Old Fred Astaire movies were on TCM, and we had been watching the beautiful full moon rise. Farm Boss went outside to photograph it. Then I heard what sounded like firecrackers and him yelling for me to get outside the house NOW! Without the cats? I yelled but went out.
So there I stood wearing only my nightgown and in bare feet in our new garden asking him why the heck I should get out and repeating what about the cats. He said our big oak tree was falling on the house, about to destroy it, and it going down was the sound I heard. I can't describe the feeling from hearing that, as it's as if your world is safe and mundane one moment; then the next-- could it all be destroyed?
I knew these oak trees were nothing to take lightly as they are well over a hundred years old, one we know has an invasive rot at its base. At over a hundred feet tall, they have substantial weight. Such trees have killed the unwary when a tree suddenly falls for no known reason other than some crucial dynamics were finally met. I've heard huge crashes along the creek with absolutely no wind and only one possibility-- a mighty tree has fallen. When hiking in the woods or wading up a stream, pay attention to small sounds. They often are precursors.
We had been meaning to get an arborist out here to check on the one with the rot but just hadn't yet done it. We had also been meaning to have some of the big limbs cut off but again it's finding the right person as those limbs are way high and would be dangerous for the wrong person to remove. It takes an expert. We know people who were killed or crippled by a mistake where it comes to big trees.
To make a long story short, I walked down through the vegetable garden, which is on the safe side of the house, broke into our bedroom screen door, got dressed, and did what he said-- went to the trailer where he felt it'd be safe. He brought one of our three cats (the one he could catch) who thought it was a nice, if nerve wracking adventure as he alternately purred and bit me lightly.
About that time, Farm Boss decided the banging sound and his seeing the big tree trunk shaking had actually only been one big limb splitting, and it would be safe to go back inside for the night. Reality is that tree would only take out the kitchen, utility room and maybe his office if it totally split or became uprooted (something oaks can do especially very old ones).
So back to the house we went with the one cat, got the other one in from the garden, fenced yard where she had run when I left the screen ajar for her to get out if she couldn't be caught. The old one, who is on his way out of life, never knew anything happened.
Farm Boss was pretty sure the tree itself wasn't about to fall but just to sleep better, I asked him to turn the house power off. I figured if the tree did violently split in two or fall toward us, fire would be our biggest danger.
Anyway next morning we called our insurance (boy is that useless for such a thing unless damage to roof and structure amount to over $10,000 which means we should up our deductible to that, i guess) and then calling places who can look at trees for health and with the equipment to remove the biggest limbs-- like the one now laying on our roof.
I have treasured these oaks. I've sat many hours on the deck looking up into the mysteries of their heights. Their beauty never ceases to touch my heart. They are part of the essence of our property here. The house nestles into them with great naturalness and beauty. I have though never underestimated their potential danger. They say watch in the spring that all have the same time leaves first appear as that would be the first warning of a tree about to die.
Not long after we moved here, we heard how these oaks had had metal bands around them back when horses and wagons crossed the creek at the ford near our home. The metal bands had made sawing them down particularly difficult as the bands became part of the inner tree. The trees and this crossing have a history. Living on a pioneer homestead has these aspects.
Their history is important but so is life and letting them be this close to the house (two are twenty feet or less) is something that has to be evaluated seriously. The other aspect is they form a grove which means in a windstorm they protect each other. So take down one or two and what will that mean for the rest?
Interestingly we have had plans to take the trailer on a little Oregon vacation. We have put off leaving for assorted reasons-- consulting work for Farm Boss, family fun, and ranch related responsibilities. If you didn't know, ranches, even the small ones, take a lot to get ready for owner absence. However, if we had been gone when this happened, it would have been a bad thing; so that's a good thing that we were here and can deal with it-- assuming we can get someone with the right skills out here. As for that vacation, it might just get postponed again...
Photos were all taken morning after the limb split. The one above shows the tree with the rot and you can just see the trunk of the one where a limb split and landed on the roof.