The Ash Tree

Day 264 of 365

Today, Ron had to fell a magnificent Ash tree in the chicken yard. He had to move the fence to get to it, which was just epic work, but he prepared and then studied and then consulted and then thought before he took it down. It was a very tall, very magnificent tree. It was tragic to lose it, but the poor tree had two giant branches at the top, and that plus some strong winds, we think, caused it to split right down the middle of the trunk. And the split was deep. It was going to come down at some point soon–and maybe on both the fence and chickens.

I could tell Ron was being really thoughtful about felling this tree. First of all, he has deep love and respect for trees as I do, but Ron also had an accident felling a tree many years ago. It was serious. It was tree to face! He still has scars all over his face and shoulders from the accident. He probably doesn’t want me to tell that story, but it seems important to share because it will help you understand my anxiety about today.

Yesterday, Ron told me he had everything ready and had a plan for taking down the Ash the next day (today). He was going to do it right after breakfast. I worried about it some, though I try not to. I realize he’s very careful when he does anything. We are both careful humans. This comes with pros and cons, of course, but it is who we are. Today, it was a pro. I knew he was well prepared.

Still, I worried a little when the friend who was going to help him this morning was sick and unable to be here. Then, when I asked Ron if I could help in any way and he said it was too dangerous for me to be out there without any experience, I started to worry a little more.

But he was out there a while before he started working on the tree, and I had grading to do, so I just went to work. I was engrossed in my essays when I heard an epic crash. The sound of a tree of that size falling is just epic. I could feel the BOOM. I jumped up with my heart in my throat. In the seconds it took me to get to the window, my mind raced back and forth between “he’s fine, I’m sure” and “but what if he’s not?”

When I got to the window, I put my hands up on it, just kind of out of this anxiety, and then I saw him, holding his chainsaw in one hand and, with his other gloved hand, holding up a big thumbs up! He knew that would have scared me, and he looked at me and smiled. And I felt so much gratefulness in that moment. I hit my hands on the window and smiled back.

When I went out to explore the tree, it was heartbreaking. I knew the tree was in bad shape with the split, but it was devastating to see it taken down. Such a beautiful tree. But Ron and our son will cut up and split that Ash, and it will keep us warm for two years Ron thinks. I am grateful to that tree for the warmth. It will be appreciated every winter day.

And I had an idea. I just looked it up and have been reading about how to regrow a tree from a stump. Surely it will sprout. I read regrowing the tree takes a lot of patience, but we definitely have to try.

A Perfect Ride

Day 153 of 365

Today, we managed a bike ride in the city forest. In the past month, our schedules have been so busy that we barely have time for bike rides, but we keep managing to sneak to the forest every chance we get. I still love riding my bike. I am getting better at it, too. I don’t feel so scared I’m going to crash and die all of the time. I am definitely the weakest link in our little trio, but Ron and our son stop every time there is a turn and wait for me, so I won’t take a wrong turn. Ron, forever the motivator, tells me what a good job I am doing. Our son, so completely a teenager, sometimes seems annoyed with my slowness–but only sometimes.

Today, he seemed tired, so while Ron did an extra lap around the forest, our son stayed with me until Ron came back around to us. While Ron was making the extra lap, my son went slowly the whole time, so I could keep up. We stopped for a while and talked about the trees. We saw a magnificent rabbit. We met a little porcupine. We had a great time, and because we were traveling more slowly than usual, I stopped quite a few times to take pictures.

It was the best bike ride of my life, and I am thankful for these pictures. I hope my son will remember this day, somewhere down deep–the bike ride with his mama in the beautiful city forest with the fantastic foliage and the little rabbit and porcupine. He’ll remember that, right?

It was just this perfect afternoon being with my family and the trees. One time, we stopped in a clearing for a break, and looked up to see like 50 beautiful birds flying high, right over our heads.

“I wonder that kind of birds they are,” Ron asked.

“I think they are crows, but they are so quiet. I’m not sure.” I responded.

And, then, as soon as I finished that sentence, as if just to let me know, we heard the “caw, caw, caw.”

I love crows more than I can say.

