a sudden oak death

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This is not a bush behind our house. And the odd appliance in the center is not harmless, it is a chainsaw.

Jen and I were recovering from Burning Man on Labor Day, resting our exhausted selves and doing laundry, when we heard a big crash behind the house. Looking out the upper window above the kitchen, we saw a lot of greenery that wasn’t there a moment ago. Much to our surprise, one of our coastal live oak trees came down. On a clear, sunny and calm day, no less.

We actually waited a couple of days to go up the hill and find out what happened. This 18” oak was growing out at an angle, leaning toward our house, and I guess it was just it’s time to come down. The miracle is, it missed the other oak on the right side of the photo, and was too short to hit the house. Our little wood lot has been quite stable for several years, with no loss of trees…however August and September (the end of the dry season), always seems to be the time if we lose one. This is the third tree to come down on our half-acre in 12 years.

Of course, this is a Power Tool Moment. I’ve spent two morning up there with my trusty Stihl chainsaw, reducing the massive stalk into a hundred pieces. We need hardwood to heat our cabin in Lassen, so this tree will not go to waste. I got my ration of exercise carrying logs down the hill and loading the Jeep. I now have a very personal relationship with this tree, knowing every inch of trunk, seeing all the new growth that is suddenly at an end, dragging the slash into a pile for future disposal. And my back has deep respect for the mass of even a moderate-sized tree like this 🙂

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Looking closely at the broken stump just a couple of feet above the ground (on the right, in this pic), I realize this tree was diseased. The tell-tale signs of Sudden Oak Death are here, brittle crumbling brown bark, globules of dark sap oozing. This tree has been weakened. If it hadn’t snapped, then perhaps it would have died next August, finally succumbing to the stress of the fungus that has killed so many coastal live oak in Marin.

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