Wednesday, April 8, 2015


When you've lived on a piece of land for some time, you begin to know it intimately. When my third child was born, I created a dark cave for us to spend her first two weeks in.  She was my third, my last baby, and I wanted that postpartum time to nurture us both.  I tucked us away at the back of the house where it was quiet. While I spent those two weeks resting and enjoying my babe, I had another constant companion.  Outside our bedroom window was an oriole.  A Baltimore oriole sat perched in this giant hemlock outside our window.  All day as I sat holding my baby girl, I would watch this brilliant orange-colored bird shine against the lush, deep green branches of the hemlock.  The stunning contrast of colors was food for my sleep-deprived soul.

When my daughter turned one the following spring, we noticed the ends of the branches on that same hemlock were turning brown.  We were worried that putting in our septic had disrupted its roots. The spring my daughter turned two, the hemlock that was home to my constant companion those precious weeks after my daughter was born was completely dead.  This spring, as my daughter turns three, we will be cutting that hemlock down.

my girls playing under the branches of that hemlock
 a year and a half ago

that same hemlock today

My children also loved that tree, for it was the provider of small hemlock cones, perfect for fairy houses and all sorts of natural play.  My children came running up to me the other day to tell me their tree wasn't giving cones anymore.  They didn't notice it's dry brown branches, just that it's usual offering to their play was missing. We all loved that hemlock and another that is at the end of our property that provides a large, much needed shady space in the heat of summer and is the place where we first saw our owl friend this winter.  We noticed that the ends of its branches are beginning to turn brown as well.

The hemlocks in our woods are all dying.  We hoped it was an isolated incident, but this spring we are noticing that the hemlocks in our yard and up and down our road are all turning brown at the end of their branches.  The hemlock wooly adelgid is a tiny invasive insect and it's wreaking havoc in the woods I love.  I am hoping this cold winter will have stopped its spread through our forests, but only time will tell.

When you live on a piece of land you begin to know it well; it becomes an extension of your home. We are taking care of our remaining hemlocks the best way we can, but we are also savoring them, in case the day comes when they are missing from our home.

white clumps or "cotton" at the end of the
hemlock branches are the telltale sign of
 the hemlock wooly adelgid

small hemlock cones are perfect for fairy houses and all sorts of
nature crafts and play

beautiful striped underside of the hemlock needles

1 comment:

  1. We had an old, old sycamore in our yard. It was rotting from the inside out. When we finally decided it needed to come down safely (it was shedding HUGE limbs) before taking out our house or the neighbors', we were all sad.
    PS I love tiny hemlock cones too.