The pines were so tall I couldn’t get their tip tops in the picture, but aren’t they magnificent?
I am not sure, but I think the trees are extra beautiful this year. Usually, there is this kind of sequencing to the colors I notice, but this year, it’s like the trees coordinated. Some of them look like they are just on fire. Oh, how I love Maine.
This is one of the back trails we often take. This is where we met the bunny and the porcupine.
More of the trail–with magnificent color. Of course, the pictures cannot do it justice. Everyone says that because it’s true.
I think I could have gotten a closer picture of the bunny, as we were being very still and quiet, but some people came up behind us fairly loudly. The bunny hopped into the trees, but this is still a pretty good picture. The bunny was so incredibly beautiful.
I wish you could see his little face better in this picture. I could see his little face so well. I loved seeing this beautiful animal because our son, who is usually such a grumpy teen, was talking so sweetly to the little porcupine. That kiddo rebels agains my hippie ways, but I can see he has some hippie in there down deep.
And this is now my favorite picture ever.
And, when we got home, we had a pear-cranberry crisp I had made while the guys were doing homeschool math today. That was a little bit of perfection too, and I will definitely share the recipe tomorrow.

The Story of Two Fig Trees

by Eames J. Thai, guest blogger

Many years ago, when my dad worked at a Fred Myer in high school, he bought a small fig sapling on the clearance section there for 25 cents. An immigrant from Vietnam, his family often had things that were given to them or that they managed to acquire cheaply. Wilted and neglected, the poor sapling was brought back home by my father. Once my grandma saw it, she wasn’t at all phased by the look of the depressed fruit tree and immediately planted it in their backyard. 

Thirty years later and the fig tree is tall, healthy, and bears lots of fruit every season.  

My Ba Noi (Grandmother) brings us the figs from the tree in her backyard each year. She carries them from house to house with each fruit lovingly wrapped in paper towels and stacked in a bag with care. From a young age, they were my favorite fruit, so delicious and sweet. Ba Noi knew how much I loved them, so one day many years later, she brought us our own small fig tree sapling. Once again, it was on sale and not in the best condition.  

Fig tree. photo credit Jackie Thai

We planted this one in the corner of our back yard. It was merely a tall stick with a Y at the top. We watered it and put mulch around it. A year later, it had grown a bit but no fruit. The following year, it was bigger still and sprouted its first few fruits. The next year, the Y shape at the top was broadening, so my dad used string to train it and pull the branches closer together. That year, there were more branches and leaves, and about 20 figs had blossomed on its branches. This past year, the fig tree has grown taller and stronger and bore dozens of sweet, delicious figs. 

We spoke to a botanist at our local nursery who told us that most varieties of fig cannot grow here in the Northwest because it’s not hot enough here for them to fully ripen. So, there are only a few species of fig that can grow in Seattle weather. Our fig tree, the Desert King fig, is one of those species.   

In Spring as the fruit appears we begin counting them. Throughout the season, we like to keep a close eye on the figs, so we can pick them at peak ripeness and ensure birds or insects don’t get to them. The birds love our cherries but have not bothered the figs much. Our theory is that that the colossal leaves on the tree camouflage the figs from the birds, which is why they don’t eat them. We watch the figs while they ripen on our tree, gently squeezing them and watching for them to droop down indicating their ripeness. We get a ladder and help our dad pick the figs every year. It’s an exciting time for us. 

My family loves figs, but we don’t get to eat them too often. There’s only a small window of time when they grow in our backyard, and they only appear in grocery stores for a short period as well. But when we do get to eat them, we enjoy them in many ways. I like to bite right into them while my mom gently pulls them apart showing their light pink flesh. My family doesn’t just eat them raw, even though in my opinion that’s the best way to eat them. We also love to have them with brie or on toast with ricotta and a drizzle of honey. That’s my mom’s favorite. 

No matter how we eat them, they are a reminder of life’s sweetness. 

Author in fig tree. photo credit: Jackie Thai

Like these fig trees, my family came from meager beginnings. My Ba Noi came here on a boat with her four children, and my Dad and aunties worked in fields picking fruit alongside other immigrants at a very young age. Ba Noi eventually got a job as a caregiver in a day care. Their family moved around a lot but eventually found stability. Over time, they worked hard, got educations, and went from a family of five to over forty. Through it all, they had hope.

For many years to come, our fig trees and their fruit will serve as a reminder of all we have and all that is yet to come.  

Dedicated to my Ba Noi, my Dad Hoa, and my aunties, Thuy, Thu, Thao, Bi, and Binh.