Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Goodbye Old Fig Tree

It was a good tree.  Although you couldn't call it pretty, you could call it pretty awesome; it provided shade for the generator shed and the garden beds below it, fruit for many species of birds and bats, and home to the most massive Myrmecophila orchid I have ever seen.  Below is the homely fig tree 13 months and 1 week ago as seen from the sunset balcony.
The fig tree, still suffering from a bad trim job that we gave it when it was interfering with our satellite internet reception.  It needed to have dead branches cut out too.
Then, on 4 August, 2016, Hurricane Earl hit northern Belize.  We felt some of it - high winds and lots of rain on the order of a tropical storm rather than a hurricane for us here in southern Belize.  The fig tree weathered the winds of Earl, but not the rain - the day after Earl came through the fig slowly tipped over in the dead calm.  Its shallow roots just pulled free from our sandy soil.
Fallen fig tree behind the gen shed.  It considerately slowly rolled off the roof, leaving some slight bends in the metal. 
Such a shallow root system just couldn't hold it up in the water saturated sand.

Over the next week, we started trimming the tree into smaller pieces.  I learned just last week that locally this process is called "junking up".  There are people who make a living "junking up" trees.  
Richard, junking up the tree.  But saving as much of the big orchid as possible.
Orington, AKA Tiger, standing next to the large orchid in the partially junked tree.

After we cut off the limbs with the orchids, we put those limbs under the cashew tree next to the old fig tree.  They are doing well, and even bloomed this year after a substantial post-Earl die-back.  The main trunk and the roots were too big and too hard for our chainsaw to make a dent.  So we let the remain portion rest in place, hoping that with time rot would set in and make it easier to finish junking up the tree.  Last week, we tried again.
Orington and Pascal attacking the roots with a machete. 

In the meantime - look at that Agave flower stalk soaring to the left of Orington.  The guys had never seen an agave bloom before.  I had to break it to them that after it bloomed, the main plant would die, but that the young agaves around it would take its place.

Slow going with a machete.
 Time to get the chainsaw out once the little stuff is dealt with by the machete.
Roots trimmed of with the chainsaw.
But our chainsaw still could not make a dent in the big trunk and main roots, even after a year.  We had to call in a professional to junk up the tree. Enter Godwin and his big chainsaw.
Godwin going at the tree.
 No one touches Godwin's chainsaw except Godwin.
He made several girdlings of the trunk with moral support from Orington, Clinton, and Pascal.

Clinton giving it the machete test to see how much more needs to be cut with the saw.
First section gone, working on the second.

Clinton trying to help push apart the sections while Godwin wields the saw.

The last section.
Trimming through the roots.

Flipped back with the roots down to get a better angle for cutting.

We can finish this part with our smaller chainsaw.
The fig tree was a good one and we have some fig seedlings to set out in places that aren't so close to our various buildings and structures.  Near this spot, we will plant a Coral Tree, which is much better suited to the high water table.  More on it next time.


  1. What a job! The trunks of figs are works of art... and a royal pain to remove. I love coral trees!

    1. I have high hopes for the Coral Tree(s). We have planted 2 so far. They are just little now.

  2. Amazing. Life does not want to give up, does it?

    1. Yes, life wants to prevail. And even when something does die, there are other organisms ready to take advantage of an empty spot.

  3. That was a really enjoyable pictorial record following the eventual junking up of your fig tree.
    A couple of years ago, the owner's of a house along the road from me that had a large agave in it's front garden, were surprised when the flower stem kept on getting higher and higher before eventually flowering. It was so unusual here in the UK that photos of it made the local paper.

    1. Thanks, Derek. I had no idea that agave would even grow in your part of the world! They are impressive.

  4. Here all that junked wood would have been worth quite a bit of money. Many people seem to have installed log burners for their Winter heating so there is more competition for what burnable wood is available.

    1. You are right, John - it would be worth a pretty penny in the US, too. Not so much here. I should really see if any of the artists who do carving would be interested in the big slabs. The only problem is transportation.

  5. Oh my. How appropriately timed too with the hurricanes coming in 2017!

    1. Seeing the devastation from Harvey and Irma and Irma's projected path to Florida makes my heart ache. We have been lucky down here except for Iris in 2001.

  6. As they say, "Nature abhors a vacuum" It won't be long until something takes its place. Wonderful saga of the fig tree's demise!

    1. Won't be a vacuum for long! Thanks for stopping by Chris.

  7. These photos are amazing! thanks for the share! Love checking out your blog!


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