Long lived the pecan. Forty years, five with us. This tree was always too big, reaching its great arms into our view of the Olifantsberg ridge. I had always wanted it cut back, feathered, so the line between earth and sky was unbroken. Five years pass. Looking at Nell Jean’s fallen pecan makes me nervous. They do have a bad habit of discarding HUGE dead branches, and there are many telephone lines in the flight path.
If you haven’t met a pecan, they are very similar to walnuts. Brain-shaped nuts. Our panhandle pypsteel plot leaves the driveway open to the road beyond the garden wall. Inviting passersby to see the nuts on the tree as Pick Your Own.
The Ungardener took the tow-rope, snatch strap and attached it to the leader, sawed, carefully, partway. And, with the other hand, drove the Land Rover to guide the falling branch along the gravel driveway, avoiding five telephone lines. Just as well, the first I knew, was an almighty cratch-thunk.
|with Land Rover help|
Later we had help from our small town good neighbours. The same neighbour who once gave us the vine clippings now used as a wildlife habitat, log pile. Where live striped mice, tabakrolletjie snakes and lizards.
|Man above telephone lines|
Watch the team work. One on the ground, one high up in the tree. Cut there, no, up a bit, so it falls … Passing the chainsaw from hand to hand, with skill and respect developed from working together over time.
|Team work - Man above and man below|
Every time I hear a chainsaw whine, my blood runs cold, my hearts pauses. Seek not to know for whom bell tolls. Somewhere, in the forest that was, yet another tree has fallen.
If you have planted the Australian brush cherry Syzygium paniculatum (was Eugenia myrtifolia) as a hedge, or privacy screen. Beware. This too we inherited. And there are huge trunks in there. It grows. Like mad. The new leaves are a luminous lit from within shimmering burgundy. Glorious to sing with deep red roses. But once it tips overnight from - is it EVER going to get any taller - to - funny we used to have a neighbour back there …? Keep cutting steadily, before you need the chainsaw massacre.
|Australian brush cherry prunings|
We now find ourselves able to lay out the gravel tracks as we wish, without avoiding the pecan tree. Some stay/go plants are gone. There is a large space on each side to plant. Around the telephone pole there is some afternoon shade in summer from the wall. Where the flowering quince is, gets the full blast of afternoon sun. Last autumn we planted four olives along there. Two died in the unseasonal hottest weather we have ever experienced in Porterville. Followed by the fire on the mountain.
|Once was a pecan|
My wish has been granted. We have the sort of wide open, deep breath view that Microcosm-in-the-Q is working towards. And we see the sunset glow from north to south all along the ridge, from the verandah.
We were sad to down a stately tree, but we have planted many more, and the Ungardener can ‘always find space for another tree’.
Five are waiting to be planted.
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa
(If you mouse over brown text,
it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.)