13 December 2008

The Highest and Best Use of Monterey Pine

There are about 15 Monterey Pines on my property. Technically speaking, they are aliens to this natural oak woodland. They were all planted here decades ago and most of them are mature. This means that they are all about 90 feet tall and are in danger of falling down on me or my house.

The neighborhood association here is fanatical about trees: they'd rather I molest schoolgirls than cut down a tree. But surprisingly, that dictum only applies to natives, and the Monterey Pines don't qualify. They actually encourage homeowners to cut them down.

It's not cheap to cut down a big tree, not to mention a shock to the local micro-ecosystem. The summer of '07 we cut down three of the Monterey Pines: Two that were leaning over the house in a very threatening manner, and one that was making the lives of two handsome Redwoods less than pleasant. I instructed the tree cutters not to haul them away, but instead to cut them into 16" rounds and leave them where they fell.

Using a power splitter, I've spent many enjoyable hours turning those big, 100 pound rounds into firewood. Each of the two big trees yielded around six cords of wood. I stacked the cords among the oaks on the East side of the property. I think these ricks of split pine are very handsome.

Monterey Pines are lovely trees; they form beautiful silhouettes against the evening sky, but their needles cover everything underneath them including my vehicles and smaller oak trees. Their knotty, weak wood isn't good for making anything. But in the fireplace, the pitchy wood burns fast and hot with friendly crackles and bright flame. I'm convinced that the highest and best use of Monterey Pine is when it's going up in flames in the firepit outside, while family and friends sit around it, sipping adult beverages and listening to good music. In the summer when Scott's homies come visiting, the music is best of all, because it's homemade bluegrass.
This coming summer, I'm hoping to take down another two or three of the big suckers and split up another dozen cords of pine. It'll be fun.