During the summer I imagine myself as having long stretches of time in the winter to work on brilliant, paradigm changing landscape design ideas. More often than not come January, a good month after my crew has performed their seasonal mutiny, I find myself alone swinging high in the branches of a tree.

I usually prefer to perform arborist work in the winter (and with a ground crew), but on this day several weeks ago I was struggling to climb a Sycamore tree after a heavy snow. Sycamore trees have smooth bark and can be tricky to maneuver around in dry weather. With a foot of snow on the elephantine limbs, it was proving to be next to impossible. From the look the little old lady next door was shooting me, it was probably verging on the obscene as well.

I made it 3/4ths of the way up the huge tree, stopped to catch my breath & had a look around. I noticed something I hadn't seen at ground level. In this older neighborhood I could see a distinct difference between the trees in the front yards as compared to the ones in the back. Most of the trees in the front yards were in pretty bad shape, whereas the ones in the back were healthy. It was easy to see what the difference was: the trees in the front yards had been given bucket truck tree "care" but the ones in the back (i.e. the ones the bucket truck "tree care providers" couldn't get to) were specimens of health and forest grandeur. Tree climbers don't do extra, unnecessary work like hacking off the top of trees.

But I get it. People get spooked about big trees hanging around their homes. They have visions of gigantic limbs falling through their roofs and crushing loved ones. They call Mr. Bucket Truck to bring these trees down to a "safe" height by topping, reducing and generally ravaging the tree. The irony is two-fold. First, the tree reacts by going into overtime to regrow the lost crown (convenient for Mr. Bucket Truck next year). Secondly, multiple new limbs emerge Hydra-like from each cut and are weakly attached to the tree at wound points that allow disease to infiltrate the tree. The very efforts intended to make the tree safer often do just the opposite.

I'd spent considerable time with this particular home owner trying to convince him that his trees were in great shape and only needed basic pruning. He looked dubious but finally seemed to acquiesce to my firm belief that the trees did not need to be "lowered". I still haven't got paid so maybe I didn't convince him?

UPDATE: I got paid.