If it’s big enough it shakes the ground with the sound of tearing and crunching. Then comes the thump. The bigger ones may bounce once before coming to a full rest. It’s a site to see these once living giants fall, seemingly in slow motion, finally hitting the ground sending a dust cloud into the surrounding air.
Earlier this year 33 dead trees were removed from The Golden K. It’s a sad reality of living in the mountains after five years of drought and the dreaded Bark Beetles who take advantage of the water starved pines. The beetles bore into the trees and the trees are unable to generate the necessary sap to push them out. The beetles reproduce in the inner bark of the tree and this eventually kills the tree from the inside out.
The Golden K is not worse off for losing that many trees. There are still 110 pine trees, dozens of majestic Oaks, and a plethora of Cedars and Manzanita. In the long run the thinning of the pines will be better for the surviving trees.
So over a period of five days we watched our 33 dead soldiers fall and hit the ground. It was interesting to say the least as we watched the expert crew plan and prepare for each tree falling leading up to the chain saw cuts that send the tree to the ground.
Our 33 pines are only a blip on the map of the tens of millions of trees that have died and must be taken down. It’s a sad situation for those of us who are connected with the beauty of the mountains. Only time will tell what the impact will be to that mountain landscape.
Thankfully, the landscape of The Golden K is much the same. The thrash (all the limbs and branches) was all taken away but we were left with all the “wood” which was stacked up in “decks”. We’ll need to do something with them eventually but for now they remain as a symbol of the fragile balance of life and death and as a reminder of my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.
I walk around looking up in the air a lot these days. With my neck stretched as far back as my spine will allow I walk and look up at the tall trees.
We have hundreds of trees. Oak trees, cedars, manzanitas, and pines. The beauty they bring to the Golden K here within these Sierra Nevada Foothills goes beyond words. But it’s the pines that cause me to arch my back, stretch my neck and gaze upwards. The pines are terribly stressed from lack of water and crowding. This makes it hard for them to produce the necessary sap to fend off bark beetles from boring in, reproducing, and ultimately killing the tree.
I spend a lot of time placing hoses with deep watering spouts in the dirt around as many of the pines that I can reach. We’re fortunate that our irrigation uses well water and I can liberally inject water into the ground in an effort to help the trees stay alive. We had 14 of the largest pines around the house injected with chemicals that will kill the beetles if they invade the tree. The success rate is about 95% if the tree is treated before the beetles attack. It would be cost prohibitive to treat every single tree on the property but it’s also very expensive to have trees removed. It happens fast. One day a tree can look healthy with vibrant green needles and the next day you may notice the needles throughout the entire tree fading into a dull grayish green color and ultimately – within a couple of weeks – the tree is burnt toast.
When we bought The Golden K last December we knew there were 15 dead trees that eventually would need to be taken down. A few weeks ago we noticed four trees with needles dulling. Upon closer inspection we saw dozens and dozens of holes in the tree with tell tale red boring dust from the bark beetles as far as our eyes could follow up the tree. These trees are goners so the count is up to 19 that we are aware of.
I walk around our five acres with a combination of awe and wonder at the beauty of it all. I also walk around with a bit of anxiety and worry that seemingly healthy looking trees may be infected with beetles and I don’t know it yet. I feel sad when I think about the drought not ending soon enough and the face of the foothills, and The Golden K itself, may look significantly different in just a few years.
So I’m looking up. Looking up at at the pine needles in the tree tops that soar above the Golden K. I’m looking up in awe of Mother Nature. But mostly I’m looking up and praying for rain.