And a part ridge in a pear tree
Tuesday March 13th 2007, 6:13 pm
Filed under: My Garden

There were once three Modesto ash trees towering over our backyard here. One died well before we arrived, and the former owners had left the thick trunk lopped off at about eight feet high. Woodpeckers nested near the top of the dead wood every year, and if you were still, you could watch the parents flitting in zigzags from the branches of the remaining trees above it, never flying directly into the nest but always feinting right, then left, then darting in at the last. Sometimes you could even see them feeding their babies; we held ours up high so they could look in and see, too, from a safe distance.

Those other two trees, though, were attacked by the clouds of unpredatored white flies that hit California not long after we moved here; borers moved in for the kill, and a quarter of one ash fell across our yard and beyond in a storm. They were a danger. We had plans to add onto the house anyway, and they were in the way. Down they all came.

The next spring, our woodpeckers came back. Where were their trees? Hey! And so, they ringed the ornamental pear out front: they pecked a series of closely-connected deep holes, most of the way around, to cut off the flow of the sap. A naturalist explained to me why: it wouldn’t be ready this year, but by the next it would be dead and easier to carve a new nest out of. Just the natural order of things adjusting to the new circumstances. The sap oozing out attracted ants, which would provide food for the birds.

I heard them going at it, but didn’t realize till later where they were and what was happening. The pear tree suffered, badly; half the leaves turned quickly brown and we were sure we were going to lose it. It is hard, at times, for someone who grew up in the woods like I did to live in such a city place as it is here, and I need every tree; I didn’t want to lose this one, too.

The next year about a third of the leaves that came out grew to only half their normal length before giving up and turning a shrivelled brown. There was just not enough sap getting through with that break line in the trunk.

Same thing the next year.

But by now it has been a dozen years. I hope the woodpeckers have long since found a new spot; this tree was far too close to the ground for them anyway, the neighbors’ cats could have reached them where they pecked it. But. Somehow that flowering pear, not much more than a sapling when it got ringed, survived the process, and it grew and bloomed more and more just the same.

And look at it now.

Happy Spring.

13 Comments so far
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What a master of the written word you are! And what a cool story. I often drove past a house I grew up in, wanting to knock and say hello. . .now it has been torn down for land for the nearby rec center. Funny. Take trees down to build houses, then take a house down to plant trees. . .

Comment by Anonymous 03.14.07 @ 9:28 am

Thank you! You know, about ten years ago we drove with our four kids and my parents and the two of us all squished into our minivan going from here to Utah, where my mom grew up, to see her 95-year-old mom. Along the way, we stopped in Carson City, Nevada, and circled the block while trying to talk Dad into it. Finally, we parked the car and all piled out.

There was a three-year-old boy peddling gleefully on a trike on the sidewalk in front of the house there. Dad knocked on the door, and the young mom saw this huge troop of strangers standing around, while Dad was saying, “My father built this house. Do you mind if we look around?”

She invited us all in, and it was very cool to get to see the inside, as Dad was pointing out touches his dad had done here and there.

When we were all outside again, Dad was looking up at a tall pine, and the woman said it had been hit by lightning, survived all but the crown, and had grown split in two from that point.

The little boy on the trike was looking way up with us; Dad turned to him and said, “You see that tree?”


“I used to jump over it.”

That little kid’s eyes got huge as he looked at the tree, at Dad, at the tree again… NAH!…

Comment by AlisonH 03.14.07 @ 10:37 am

How wonderful that it survived! We just lost four birch trees. 🙁 I miss them.

Comment by Romi 03.14.07 @ 11:33 am

My comment? I can now post comments.

Comment by Robin 03.14.07 @ 12:07 pm

They’ve been overhauling Blogger and breaking stuff–sorry about that.

Comment by AlisonH 03.14.07 @ 12:37 pm

Oh, Alison! You had me the whole time. I got so wrapped up in that story…and then to see that beautiful tree! It was such a treat after working hard at my p-patch today. Thank you so much.

Comment by Janet 03.16.07 @ 7:22 pm

[…] having shown you my “Part ridge in a pear tree” a few months ago, I thought I’d show you what it looks like now.  The tree continues […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 12.24.08 @ 6:26 pm

[…] but I want to give her a little time: she and her family bought a house last week.  Meantime, my flowering pear, the one we once thought we were losing, has burst into bloom in the last few days, throwing up its […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.15.09 @ 7:19 pm

[…] I looped that twine around the top of a small dead branch and hung it up there.  My thought was to give them something woodsy and comfortable for them to perch on and then make the jump over from.  Maybe they like to zigzag their way in, the way we’d seen some feeding their young. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 06.09.09 @ 9:25 pm

[…] the feeder.  It was gorgeous and big and I hadn’t seen one of those since we’d had to cut down the ash trees.  Wow.  All I had to do was welcome its neighbors and it felt right at home too.  I wonder what […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 06.30.09 @ 6:42 pm

[…] this post? Our flowering pear has a nest in it for the first time this year. I guess it’s gotten tall […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.26.11 @ 9:32 pm

[…] getting snow, too, only it just seems suspended up in the air for the moment… (Looking at this post makes me want to be able to show you how much bigger the flowering pear is now vs. then. I had not […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 03.16.13 @ 10:57 pm

[…] And in between it went through this but this past March looked like this. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.17.13 @ 9:53 pm

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