Envision the Joy

Cutting and removal of a whole tree is heavy-duty garden work. Richard and I have two out-of-control Acacia trees at our back property line that we have been working diligently to remove. Our plan for the backyard area will then allow us to complete a greenhouse where the trees are now and create a nice area in the corner for us to relax. The elevation of this house is high in comparison to most of the land surrounding us, and we are blessed with a stunning view of the hills that surround us from the corner in the back.

The back of our home faces Santa Maria, a larger town about eight miles south of us. Santa Maria is the largest city in Santa Barbara County and encompasses over 22 square miles. The town is recognized nationally for its wineries and as the home of Santa Maria style barbecue. They also put on a spectacular 4th of July fireworks show. We can see the city lights in the distance from the back of our house and the beautiful fireworks on the explosions of light on July 4th from our back porch.

A messy acacia jungle that we are determined to clear so that we can repair our fence.

Last year, we discovered that if we stand at the corner in the backyard, not only can we see the fireworks from Santa Maria, but we can see colorful displays from all directions. This was a poignant reminder of the special home we live in. The joy we felt in experiencing the fireworks that night spurred the idea to build a social area in that corner with a pagoda and a walkway leading to it for us to enjoy year-around. There was fencing along the back property line at one time, but it was toppled over by the bizarre way several Acacia trees grew and leaned. A little bit of the fencing still remains, and the way it leans is causing distress to a Jacaranda tree next to it. It will need to be pulled out and the whole fence line redone.

Richard has wanted the two Acacia trees gone for years, partly because they’re messy, and it’s impossible to repair the fence with them in the way. While we appreciate and understand the value of every tree to the environment and local wildlife, these two trees have a many large, dead branches, and they’re infested with mites. Acacias have a general lifespan of about 25 years, which is about how old these trees were. We have several other struggling acacias on the property that must be dealt with at some point, but we also have many new trees sprouting and greenery growing in pots scattered around our property that will enhance the environment and continue to make our property better.

There’s no “best time” to remove acacia trees since they are evergreen. Even with all the dead branches on these two, many other limbs are still green. To save money, we opted to undertake the tree removal process ourselves. It turned out to be a long and tedious ordeal. We work a few hours each day, removing limbs and breaking them down to fit in our green waste bin. Then, using a wheelbarrow, we haul the pieces over the sandy terrain to a staging area in the front of the house that will eventually end up in our green waste bin and taken away. We advertised the larger logs as free firewood, and within two weeks, most of it was gone.

We are new several weeks into the removal process, and today, we finished bringing one tree down and moving it up to the staging area for disposal. We have managed to accomplish this using our own tools–first, a small chainsaw that died halfway through the job, then a heavy-duty chainsaw; a lopper; a hand-held pruning saw; and a basic pair of garden shears. A new lopper broke and had to be replaced, and we also lost a plastic pair of garden shears when the spring popped out, causing the blades to fall apart. I’m now back to using our old lopper that I’ve put through hell over the past two years. It has broken extenders, but the teeth still cut, and I’m using a sturdier, well-made pair of garden shears. The broken tool expense equals about $110 so far, but the savings on the cost of the labor has been significant.

We still have much to do before we can bring our backyard oasis to fruition, but we only have so much energy that we can devote to this project every day. At the end of each day, the physical exhaustion, aching joints, and soreness in our bones is a reminder of the great progress we’ve made so far and the future joy of this space that we are creating together. If anyone would have told me five years ago that I would be living in, renovating, and remodeling a gorgeous art deco home on the central coast of California, taking care of beautiful landscape and gardens that span nearly an acre, keeping count of the 117 destructive gophers that Richard has trapped so far, and feeding a plethora of birds, feral cats, squirrels, possums, skunks, and raccoons, chopping down trees, composting, and living this strange modern-day farm-style life, I would have thought they were completely insane. Yet, here I am, and now I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be.

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