Look up before you settle in–the sky might fall

by | May 25, 2017 | Around Town, Chris Muldrow, Columns

By CHRIS MULDROW / Fredericksburg Today

All the rain we’ve gotten is swelling the Rappahannock and mucking up the ground again, but it’s also having a little more scary effect overhead.

I had my Boy Scout troop camping along the river this weekend. It was getting darker, and the guys were running around the campsite. The other adults were sitting in chairs, drinking coffee (that’s what Scoutmasters do…it’s in the job description). Suddenly, we heard a loud cracking noise on the other side of our trailer.

We ran over, and found a huge tree branch had cracked, broken, fallen sideways and dropped to the ground. On top of one the Scout’s tents.

Luckily, the Scouts weren’t in the tent. Luckily, only the outside branches hit the tent, not the main branch.

That was Saturday. This morning, I had a meeting scheduled with Mary Windsor Cline, who runs Braehead Manor Bed and Breakfast. Right before 8, she texted me the pictures attached to this column. She has a wedding coming up this weekend, and suddenly a big tree gave up the ghost and fell in the yard at Braehead. Our meeting got postponed.

My friend Bill Blevins, who runs Plants Map and collects trees, told me the rain is making these dead or dying trees more risky.

“Weak roots and waterlogged soil…OR the dry dead trees soak up water and get heavy and a little wind just breaks them off,” Bill said. “Think about the branches like a big sail catching wind. If the soil is saturated, it’s like a poorly anchored boat and the ground can’t hold the roots anymore.”

“That is why you need to deeply water new trees when you plant them so that they get strong roots way down into the ground,” Bill said.

Of course, Bill knows that my botanical knowledge is limited to a single orchid in my office that I’ve managed to keep alive way past its expected date of expiration. I’m not going to be planting any trees anytime soon. But I’m sure as heck going to look up before I settle under any trees while the rain keeps coming.

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