Take THAT!

It was a rough day. I buried myself in the requirements docs I’m supposed to be Human Dictionary for, shot a lousy round of Disc Golf at lunchtime (okay, I got some exercise, and I saw daylight), jumped back into the 400-page pile for four hours, and then headed home exhausted. My head was starting to hurt, and I wanted nothing more than a nice nap, and then some hardcore tooning.

The phone rang on the way home. That’s right, the Day Job followed me right into my house, and stompled nap-time with interruptive stompings. Oh well. That’s what they pay me for, and my work ethic says they’re going to get their money’s worth.

Well, while talking on the phone I needed something to do with my hands, so I started pruning the last bits on the “pom-pom” tree at the front of the house. When the call ended I realized I was enjoying the spot of yardwork, so I got out the ladder and headed for the high bits.

I remembered that LAST year the ladder I used was a 16-foot rental. The five-foot stepladder I actually OWN was good enough to get one patch of high bits, but that left the top of the tree candling furiously for the sky.


Note that this particular tree is a Scotch Pine. When we purchased it 5 years ago this “pom-pom Scotch Pine” was described as only wanting to be about 15 feet tall. This was a polite lie. If you keep it trimmed, it will be the size you trim it to. What it “wants to be” however, is a majestic 100-foot forest giant, and if your house is too close, it’ll bust right into the basement the same way trees of its kind have been ripping rocks off of cliffs for aeons.

Thus, in the last two years since I discovered this important fact about the tree I planted RIGHT NEXT TO MY HOUSE I’ve been working on my mad skillz as a Bonsai Artist. Today I looked up at the tree and realized that if I let that bit on the top remain where it was, the tree was going to reach for the sky in no time, putting on upwards of four feet a year. In ten years I’d have fifty feet of tree straight up from the front door, and a permanent guest in my downstairs office.

I got out the saw, and worked on my mad haxx0r skillz.

I then climbed INTO the tree and worried the NEW (and now-much-lower) top of the tree into pom-pummled submission.

So far, so good.

About the time I finished, I realized my head hurt and my stomach hurt. You see, I have allergies. I’m being treated for them, but apparently crawling into the middle of a madly pollinating butchered scotch pine and lopping bits off while getting covered in sap (to which the pollen, the needles, and the bark all stick) was a bit much for my immune system to put up with.

The moment I realized I was in a spot of trouble I jumped off the rock, ran inside, stripped naked and did NOT stand in front of an open window. No, I jumped into the shower, and sat out of the stream (which I had running on full-hot) for 15 minutes to work up a decent sweat (sweating will take off the sap from BENEATH much more effectively than soap will from above). I then soaped up, rinsed off, and changed into fresh clothes.

This was the point at which things got dicey. I was still having a spot of allergy attack. Shakes, puffy eyes, headache… Sandra found me downstairs in front of the computer, ascertained that I was now sick, and brought me a Claritin and some Diet Pepsi.

Good news. It worked. I was able to pencil five rows (a Sunday and two weekdays), which is a LOT more Schlock than I usually get done When Allergies Attack.

Then I got distracted and wrote this. I may get another couple of rows out before I hit the (NOT hay NOT NOT NOT) sack.


25 thoughts on “Take THAT!”

  1. I’d have to suggest the following caption for the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics of that tree of yours: ‘Bonsai meets Severe Tree Surgery’

    Also, reading stories like your own make me very bloody glad that I don’t get allergy attacks like this. It’s been years since I’ve had anything serious like that – most of my time’s spent sneezing, coughing, or with a runny nose due to the mild histamine attacks. Maybe red eyes, if the season’s REALLY bad… but at least spring’s passed ans I’ve survived it so far with little more than a dead box of Kleenex for my troubles.

    Say, how do you feel about Chinese herbal medicine?

    1. Never tried it, probably never will. The treatment I’m getting is “herbal,” though. They inject me once every seven to ten days with .75cc of the stuff I’m allergic to in three .25cc shots.

      Three years ago an allergy attack would have laid me up for a day, and for 30 to 60 days out of the year I’d pretty much have to live in an air-conditioned environment.

      Today I can climb into the middle of a sap-and-pollen factory and not die. I’d say we’ve made some progress.


      1. Yeah, that’s progress.

        All I know is that, for me at least, that’s worked pretty well where more traditional docs have said I’d always have weak lungs and be deathly ill from just about anything that ran into me.

        Five years after being told that, I was never ill and my lung problems and allergies had become mere annoyances. Fifteen years after THAT, I only get ill for about twenty-four hours with things that tend to kill other people (see the flu epidemic last winter).

