03 August, 2011

Pecan down

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.

Pecan tree

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.

Pecan nuts

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 micetabakrolletjie 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.

Chainsaw massacre

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.

Olifantskop revealed

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. 

Pictures by Jurg and Diana,
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.)


  1. There's never a better opportunity for change than a felled tree. Especially when it's one you never intended to go. Of course, unless it's like the fir I transplanted. I'm just going to plant another one because, dang it, I want a fir there.

  2. Isn't it sweet that there always seems to be a bright side to change? I'm a bit like your Ungardener, it seems I can always find something new plant. I enjoyed your post Diana.

  3. Diana, yes! That is a view! Of your "very own" mountain, no less. And that is a good neighbor. Losing a tree is a pity, especially a nut-bearing one, but not if it gives as much worry as pleasure. The big fire here in Los Alamos this summer was caused by a tree branch falling on a power line.

    Thanks for the link! :) And enjoy that nice, open view. Long lines are too often given short shrift.

  4. wow,, such beautiful,, beautiful photos,,thanks so much for sharing,,these are wondeful,, you live in such a lovely spot,

  5. It must be sad to get rid of a productive tree. I am desperately trying to get Hazel trees established here. I can only dream of an exotic Pecan.

  6. Hi Diana - I know its sad to take down an old tree, but having just done this I can really say its good to see the light again! We took down 2 x Syzygium paniculatum and I'm so glad we did! We have light and air again, and as Jurg says, there is always something new we can plant! (and we still have another two syzygiums left - you're right, they grow like crazy - I just don't have space to accommodate all these trees).

    I love your view of the mountain - I think it was worth taking the tree down for. Its a gorgeous view!

  7. Let there be light! What a great couple of fellers.

  8. The felling of a tree is sort of sad to me, and I would have never cut it down, no matter how much I wanted it gone. But, I have to say, that view now is spectacular. I would be a better gardener if I could exert my will a little more, instead of letting the plant bend mine.

  9. It looks like you have much more room now. I always hate cutting down trees, but it is often necessary.

  10. Old trees sometimes outlive their usefulness. I believe in planting new trees. There's a faction in town that goes rabid over ancient trees being cut down to the point that sometimes trees that should have been cut down long ago fall on the neighbor's house or someone's car. You rarely hear them advocating for planting new trees for generations to follow. I feel fortunate to be where they can't dictate my trees.

  11. Pecan makes great BBQ wood. Nice easy burn.

  12. Oh my, that view! And it is sad about the tree, but you've planted more. I love pecans, partly because they're great in pies, cookies, and other baked goods. Yum!

  13. Pity about giving up the nuts, but the view does make up for it. Plus the knowledge that you won't for some reason have a tree lying on your wall.

  14. And the sense of achievement far outweighed the sense of loss... :)

  15. your ungardener is incredibly handy up a tree, I'm afraid my ungardener is mainly decorative in comparison ... change is both grieved and welcomed.

  16. Oh, I hate to see a tree fall but I understand. And oh, how I love to see a tree planted - and you are planting five more! It is about falling forward.

  17. I would have had a difficult time cutting down a pecan, but mostly because I love pecans, and bake with them often! It is a shame to cut down a mature tree, but we've had to do the same here on occasion, especially when they threaten the house...or worse!

  18. I am always sad to see a tree taken down, whatever the reason. I can also commiserate with the eerie worrisome and anxiety ridden sound of a saw - my husband does woodworking in his off time. However, your new view is lovely - all the better to see that sunset.

  19. Sadly trees do sometimes have to be cut down for a variety of reasons, but the end result in your case is so worth it - what a view!(and the chance to re-scape and plant new things ...what fun!
    We've used my Land rover to help take trees down too :)

  20. wow what a huge job, well done everyone! I love pecans though so I am a little sad but can see exactly why it was for the best. Thanks for reminding me of Nell Jean's Blog, ages ago my blog list went bonkers and I'm still finding people again :)

  21. Wonderfull foto , greting from Belgium

  22. The logs are staying for landscaping and wildlife. And there is a frightening mountain waiting to be shredded.

  23. Ah, now I understand why you had space for new plants; taking down a big tree will open up a lot of space! Like Clare of Curbstone Valley, though, I'm not sure I could have brought myself to take down a source of free pecans; they are frightfully expensive in the supermarket. -Jean

  24. On the one hand it's very sad to cut a tree, on the other there is room for creativity and also better behaved plants.
    I was so sorry when we cut down our crab apple, but it was too big and never bloomed anyway.
    Have a nice day

  25. Pecans are my favorite - it's a little like dessert with it's sweetness (put it with ice cream and hot fudge & I'm a goner).

    It's amazing how the topography changes when a tree is felled. I look forward to what updates you make! You and the ungardener work so hard on your landscape - I'm in awe.

  26. I love pecans with my cinnamon. Yum. This is my first time to see a pecan tree. Sad though it was, I am sure you had good reasons. It is not always easy to take a tree down.

  27. Your beautiful view is worth it! I always cringe when a big tree is being cut down. I don't want to look! It is dangerous business.


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Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

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