There was a row of spruce trees along the back yard that were about 4’ tall when we moved into our home in 1986. By 2016 they had grown to over 20’ and formed a great screen between our yard and a neighbor’s yard. This past fall and winter one of the trees just quickly declined and died. It is in fact the first tree on the right in the second photo which looked pretty healthy in 2015. The remaining trees appear to be fine. We decided to take it down and I had hoped that there might be a clue as to the cause of its demise.


Winter 1986



Winter 2015


Although the other trees in the row looked fine this particular tree had no needles left on any of the branches. The first step that my husband took was to remove as many limbs as he could safely reach. What remained looked like a very sad cell tower although the birds didn’t seem to mind and still liked to perch there. The image below that shows the felled tree shows the top of the tree and the state that the branches were in. The next step was to use a chain saw to fell the tree. I must state that my husband is not a professional in this area but we did look at some reliable videos on YouTube so that we could follow the proper safety precautions and cutting procedure. We knew that there was a good, safe area for the tree to fall that was not near the house or deck.

The first step was to mark the cutting lines on the tree. Then, suited up with safety goggles, heavy gloves, steel-toed boots and our son’s old lacrosse helmet the cutting began. The first two cuts created the wedge that is removed on the side of the tree that it will fall toward. Next was the horizontal cut on the opposite side that does NOT go all of the through to the wedge. From this point the tree should fall into the first wedge and drop.


This tree did not want to go down quickly and it took several additional very minor incremental cuts until it began to fall forward at an unbelievably undramatic rate. The trunk didn’t even hit the ground, the remaining branches on the top kept it perpendicular to the plane of the earth.

So wouldn’t the next step be to cut the trunk it manageable pieces? Well, it would unless your son is looking for a 125 lb. log to use to practice a caber toss for next year’s Scottish games! It sits behind our shed waiting for him.


I had asked my husband to leave about a 2 ½’ stump hoping that I could do something decorative or whimsical with it. A great garden shop that I visit in Manchester had just the bowl portion of a birdbath, the base having been ruined at some point. I brought it home and my husband drilled a hole in the center of the stump so that the base would nest securely in it. I also applied polyurethane to the bark of the stump so that it was the same shade and finish of the bowl. They look great together.



I didn’t really see any distinct indications as to the demise of the tree. There were few bored holes near the top which could have been the result of woodpecker or sapsucker feeding. If they were from a borer I didn’t see any tunnels or galleries that went on extensively. In fact, the heartwood, sapwood, and cambium layers all looked surprisingly healthy. The problem could have been root-related but as we didn’t dig out the stump that will remain a mystery.


Did you know that the Europeans that arrived in North America in the 1600s that Connecticut was more than 90% covered by forested land? Even though the Native Americans burned the forests in the spring and fall to eliminate underbrush and provide a better habitat for the game that they hunted their habits did not have a very big impact on the landscape. The influx of colonists however, with their need for lumber for housing, furniture, and barns, not to mention wood for fuel and cleared land for farming caused forested acreage to decrease steadily until it reached an all-time low in 1820 when only 25% of the state of Connecticut was considered forested. This also affected the animal populations that depended on the wooded areas for their habitats but also led to an increase in soil erosion.

When the Erie Canal opened in October of 1825 it unintentionally caused this trend to be reversed. As it became easier to transport produce from large mid-West farms the smaller farms of New England began to disappear. Percentages of forested land increased to the point that by the 1950s 70% of the state was once again forested.In fact, a recent photo opportunity showed a freight train that was hauling lumber from California and Canada, not Connecticut.


Connecticut is one of the most densely populated states and even with the effects of urban sprawl we are still considered one of the most heavily forested states with the current percentage close to 60% according to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The DEEP works with private landowners, state and town municipalities, and local forest industries to protect Connecticut’s forest resources. Among the information that they share is their work with two current invasive species that are causing harm to our hardwood trees: the Asian Longhorned Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer. The insect images are from the DEEP website.

Connecticut, along with the rest of the New England states, is known for its spectacular displays of fall foliage. This year’s water shortage may affect this year’s show but not as much as a reduction in our forested areas would. Nowhere in Connecticut are you too far from a forested area and the beauty that they provide year-round.

Susan Pelton