Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Saving the old Mulberry tree...after a massive storm.

An old Mulberry tree, I hear you thinking. Why would you go to all that effort - just plant another one, they`re quick growing. If only it was that simple. The tree, which I might add, does NOT even fruit! is the main shade source for our dear little horse` Hunter`.

Not only did it give beautiful cool shade during our stinking hot summers, but it kept him busy chomping up any fallen leaves. He absolutely LOVES the them. They must be very sweet because he will go to great effort to eat them, often straining up on his hind legs to `prune` the underside of the tree. He`s even got my sister trained to collect great handfuls of leaves for him that fall on the other side of his yard fence!
And then we had a really, really Big Storm...
and now we`ve got a really Big Problem.
Now let me tell you about this big old Mulberry tree first. When we first moved here and had no horse or yard, my husband reversed into the small tree which was one of the few trees on the block. He didn`t knock it over, just gave it a bump and a nasty lean which grew....18 years later...into a majestic, double forked trunk, shade tree of massive proportions, which is still on the lean. Now the double forked trunk was always going to be a problem as it grew, so we took measures to support it using military grade, super strong strapping, holding both branches securely. This seemed to do the trick and the tree kept on growing, Hunter kept on depositing manure mulch around it and the strange monsoonal weather made it grow like the dickens. Now, last year, this same old Mulberry tree, was struck by lightening! I know, I was in the garden, battening down during an electrical storm when I heard it hit! We thought we had lost it for sure then. Not so. The tree seemed to grow even faster after it`s hit of nitrogen charged electricity. The trunk was quite badly burnt at the fork, and so we thought we would at least lose half of the tree, but it just went berserk instead. Now the tree hung up and over the horse yard railing and over a significant area around. It was so cool and beautiful underneath. Hunter was in heaven.
So, down comes the tree in a particularly bad storm, but, not pulling out of the soft wet ground! After our initial shock, and the horses delight - he could now eat freely of the desirable foliage laying on the ground - I said to my husband `I think we`ll try to save it`. He looked at me like I was mad, shook his head and walked off. Hmm, this needed some research from the world wide web. Sure enough, after reading many sites, I found a very helpful one from Florida (home of bad storms) and was reassured it was worth a try. Now we are  back to the point -  why would you bother. Well, the fact is I defy anyone to plant a new tree in a horse yard and find it still there in the morning -it`s like planting food - at ground level, or more to the point, putting a yummy meal in there for you know who. So, no tree - no shade or yummy leaves! That`s a bleak future for our boy.
We cut off one side of the forked branches to reduce immediate stress on the tree. Now my research said to leave as much bark as possible as all the plants stored energy is in the outer layers, so we trimmed the tree back with a chain saw by half. It was easily 15 metres tall and impossible to stand up with all that heavy leafy stuff. By this time, the horse looks like he`s going to explode, he`s eaten soooo many leaves. We then bought some structural timber beams and pegs, and used some shade cloth off cuts to wrap around the branches to protect against rubbing. Using spades and picks we carefully dug around the trunk, creating an area for it to fall back in when raised and trimmed any broken and damaged roots that were visible. Next, a call to a friend who has a `winch` on his 4WDrive, and with some extra muscles helping to guide it, pulled it up and into the renovated hole! Voila! Then some tricky staking and pegging to stabilise it. She was up and stable, now time will tell.
It doesn`t look much now I know - a  5 metre trunk really.
We piled up all the branches, now de-nuded by a very fat happy horse, in the middle of his yard, intending to burn the lot when it dried out, only to find a family of tiny blue wrens have moved in and set up home. Haven`t got the heart to move them on yet. We`ve had daily downpours of torrential rain for weeks since - a bonus if the tree is to survive, even though it is unusual for this time of the year here.
So is it working? Yes, so far so good. There is much new growth all over the remaining trunk and branch, so we will now concrete in a structural pillar to hold it in place for it`s future. It will probably never stand on it`s own again, but it looks like we saved it.
The things you do for your animals..... (plus I love it when I prove em all wrong!)
Do you think it was worth all the effort? I`ll keep you posted with the trees growth so keep an eye out. You never know, it might actually fruit for us a reward on day.

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