God’s Joinery

April by

Is there a more obviously structural element in a garden than a tree? Strong and yet so maleable. When my lady and I moved to where I have no lived for some seventeen years there was a plain, rectangular house and a couple of small sheds on a half-acre lot pretty-well stripped of vegetation but for three large cedars.

As we filled in with hedges and gardens, a greenhouse and a shop those cedars, lovely as they were, became….mmm…problematic. Too much shade, too thirsty, the roots of one too likely to damage the septic field.

So, reluctantly, one at a time, I decided to ‘deal with them.’ Doing so myself would allow me to implement the decision more thoughtfully, more creatively than hiring someone to do what is usually done and what they are optimally equipped to do.

I realized that I didn’t want to immediately eliminate everything the cedars offered. The pure mass of them had some appeal, likewise their rootedness.

They could serve as core fence-posts or supports for vines. They could be carved. Salal loves to grow around them and salal berries can u ‘real nice’.

I had to bring it down in sections of thirty-feet maximum to avoid incidental damage…..to the house for instance.  So, starting with a ladder I worked my way up the first cedar, leaving stubs to climb and descend on and the odd branch long as hand holds.  I chose to do it in late winter to avoid damage to new growth if I happened to hit one of the garden beds. Unfortunately, with the sap not yet running, stripping the bark was a major chore. So, I wanted to avoid that when taking the second tree down.

It had also occurred to me, while up the tree, that leaving the branch stubs longer would have given me some interesting options.  So for the second cedar I waited for the sap to start running, left the branch stubs about eighteen inches long, stripped the bark from the standing tree and limited damage to the ground by dropping sections of about sixteen feet in length, leaving a stump paired to that of the first cedar at about twelve feet high.

I cut the downed lengths  into sections four to eight feet long and ripped each in half lengthwise with the chainsaw, optimal branch-stubs retained. With the flat side down I trimmed the branch stubs to what struck me as reasonable lengths for legs, flipped the sections up onto them, went back and forth a few times to get everything level and found myself with several sturdy and interesting garden benches featuring God’s joinery.  They should easily hold up longer than I will.

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