This is my Old Gal that I have been working with in our Urban Potager since 1999. She is my difficult sometimes, but I can't imagine not having her standing tall and greeting me every  day...
This is my Old Gal + we have been working together since 1999. She can be difficult at times to work with, but I can’t imagine not having her standing tall and greeting me every day…

A few weeks ago I called a local arborist. It is not easy to find an arborist in the Quad Cities. Our Quad Cities is home to 5 cities “straddling the Mississippi river on the Iowa-Illinois boundary, in the United States. The cities are Davenport + Bettendorf(Iowa), and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline (in Illinois). These cities are the main area which consist of about 400,000 people. You would think that it would have more than 1 certified arborist to serve this metropolitan area, but it does not, so we are lucky we have 1 “tree doctor”that could evaluate our old gal.

She holds down the corners of our 4 yards ...
She holds down the corners of our city lots……

Our Old Gal which I lovingly call her sits at the southern corner of 4 city lots. She is an old Silver Maple that is over 75+ yrs old. She had been standing here before homes were constructed. The old farmhouse up the street was converted to a bakery/cafe a few years ago. It may have been one of the original farmhouses.

over the years + seasons beauty surrounds...
over the years + seasons beauty surrounds my Old Gal’s textured trunk…

Trees are so important to our cities. A few years ago we lost almost all the trees in our back lots from a storm. They were broken in half, and never were able to come back after they were all blown to the ground.

she lets me tuck in a birdbath, heirloom petunias, basil, and heirloom lemon cherry tomatoes between her base...she never complains...
she lets me tuck in a bird bath, heirloom flowers + herbs + vegetables + she never complains…

Our Old Gal weathered that horrible storm. In fact, she is the only tree left between the corner of 4 lots. At one, time, there were 3 old trees, but now she is all that connects our city lots.

This fell on my neighbors side of the fence a few weeks ago, I would not of noticed it, but I was chatting with my neighbor behind about another neighbors branch breaking her fence when we noticed her trying to shove this HUGE branch over my fence. She bent my fence when she was trying which did not make me mad just thought she might of hurt herself trying to push over this HUGE branch. I'm grateful it did not fall on anyone in her backyard!
This fell on my neighbors side of the fence a few weeks ago, I would not of noticed it, but I was chatting with my neighbor behind about another neighbors branch breaking her fence when we noticed her trying to shove this HUGE branch over my fence. I’m grateful it did not fall on anyone in her backyard!

I was concerned My Old Gal was ill when she dropped a HUGE branch on my neighbors side the other weekend. I did not want anyone to be hurt since a few weeks earlier our neighbor had another branch (not our Old Gal) fall on her fence and break it.

She is a beautiful Golden Color that layers the garden floor with fall beauty...
She is a beautiful Golden Color that layers the garden floor with fall beauty…

I was so upset about our Old Gal that I had my husband walk around with the arborist while I stayed inside and worked.

Her leaves heal our soil every year ....
Her leaves heal our soil every year ….

I did not want to hear the words, “She needs to go”, and even though I find her leaves a lot of work at this time of year, I sure could not see living without her on our city lot.

Tatsoi covered with our Old Gals golden leaves...
Tatsoi covered with our Old Gals golden leaves…

Her base takes the entire southern area of our lot, which complicates my growing, and she does shade most of my garden beds, but I work around her every year!

She is shelter to not only us, but many animals. Our favorite thing to do in the summer after dusk is to wait for the large owls, bats and other night critters to hang out in her large branches....
She is shelter to not only us, but many animals. Our favorite thing to do in the summer after dusk is to wait for the large owls, bats and other night critters to hang out in her large branches….

Our Old Gal provides for the animals as well as keeps us cool in the middle of our hot summers. You can step under her, and the heat of the day disappears!

My Old Gal provides a place us to  gather , share + create....
My Old Gal provides a place for us to gather , share + create….

Well, it all worked out she is only getting a trim! He said, “this old tree is showing her age, but she is just fine”…shoot I am showing my age! YIPEE!!! My Old Gal and I can hang out and  age together!

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

44 comments

    1. I am so glad I am not the only one that feels this way:-) I know what you mean! I would have full sun in my entire backyard, but I have an east west flow of sunlight that rotates over us in the summer. I do get full sun in a few beds half day which helps with tomatoes, peppers, and egg plants. I rotate my sunny vegetables in this section of the yard. I have my partial/shady veggies rotation in another section. I so enjoy her shade in the morning when we all visit and have coffee/tea/brunch! Great place to escape and create under her:-)

  1. I am so glad your Old Gal gets to stay. Old trees are beautiful creatures 🙂 When I was a little girl there was a huge old willow at a local park and I spent many a day nestled into that old tree, I felt it talked to me and it was an old grandad being….45 years later it is still there when I went to see it last time I visited home – I got a photo for old times sake 🙂

    We got a quote to have a large gum taken out, we love it but fear it will fall in storms etc and it too is very close to neighbours. At $800 I think it will be staying put for some time….yay!!!

    1. Is’nt it crazy they charge so much to take the trees out! The arborist also was a tree trimmer and he has an excellent reputation to not “try” to take trees out and charge people a ton of money. Don said he was into trees and just loved talking all about the different types etc..He had a passion for trees( big smile)…so I trusted him, and I am so grateful my old gal does not have to come out. The neighbor behind us has two dead trees and It scared me when his branch fell on my neighbors fence-right where she sits to watch her dogs! Well, of course she was not there at the time( thank goodness!). I thought, I better get this checked since I don’t want my old gal to kill someone.
      They are truly beautiful and we need them in the cities…so I am blessed she is staying….they are some of our first friends as children..I use to build little fairy/pretend villages at the base of ours as a child…such fun.

