It doesn’t take long for a tree to come down – even a huge tree that’s three times as tall as the house. After more than 50 years of living, the tree came down in one morning. By lunch it was reduced to firewood and ground wood chips. All that remained was the perfume of spruce wafting through the old part of Grandin.
For arborist Dianne Hostyn, who with husband Derek owns Branches Tree Care, the physical agility required to climb such a tree then top off the branches with both a chain saw and a hand saw is demanding and exacting. It’s also somewhat emotional.
“Before I start, I always say a prayer. I thank the tree for its life. I thank it for its shade that it provided for so many years and then I tell it, ‘you need to return your energy to the Earth,'” she said.
For homeowner Judy Tate, who grew up in this house and later purchased it from her parents, the removal of two big old spruce trees caused mixed feelings.
“I planted the tree in the back, when I was a little girl, probably in about 1963. My parents planted all the other trees. They dug them up and transplanted from a friends’ farm next door to the farm where they grew up,” Tate said.
Perhaps in the early ’60s, no one thought how big those trees would be in 2015. Those once cute little conifers were planted less than a metre from the house. Now they were giants.
Previously Tate had a neighbour remove another tree, because it was becoming dangerous. But some branches on the two trees that were removed last week were just inches from the roof of the house and needed to be removed professionally.
Over the decades the front-yard tree matured with two main trunks that were so entwined, it appeared as twin trees hugging each other. At times Hostyn hugged them both too as she lifted her safety belt and hoisted herself up the tree.
Each branch was carefully cut, then lifted away from the house by her crew members. When she got above the roof, she attached a safety line to the heavy branches and they were pulled down on a zip line. The nubs left on the trunk by the fallen branches became Hostyn’s stepladder to the sky.
Hostyn and her husband called out information and safety instructions to each other every few minutes. When the roar of the chainsaw made conversation impossible, they used hand signals.
Then, she was all alone near the top of a wobbling tree. As she reached over her head, a braid of hair slipped out the back of her hardhat. Frustrated she wiped her face and leaned back onto the twinned trunk swaying with it in the wind.
Again she hugged the tree. Above her the sky was blue and all around the air smelled like Christmas.
“Ready?” she called. “Ready!” her husband yelled back, all the while, holding taut the rope that guided the final cut tree top to the ground. Just the top alone was at least three metres tall.
It landed with a thump but even the tree’s final cry sounded for just one second. In that instant, the ground in Tate’s front yard shook. And it was over! The rest of the tree was down within minutes.
At the base of the tree, Hostyn took time to talk about her job. The fringes of damp hair curling around her face were covered with sticky things from the tree. She brushed cobwebs and likely bugs from her face and head. Yet she claimed, she craves height and the sensation of climbing.
“I try not to look down because you have to be focused. You have to figure where your next cut will be and you have to be thinking all the time because it is dangerous. Still, sometimes, when I am up there and waiting for my crew I look out and it is beautiful. I’m so focused, I hardly notice the tree swaying,” Hostyn said.
Hostyn would not give her exact age, except to say she was, “close to 40.” Yet each summer day, without a thought, she makes her kids’ lunches and heads out the door herself to climb a tree. She is strong and cautious and is always wary of all the surprises that may be lurking 30 feet up in the air.
“I’m not afraid of the height. I am afraid of hornets. Hornets scare me,” she said.
Tate was relieved the work was done and she no longer has to worry that a storm will send the tree crashing into her roof.
“It was emotional when the first tree came down a few years ago. I remembered my siblings jumping over it as kids. But this time, when I came home, my first reaction, was, ‘Look at all the sun in the living room,” Tate said.