        Amazing what sometimes slips under the cracks, isn’t it?

      2. It sounds like you’re on a regimen of low doses for the thing that induces a toxic reaction – I seem to remember that that was a way for a person to become immune to a number of poisons – just not the *GARGLECHOKEflop!* poisons. 🙂

        1. Not so, not so…

          It’s not toxicity. It’s immune response. These things are only “bad for me” because my immune system overreacts to them. We’ve taught it not to.

          I don’t think this will work with things that block nerve receptors, eat your stomach lining, or burn your lungs. Sure, with some poisons it might. We all know it works with (ahem) “iocane powder.”


  2. *Aye, ye may take mah top branches, but ah’ll gie ye sitch a sair heid dain’ it!*

    Hope that headache clears up for yah 🙂

    1. umm . . . by mistake?

      We planted the tree shortly after we bought the house. Howard loved the look of the Pom pom pine and begged nicely for it. I agreed that the budget could cover it and into the ground it went.

      It was two years later that Howard’s yearly hay fever got bad enough that we had him tested and began treatment. I suppose that having the tree there didn’t help, but there are so many pine trees in our neighborhood that I don’t know it made all that much difference.

    1. Yeah, right.

      The TREE got a haircut. Howard had to go through decontam and get medicated. Who owns who here, meatboy?

      1. Haircut?

        Hey, I sawed through the four-inch diameter trunk, and took at least 30 kilos of mass off the top of the tree. This “haircut” is going to leave the tree bleeding sap for the next month.

        And this morning I feel just fine.

        –Howard “No, you SHOULD see the other guy” Tayler

        1. Oh, sure…

          … try to get technical on me, huh? Just remember, you were taking on an immobilized object. How hard is it to cut something that can’t move? But it still got a piece of you… 😉

          1. Re: Oh, sure…

            If you want to get technical, it got a whole bunch of pieces _on_ him. Y’know. The sap.

            OK, maybe it’s not my best, but bah!

      2. Re: Yeah, right.

        The tree got totally decapitated. At least the second picture looks like he took a big chunk of the tree and just went BLAOW.

        Further, meatboy?

        1. Like I said to Howard…

          That’s real impressive, chopping a piece off something that CAN’T MOVE! But it STILL got its revenge. So there!

          As for “meatboy”, well, what else would a tree call you?

        2. Note also…

          … that Howard admits the crucial point later on: that part of the tree’s more like a finger. The REAL tree is the root system, and even the Schlockinator isn’t touching that yet. So it’s not like decapitation.

  3. As I recently posted on Usenet…

    … PAVE THE EARTH! I’m allergic to virtually everything in nature! Plastic, Glass, Concrete and Steel Forever!

    I think trees, grass, furry creatures, and flowers would be wonderful… if they were made all of nylon or something similar. I get the same allergy symptoms you do; I therefore do not DO yard work, because it’ll cost me a day and a half to two days of suffering, which I generally can’t afford.

    1. It IS very neat

      You have to be able to take the 360-degree, 3D tour to really see it, but it’s a very, very cool frontispiece for the house. The “rock” there is four feet high and had to be placed with a backhoe BEFORE the driveway was poured, because the weight it puts on any machinery moving it will crack concrete under front wheels.

      The tree itself has two junior companions, both Scotch Pines as well. So I have THREE 100′ forest-giant-wannabes within four feet of the foundation. Fortunately the smaller two are under control.

      The goal here is large-scale bonsai. I’m trying to torture all three trees into growing sideways and twisty rather than straight up and pointy. Left alone, they’d all look like classic christmas trees. So far it’s working pretty well. On one of the trees in the front I wound a pair of candles (the new shoots) together and wired them together so they’d stay. I have a patch of spiral trunk for my efforts now. In yesterday’s session I took one of the two top clumps and bent it down until the core of the branch broke, but the living layer was still intact (although split in one place). This will heal fine, but it will get knotty and horizontal.

      The one Bonsai technique I don’t have the ability to perform here is trimming of ROOTS. This means the tree is ALWAYS going to be growing aggressively, and I’ll always be reshaping it as I keep it small. If I could trim the roots, then I’d really be able to let the tree know who’s boss.


      1. Re: It IS very neat

        I was contemplating using three 3′ scotch pine pom poms as foundation plantings within 2 feet of my home’s foundation but had concerns re possible foundation damage. What wasn’t clear to me was whether these CAN be controlled with pruning whether or not that includes root trimming. If it’s that difficult, are there other pine cultivar/conifer substitutes that have that natural cliffside windswept look without resorting to the ubiquitous aborvite or blue spruce topiaries? Thanks.

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