Why we are cutting down all our cedar trees.

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When we first moved into this house last September, the cedar tree you see above was in bad need of pruning.  Its branches were all over the roof and pushed up against the side of the house; it doesn’t seem like that would be a hard job, but my husband risked his life doing it because what you can’t see in this picture is that there is a steep drop off to a hill right behind that tree; our house is built into the back of that hill such that 1.5 stories are visible from the front, but another full story exists as a walk-out lower level when you look at it from behind.  So he was perched two stories up on a ladder trimming those branches – scary!  We debated cutting the tree down, but it’s a nice, mature tree so we decided to leave it.

I began noticing in the fall that smaller cedar trees had sprung up here and there all over our property.  My husband has cut those down now and we are waiting for a professional arborist to remove the big one next to the house.

Why?

Well, this past spring after a particularly heavy rain, one of our daughters came rushing in to inform us that there was orange snot all over the cedar tree.  She wasn’t kidding:

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Big, slimy globs of bright orange goo were hanging all over the tree.

“What the heck is that!?” I gasped, grossed out.

After some time spent online, I learned that is a fungal infection called Cedar Apple Rust.  It’s a very unusual fungus in that, like White Pine Blister Rust, it requires two years and two species of tree to complete its life cycle.  It starts out as hard, brown balls in the fall on cedar trees and sends out those orange globs of yucky stuff, which are actually the fungal spores.  The spores then become airborne and infect apple trees and other plants in that family (crabapples, Hawthornes, some pears, roses), resulting in a rusty infection on the leaves and severely blighted fruit.

You can see the rust blight now on some of our apple trees even though we sprayed them with Immunox, a fungicide, after we figured out what was going on:

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Since we are trying to grow our produce organically, we don’t want to have to keep spraying our trees, so we are taking out the cedars and we are planting apple cultivars that are resistant to Cedar Apple Rust.  You can find a list of apple cultivars, both heirloom and hybrids, that discusses each cultivar’s level of resistance to cedar apple rust here.  I ordered several Liberty and Empire trees to add to our little orchard because they are resistant to CAR and I shouldn’t need to do much spraying, if any at all.

The cedar wood will go to good use; it makes great fence posts because of the naturally-occurring resins in the wood, which make cedar wood slow to decay.  You can also use it to make nice camp fires in your fire pit without waiting for it to dry out, though it does smoke a bit as the resins burn.

Going batty.

One of my early memories is of a time when I was around three years old and a bat got into the old house we were living in while my father was at work doing third shift.  My terrified mother, who was only 20 years old at the time, called the police.  I remember my mother hiding in a corner with me while the two officers ran around the house with a broom and a blanket; they finally caught it with the blanket and whacked it to death with the broom.

When our eldest daughter was in third grade, her teacher did a unit on bats.  The teacher really liked bats, which rubbed off on our daughter, who became an amateur bat PR person and conservationist. One day she came home sobbing because her best friend, who was not in Bat Teacher’s class, unthinkingly said that she didn’t like bats, they were icky and scary and had diseases.

“They *hic* aren’t icky, Mom,” our girl cried. “Th-there good.  They eat bugs.  They don’t try to bite people. They’re…*sob*…misunderstood!  Bats are good!”

Yes, she was a sensitive child. Continue reading