After renting in Northern California for 20 years, I had the opportunity to buy a great old farmhouse in bucolic Penngrove. The place is as dear to me as any could be, and I know I'm blessed to be living in Sonoma County.
A rude awakening, then, when I awoke recently to workers maiming every last tree by the side of the road in my sweet little 'hood. We're talking great big limbs here, and many off each tree, including our wondrous and ever-declining native oaks. I know the men were working their Carharts off, which I fully respect, and I did notice an effort to make decent cuts in many cases, but leaving stubs (which cause dieback, which causes dry rot and eventual death of tree) is inevitable when given only a chainsaw to do tree work on dozens (hundreds, probably) of trees in a relatively brief time span.
Which begs the question: "Uh, what was the goal of this aggressive hacking down of limbs?" I had never experienced them being in the way on any of my many walks or drives through the neighborhood. They did not appear to be sick, dead or dangerous to anyone. After a few calls and transfers to get to the Sonoma County Department of Public Works, the receptionist told me the appropriate party was "in the field" and would return my call by the following Monday at the latest, which, I'm afraid, he did not.
Whatever happened to tree-lined lanes? You know, the kind you see in impressionist paintings, where tall boughs are allowed to arch over and meet like old friends or tender lovers? These streets are country lanes in a lazy, quiet ag zone, not the interstate where clearance for 16 wheelers is a necessity.
Being a former bird biologist, I cringed at the thought of how many songbird nests must have been felled, right in the throng of the breeding season, not to mention squirrels and other small creatures. If this really had to be done (a premise I question, clearly) then early September would have been a less intrusive and more ecologically sound time to do it.
Sonoma County, WTF?
Hillary Ann Smith is a landscape gardener, school farmer, herbalist, birder and music lover living in Penngrove.Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.