As I mentioned in a prior post, we had planned to replace the pine in front of our house with a fir tree that was planted over a decade ago in memory of my mother-in-law, Stella. Watching men-in-trees remove huge limbs and drop the better part of a 75-foot pine makes for good tree TV so we spent the morning watching it be taken down. There was little damage save for a few old fence boards that got damaged when they were removed so as these things go it was a big success.
But now the fir needs to be transplanted into its new spot. (It had to be either moved or taken down as it was smack in the middle of where our new septic tank has to go. There was really no choice.) This tree is very important to our family as it is also our outdoor Christmas tree; I built a wood border around it in the shape of a star (or stella.) My mother-in-law loved Christmas as she mixed the Latin American Catholic tradition of building a nacimiento (nativity scene) with the German/English/American tradition of a Christmas tree.
My father-in-law Ernesto would go out every year to a local nursery and purchase a balled fir or spruce tree and bring it home to be decorated. Even though it was tiny by some standards, my wife’s family would decorate it top to bottom with Christmas tree ornaments leaving plenty space at the bottom for the nativity. After Christmas, the tree would be planted in the yard. This continued for nearly 30 years after which we ran out of places to plant these trees and Ernesto harvested a Christmas by topping 6 to 8 feet off of the trees he had planted decades earlier.
So it was natural for us to plant such a tree to keep this tradition going.
The first few years it was easy to decorate the tree. I looked down at it and with a single string of lights it was able to come to life. This continued for the next few years though it seemed that we had to add another string or two. Soon, however, I was climbing 6-foot ladders with a half-dozen strings of lights that were linked with a multi-pronged connector wrapped to the trunk of the tree with duct tape.
I attempted to stunt its growth using a combination of Bonsai and western pruning techniques. But for every top I lopped off, two or three quickly grew in its place. The more I trimmed from the side branches the more they were stimulated to grow extras and thicken up. It was as if Stella was telling me to back off that no mater what I did, she would continue to grow and reach for the skies. Last year I had to get up on my 10-foot ladder now that the tree was over 14 feet high. It didn’t matter as every Christmas the tree looked better than the prior one, particularly when dusted with snow like so much powdered sugar.
So the big day came yesterday when the tree had to be dug up and surprisingly it went very well. A small excavator dug a large trench around the tree and two workers cut out the bottom. It was then lifted out of its hole with a bulldozer and brought over to the front of the house.
While I have never been a big fan of large machines in the garden it was amazing to see how quickly and efficiently a tiny excavator combined with a bulldozer could move the tree. They were able to transfer it exactly to the spot we wanted and after four wheelbarrows of compost, two bucket loads of soil and a stone retaining wall that I had to build, it looked like the fir always belonged there. While August is not the best time to move a tree, the root ball had few roots emerging from it, which is a good indication that it will take. I’ll water the ball every day and I think we will have a great new tree. The only thing I’m worried about is Christmas. I don’t think I have enough lights.