Darkness, then laughter, in the wake of a May storm

The recent wind event created many stressful situations for people looking after trees.

Dave Lutes treewise
Dave Lutes

The tree world can be many different things to me. Some days it is full of joy as I work, climb and just plain bask in the glory that is a tree.

Other times it is full of things that are not so great. Accidents happen a lot. Many good men and women have been hurt or killed in my world of trees.

Dave at work, cleaning up after the recent storm.
Dave at work, cleaning up after the recent storm.

The recent wind event created a large number of stressful removal and pruning situations. It’s a time when urgency takes precedence over standard operating procedures. It brings out everyone who has a chainsaw and feels that they can get help fix the situation.

People that do this job every day realize the dangers of storm work. The daily grind has its challenges, too, from a safety perspective. But storm work trumps all that. If, for example, a tree is blown over and breaks a hydro line, the bark on its trunk can become the conduit that carries an electric current to the ground. If a tree smashes against a house, it could damage a beam, weakening the house or its own base may be broken, but not visibly; in either case instability poses dangers.

Homeowners are responsible for a large number of the accidents – to themselves, to others and to property – that result from storm damage. They don’t know what they’re getting into when they try to put things right.

But it’s your responsibility, Mr. Homeowner, to know when a job is above your pay scale.

The downside to a bad decision can be grave or giggles. You’d better hope for giggles. Owning a chainsaw is easy. But how many of you chainsaw owners have the safety gear that is required for using one? Raise your hands. As I suspected, not many.

As my favourite weatherman. Frankie McDonald, says, “Be prepared.” There’s the large pool of pros available to do the jobs that push your limits.

Keep in mind, though, not all companies are able to handle every job either. Not all have insurance, compensation or the proper gear or skill set. Go figure. Do your due diligence, is the advice that comes to mind. If you call in a helper, check out his/her credentials; make sure they are fully trained and equipped to do the job.

I am going to finish this month with a tale of a happy tree time for me.

I was asked recently to take a number of grade 3-5 kids from the Laureate Academy on a forest walk. In the midst of all this storm work, it was a great respite. My choice was Beaudry Park, in the southeast corner of headingley off Roblin.

Nothing beats the unbridled enthusiasm of that young age group. The forest was filled with their chatter and their laughter as they walked through that burr oak forest looking at all the life that exists there.

Every now and then we would just stop, listen and try to identify the many different things we could hear. A few seconds at a time is all they could manage to give up to fall silent and listen to the sounds of the forest. Would you expect kids to give up their chatter and laughter in the forest?

Though we didn’t see any big four legged animals, we did see dozens of ant hills. We brushed back the litter layer on the forest floor to see how that world works. Everyone walked through water, got a little muddy and seemed to have a blast. Sorry to the parents for that. It was my fault. I gave every little gaffer a hockey puck sized price of oak to remind them of the day.

As I bade farewell to the kids and the bus pulled away, I realized how much they had given me. It didn’t seem like the tree world was the dark place it had become for me after the storm. Many thanks to the Laureate Academy for the unforgettable time.

David Lutes, an ISA certified arborist, is an award-winning climber, renowned throughout the North American tree world for his dedication to his trade.

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