Our favorite arborist, Henry Chandler, came by today and agreed that the problem was due to our use of heavy birdhouses. We promised to put all bird houses on poles from here on out.
This tree was leaning on three other trees and its entire crown was entwined with the branches of the other trees. Any effort to cut the trunk could precipitate uncontrolled movement of the tree. The tension in the flexed sections of trunk could produce movement in any of several directions.
Being an engineer and not an arborist, I had no clue how one could extricate this tree from the others without causing severe damage. I have seen tree companies use giant cranes in this kind of situation, but the wet clay soil would not support any type of vehicle.
Henry had an ingenious solution. He personally did the dangerous cuts into the bottom of the tree. Every notch he made caused the tree to move slightly. He stopped while there was still enough wood fiber to keep the tree base from shooting off the stump unexpectedly.
He had his crew tie a line to the tree just above the birdhouse and used a truck to put a strain on the line until the last few wood fibers broke at the base of the tree. The truck then dragged the fallen tree out of the tops of the other trees until it fell full length on the ground with a mighty crash.
The crew grabbed their chain saws and the tree was in sections in less than ten minutes. An inspection showed that the entire base of the tree had been eaten away by carpenter ants, so the birdhouse was exonerated of any fault in the matter.
Nevertheless, I took the remains of the birdhouse and put it in the trash. With three trees fallen under this same birdhouse, I wasn’t taking any chances.
As Henry’s tree care crew were dragging off the last of the branches, a doe emerged from a thicket and sauntered over to check on the corn supply. Life goes on as usual. She didn’t even wait for the strangers to leave the yard.