A and I built this house at the back end of 1998, we got to move in in February of 99. That entire summer we worked on out landscaping, turning it from a bleached brown patch of dirt into a lush green lawn with in ground sprinklers and lots of flower borders. For structure we also added some evergreen conifers and a few trees. Two of these trees were Birches, a white barked Jacqmontii Birch in the back garden and a purple leafed Birch in the very front border, closest to the road. About three years ago we noticed that the white birch was suffering from leaf die back in the summer, we thought it was stressed and watered it much more frequently. The following year there were leaves on only half of the tree so we inspected it and found strange D shaped holes in the bark. The internet told us they were made by the larvae of the Bronze Birch Borer, an insect that injects its eggs just beneath the surface of the bark of birch trees. The eggs hatch into larvae who then munch their way down the inside of the tree before emerging from the strange D shaped holes as adult flying insects. Unfortunately, by the time you spot these holes and realise the distress the tree is in, there’s nothing to be done. We ended up loosing both of them and last May we felled them and cut them up. It was a very sad moment for us, watching these two very beautiful and majestic trees reduced to three foot stumps. I’ve never seen a tree felled at close quarters before, and it was a very powerful thing, it might have even been a little awesome were it not for the fact that they were our trees we were felling.

On Monday we decided to dig out the stump in the driveway border, close to the road. We want another tree there, maybe an evergreen this time, possibly a Korean Fir. But there was this stump in the way, and roots, and other plants in the vicinity that we didn’t want to lose…. so A set about digging all around it, putting the soil in a wheel barrow and dumping it way in the back. He had himself some fun with an axe, I dared not look at this point! And then he dug out underneath the roots, which were fairly well contained, to see if he could undermine it. This all took about an hour and we then took stock of how to physically get it out of the ground, he estimated it would weigh about 100 – 120lbs so it was no lightweight.

I made coffee and we sat on the deck and pondered the problem. His first thought was a typical male response…. “How about I tie the tow rope round it, hook it up to the back of the minivan and see if I could pull it out that way!” I could see us losing half the garden, ripping the rear end off the minivan and attracting a rather large crowd of neighbours! So I asked for Plan B!

Plan B turned out to be the engineered approach. This is the stump and the big hole.

First he found two old planks underneath the deck and placed them over the hole he’d dug, being very precise and measuring the distance between planks. Next up the “cherry picker” was wheeled out of the garage and carefully positioned in place on the planks, over the stump. The tow rope was pressed into use, strung around the stump and then hooked to the cherry picker and with a little deft pumping up and down on the handle the stump was lifted clear of the hole.

The next task was a little trickier, we had to pull the whole contraption off the planks without losing it in the big hole and then push it up our sloping driveway…. and we had to do this with no steering mechanism whatsoever, and front wheels on the cherry picker that swung in all directions at the same time. A bit like a wayward shopping trolley in truth!

We made it safely up onto the flat piece of drive and then I maneuvered the wheel barrow under it while A raised it a little higher and then carefully lowered it into the barrow.

He then carted it off “over the back” to be cut up some more so it can be disposed off easier. Job done. Now all we have to do is keep the neighbourhood kids out of the gaping hole in the ground and find ourselves another tree to plant up!