My backyard has become a graveyard for the two majestic oak trees that once graced our front yard. We are strewing their ashes through the garden as mulch and splitting their bones to dry them for heat in the cold months of winter to come. The yard resounds with the rhythmic thwacks and cracks as Lee splits and stacks log after log. An 11-foot limbless trunk remains in the yard, ready to be possibly milled and turned into a table top. As we rest for a moment, Alke snatches a small split piece of wood and darts away, thoroughly delighted with his new oaken chew toy.
We have thought about cutting down these oak trees since we purchased the house as we wondered daily if our new garden were getting enough sunlight, a concern that was exacerbated by the constant rain and cloud cover in May. While the rain was a much-needed boon to our drought woes, it was a dreary way to limp through spring.
As we continued to evaluate our garden, we shifted from focusing on the guilt of removing those trees to what their loss would mean for us: a sunnier and healthier garden, space for fruit trees—possibly four!—and additional space for blackberries and raspberries. Moreover, we could plant additional beds of pollinator-friendly native flowers to both feed our bees and draw them to our garden. We could even expand the number of garden beds to grow vegetables that we lacked sufficient sunny space for this year, like sweet potatoes and popcorn.
Deciding to remove the trees was not easy, but we have no regrets as our plants have relished the extra sunlight. We plan to offer as much of an afterlife to those oaks as we can by turning them into useful objects in and around our home. Perhaps, by reusing so much of the trees ourselves, we can absolve ourselves of that wiggling, nagging guilt we have for cutting down such impressive trees. Or in a couple of years, perhaps, the thriving semi-dwarf heritage apple trees will be sufficient balm.