Homesteading isn’t just about rural farming or living off-grid. Many people who homestead do it in urban areas with a small plot of land to grow food and raise animals.
In some states, declaring a piece of property as your homestead can protect you from forced sale by creditors. Real estate professionals can help clients apply for and understand this classification.
It was extremely odd when a particular stranger stopped by our farm and told me that I needed a trim.
Bella, our dog, and I were taking our daily walk when a black pickup approached.
This scene wasn’t unusual. On a busy day, as many as three vehicles might drive past our place, but pickup coasted to a stop next to Bella and me.
Bella took this as great good news; she’s always eager to meet new friends. However, I was more wary.
The pickup’s driver, a young man named Alex, and I chatted pleasantly for a few moments before broaching the purpose of his visit.
“We – my company and I – have been hired to do some trimming in this neck of the woods,” he told me. “I’ve been asked to contact you about your, um, situation.”
“How much would this trim job cost me?” I asked skeptically.
“Nothing,” Alex replied. “It will be paid for by a third party.”
“Ok, you have my attention. Tell me more,” I said.
There on the gravel road, Alex outlined his plan.
“We would clip this here and cut that there. It will be a lot of work, but at the end of the day I guarantee that everything will be neat and groomed.”
“I don’t know,” I said cautiously. “It seems like you want to lop off quite a bit.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot. But we need to do some major trimming, or you could lose power.”
It occurred to me that what he was describing was the opposite of what happened to Samson. Yet, I relented after more discussion.
“Go ahead,” I said. “But I’m going to miss that row of ash trees.”
Our electric cooperative is in the process of upgrading its grid. The three-phase power line that runs past our shelterbelt has been there for as long as I can remember. This means that it was probably installed shortly after Edison invented the light bulb. It’s safe to say that the poles that support the power line are completely depreciated.
New poles and bigger and better conductors are slated to be installed soon. However, the best power line is useless if it’s taken down by a tree fall, which brings us to my dilemma with Alex’s proposal.
The row of trees that he was going to cut where planted by my ancestors to protect our farm from our relentless prairie winds.
An old photo from those homesteading days reveals that our mighty trees were once just scrawny little sticks. My folks, who planted our trees were paying it forward, which is why it was so sad to see those trees go.
We would be losing the first line of defense against brutal winter winds. On the other hand, the prospect of a wintertime electrical outage due to a downed tree was chilling. It’s clear that I’m much softer than my ancestors.
Early the next morning, a dozen assorted trucks arrived. Skid loaders and stump grinders were quickly and efficiently unloaded. A pair of cherry pickers lofted their operators up to the soaring treetops. One of the machines craned its lanky arm above the power line.
How would that job description read? “Must be capable of operating a chainsaw while standing in a small bucket that’s hovering 70 feet above the ground and in close proximity to high-voltage power lines.”
Bella and I watched as the small army of men and machines set to the task of deciduous destruction. One major piece of equipment was a humungous wood chipper that could gobble tree trunks the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
The chipper bellowed ferociously as it performed its grisly duty. I chatted with one of the workmen and asked if Alex had been exaggerating when he said that they would be done by the end of the day.
“We’ll wrap things up by midafternoon,” the one of the tree crew guys replied. “This isn’t an especially big job.”
What he considered “not especially big” was an undertaking that would have taken me an eon to complete. I had appointments to keep, so I regretfully took my leave. I love work; I can watch it all day.
Surprisingly, Alex was true to his word. By sunset, a patch of smooth, groomed soil stretched out where the row of towering ash trees had stood only a few hours earlier.
Bella and I inspected the job site. I was overcome by a feeling of loss, but then was struck by an idea.
This newly barren area was a blank slate where we could plant some shorter trees!
My wife and I are now discussing such things as lilacs, apples, and plums. A haircut is usually just a haircut. However, this is an opportunity to pay it forward.