On the farm, we had a healthy, majestic elm tree.

It towered over the back corner of the property.

Like the one near Clavering on Highway 6, this ancient elm escaped the Dutch Elm plague. It seemed to be immune. I presume it still stands, a majestic memory of the many elms that once graced this landscape.

It was a fertile tree as well.

Every year, its seeds spread out along the fence row. Some would take root and grow.

Sadly, it did not pass on its immunity to the young elms. These would grow until their trunk was eight to ten centimetres in diameter. Then, the leaves would wilt, turn brown, and die. The tree would die soon after.

These barren structures would stand in the fence row for a few years, until wind and weather would topple them.

Every winter, we would move a couple off the lane when we went skiing. Every spring, we would move a few off the fields.

Still, the old parent remained, constantly spreading seeds. Maybe someday, one sapling will be immune to the fungus. 

Sadly, we also watched butternut trees slowly sickening.

Two near the house had dead branches but still produced an abundance of nuts. There were also a few at the edge of the hardwood forest at the back of the property. These dropped large branches into the field, branches we had to remove before seeding or haying.

Somehow, these trees seemed to hang on, putting out green leaves every spring, dropping nuts every fall.

Here by the shore, it is the ash trees I watch.

Those who cleared this lot to build, left a good number of trees. There is a stretch of ironwood, sumac, cedar and maple between the house and the road.

Between us and the neighbour to the north, there is a wider swath of maple and ash. Five young maples stand as a group in the back yard. One lone ancient ash stands in the middle. There are also poplar down by the water. One birch beside the house. Some spruce and more cedar.

I had hoped that the oldest ash was as immune as the elm on the farm. The signs of infection have appeared. Still, it is a healthy tree, so it remains as a marker in our yard.

Afraid that it will succumb, I have planted a young maple and an apple tree near it. Neither will match the glory of the ash, at least not in my lifetime, but at least the space will be marked.

Within the first year, I had a half-dead ash taken down. Large branches were completely dead, barren of bark. These hung over the driveway, a hazard in a wind storm. The tree itself leaned to the south, threatening to land on our garage or our neighbour’s if the wind caught it right.

It needed to be removed.

The forester who took it down reminded me how hard it is to take down a long-dead tree safely.

I have watched the ash, looking at the bark for signs of infection, watching the canopy for signs of death.

This year, I noticed dead branches. The twin of the one that was taken down was more than half dead. Its largest branches hung over the driveway. Time for it to go.

And two trees in the swath between us and the neighbour showed a half dead canopy. Half dead is not gone, but if I was bringing in foresters, I decided to deal with these at the same time.

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The second oldest tree on the property was a question. The lower trunk was covered with young, healthy branches. The top was about half dead. I decided to keep it.

Then, an ash came down just south of our place. A wind storm caught it and threw it into the bay.

For a while, its leaves remained green. Now it is a barren hulk standing above the water. There it will remain until the branches holding it up rot. Then it will sit in the water until years from now, the trunk rots. Standing on its side as it is, it is virtually impossible to safely cut it apart.

Given that our tree is infected, given how close it is the water, we risk the same thing happening. I changed my mind: it came down safely with the others.

With foresters here, I needed to stick close to home to manage the dogs’ reaction to the noise and the strangers.

So, on September 20 at nine o'clock, I was at home with the need to stand with LGBTQ2s+ people much on my mind.

I was pleased to learn how many people came out to protect space for gender diverse people, in particular youth.

I was concerned by the reports of heated arguments. It didn’t sound like a comfortable time.

Still, our community needed to say that it is essential to stand with gender diverse people, to stand against hate, to work for safe spaces for people to figure out their identity and to live it.


Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.






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