photo, unfortunately.


A small oak tree seeded itself on the lake bank a dozen or so years ago — you can see it on the left side of the opening onto the lake in the photo above. With more exposure to sun, I expect it will grow quickly to fill in the gap. But for the moment, we have a new view across the lake to the far shore.

One job remains: trimming the dead branches on the bottom of the pine tree to the right of the one we removed. Doing this will allow the trunk to stand out from the vegetation behind, adding a strong vertical line that I think will lessen the visual confusion.


Removing those dead branches will make a huge difference, I think.
Removing those dead branches will make a huge difference, I think.


What fall jobs have you tackled recently? Or are you doing as I did, postponing a big job to another year?

  • View looks good!

    • siteandinsight

      The view is even better today, after high winds have blown off lots more leaves.

  • Our splitting oak tree had to be removed in a similar matter. http://www.coldclimategardening.com/2017/02/26/the-felling-of-the-oak/ I miss that tree. On the other hand, a wild apple tree in our backyard just fell over this summer. It was rotted at the base. This tree was close to our back deck. It was strangely contorted but very easy to climb. Our children are past tree-climbing age and I had wondered if I would like it better gone. Now I know: I do! We have a much longer view from the deck to the far bank of the creek. I’m glad the decision was made for us.

    • siteandinsight

      Sometimes it is easier to let nature take its course. I find it hard to cut trees… they take so long to grow.

  • Lisa Wagner

    It’s remarkable how “editing” out things in the landscape can improve the view, whether it’s a major item, like your dead tree, or something minor like some dead stems.

    When we returned to Asheville, we edited out quite a bit of the front pocket meadow/pollinator border as no rain in September didn’t favor the foliage of Joe Pye Weed or Silphium. The ironweed wasn’t looking great either. But a general clean-up did wonders, and thinning the Solidago ‘Fireworks,’ generating new plants for my garden group’s plant sale this spring, well, I’ll be able to have a bit more space in the driveway, too.

    I’m definitely going to have someone to come over and “edit” the front pocket meadow next summer while we’re away; I’m not looking forward to the self-sowers next spring (I’ll pot up as many as I can before our May plant sale….)

    • siteandinsight

      Editing takes courage. As a novice gardener, I was afraid to remove things — pruning a shrub took me hours as I considered every cut at least a dozen times before finally making it. Now I am much more ruthless, and a lot faster! I’m very happy that the pine is gone. The view is much better.

  • Jason

    I’m a bit scared of heights, so I won’t be much help with cutting down a 60′ tree. We’ve had some big jobs this fall – the bulbs, the driveway, fixing the chimney, and capturing the squirrels nesting in our house. Next year: replace the first floor windows.

    • siteandinsight

      Capturing squirrels sounds like the worst job. But the driveway repair was a major operation. The new one looks good!