One of the things I thought about — with just a teeny bit of horror — when I started my tree project, was how the project could meet a premature end if something devastating happened to the old oak on the hill. When that tree falls — and I hope it is far into its future — I do not want to be anywhere around at the time. If I am still its caretaker, I will be sad if it was felled on my watch.
So, if you had been thinking that my camera or my tree met some sort of catastrophic event, don’t worry: that didn’t happen! It wasn’t even that I grew tired of taking photographs of the tree. I’ve been keeping up with my monthly shots of the old tree. I have just been forgetful about posting them here. In looking back over the last three months, it is amazing the change in the tree.
Here is what it looked like at the beginning of May:
I went away for a few days at the end of April and returned to find the tree with many unfurling leaves. I love the new-green color that all of the trees wear during the early weeks of spring. The sun was still high in the western sky as I took these, but was low enough to gently light one side of the tree. The second photo isn’t very good from a technical perspective, but I love that there were small flares in the upper right corner and the backside of several leaves were lit.
By the first of June, the leaves were completely uncurled.
Standing this far from the tree, the massiveness of its limbs isn’t immediately apparent. Because it sits atop a steep slope, it’s easy to not realize just how much larger this tree is than the surrounding trees. Up close, however, there is no doubt that this is an old tree! Many of the major limbs have a larger circumference than the smaller trees on this hill. A massive tree-size limb fell in January when we were away. The log which has been on the ground since then has an appointment with a chain saw in the next few weeks. I’ve been told that it will feed a massive bonfire. If I feel like braving the poison ivy and the prickly tall weeds near the fallen limb, I will likely take a snap or two or two hundred before it leaves the premises. I wonder how many rings will be visible?
Photos taken on the first of July do not look substantially different from those taken on June 1. Unlike last year, the trees haven’t gone into hibernation because of a drought. We’ve had a very wet month (hurrah!). The undergrowth, which is manly invasive honeysuckle, makes it difficult to get a good overall photo of the entire tree.
As I took the first shot, I was standing against a 5 foot high retaining wall. From there, two more terraces and smaller stone walls lean in against the hill. The tree is about another 50-60 feet away, and about 15 – 20 feet high. A topo map of this terrain in the middle of the flatlands is interesting to look at. I’ve been told it is ancient evidence of the glaciers retreating thousands of years ago, but I don’t have any idea whether that might be true or not.
When we first moved here, about 15 years ago when my now-grown son was just a boy, I helped him measure the circumference of the tree. While I doubt that we were very accurate, the length of string we tied around the trunk was between 14 & 15 feet. Using a calulator I found on the web and that rough estimate from years ago, the Old Oak is indeed very old — about 250 – 280 years. (See here for how to calculate tree age) Perhaps before the year is over, I’ll take a ball of string with me through the underbrush to the base of the oak and take a measurement again.
You can find other photos from my tree project here.