      1. Yep, bottom line is that they can’t be a danger to anyone so it is a worry.

        One of my earliest memories of my husband was seeing him hug a big old tree when he was tiddly after too much to drink at a work Christmas party…though I couldn’t be called a tree hugger by any stretch I did appreciate his sentiments lol

  2. We need to create an award especially for your Old Gal! I’m so glad she only needed a trim. And maybe encourage the one arborist in your area to start an apprenticeship program to expand tree doctor coverage there? Wonderful post!

    1. This man,from what my husband told me was very passionate about trees.Sounds like a good idea when he comes to trim I will mention it to him:-) When we purchased this home in 99 it never dawned on me that I would develop such a kinship with this old tree, but over the years and the death of more trees in the area I have seen how important this Old Gal is to our little southern corner in the world:-)

  3. I’m glad that your ‘old gal’ is healthy and will stay with you for a longtime. We had our aging wild cherry and Silver Maple tree trimmed this year to preserve them as well as our home. The weather seems to get more severe every year and it’s better to be safe than sorry later. You are not the only one to feel that way. My heart sunk when my neighbor took down trees that are older than himself so that his children could have a ball field. The trees weren’t ours but still, I had enjoyed their shade and their stately calm. Of course it’s not practical or realistic, but in my mind I wish sometimes that there were homicide laws protecting trees.

  4. I held my breath through this story waiting/hoping for a happy ending!!! We lost so many trees in our little town last year but it’s especially sad when an “old gal” comes down. Keeping fingers crossed you get many more years together!

    1. There was one man, a few houses up the block that when he and his wife came to America they put that tree in their yard.It was knocked over during the storm and it fell on his house. He was in his 80’s now( 60+ yrs ago) , and his wife was gone…so that tree had many memories to him…trees are a living friend:-)

  5. So great you’re saving her, even if there were other trees, an old one like that is worth saving if you can. Awesome! I love old trees. It’s a little controversial, if maple leaves are good mulch, but I used gobs of cottonwood leaves for my lasagne bed mulching piles. They convert to humic acid, which is a really awesome substance in the soil. Do you use the leaves in compost or your garden beds? I know it’s probably more than you can use, but maybe not….you could save them to add year round in compost piles. Anyway! I would have nominated you for the Inspiring Blogger Award but Belmont Rooster beat me to it. Congrats on that. =)

    1. I garden my urban potager like the forest does, I let the layers pile on and often we grind up our leaves to put around in our garden beds. I compost in place and nature takes care of the rest:-)I compost everything from my yard back into the property. Just like the forest. The only time I do not compost something from the yard is if it is a plant with a problem. I live between 4 neighbors that spray, spray, and spray some more! YIKES…but the past few years they are not as much, so maybe I am making them think:-) And lasagna beds is how I started our Urban Potager..the only way to do it..dig up grass-OH heck no! I am a lazy gardener-lol

      1. Me toooooo, lazy gardener. Well, once I get in the garden, time flies and it’s hard for me to quit. My body gives our before my desire does. haha But why make extra work when it’s so easy to just layer stuff. We took over another same size lot in our community garden this fall (the folks abandoned it after the first hard rains of spring). So it had 3 foot weeds and grass. We mowed it, then plopped down cardboard and layers of mulch. That cottonwood tree at the garden club gave me leaves exactly when I needed them. Most folks at the club are wondering what we’re doing with the sheet mulching, they’re old timers out there. But now my task is to help with the orchard, and I’m overwhelmed but laying the groundwork towards a fruit tree guild system. I hadn’t refreshed my memory that you were doing permaculture kind of gardening, sorry about that.

      2. :-)…you just brought back memories talking about lasagna gardening— I was thinking about all the cardboard days and people looking over at our lot wondering “what is she doing with all that cardboard”-lol…and I use newspaper to start my beds,too…lol..they would see me laying that out and really think- “BOY she is nuts! I will NEVER garden any other way. Who in their right mind would take all the grass out and disrupt the wonderful life under the soil-lol I am a jack of all trades, I am not a purist…I just gather information and see what works, if it works..well, I do it-lol..I am an “eclectic gardener” at heart:-)

      3. I’m in my 50s, and just started a garden this year. I’ve had small strips of land or containers over the years, but never lasagne gardened until we got our plot this year. It makes total sense to me. I’m also eclectic. If it works, go for it. If not, then do something else. It’s fun to experiment too, not following what someone else does or says, but getting an idea and just running with it. I suppose people know about lasagne gardening out at the club, but no one does it except us (well some do some modified portion of it, but rarely). Folks are curious though, and ideas catch on. I’m glad our neighbors don’t spray, it’s in the rules it has to be organic. But there are folks who gets lots of organic sprays, which to me aren’t so organic. It’s good you make an influence in your neighborhood. These ideas spread, sometimes pretty slowly, but all it takes is an example.

      4. I am a baby boomer too! I always had a kitchen garden, but my involvement really took off to grow MORE organic food closer to home when I got indolent lymphoma in 2000…my life changed…and I needed to find organic food closer to home that I could grow to stay healthy( plus it just costs too much in the store). Now the entire property is about growing food and healing nature! I love reading about how you are developing your space.

      5. Robbie, that’s awesome you’ve gotten really into organic food. Same for me. I was diagnosed with “prediabetes” – aka, diabetes, but the naturopath told me, either take pills or change your diet. So I jumped in with both feet. It’s expensive buying organic in stores, so I desperately wanted my own garden. We were living in a small apartment in Vancouver BC and all we could do was container garden. But a year ago, we moved to Illinois and the lab my husband works at has a garden club with huge plots. So we grabbed one. The one next to us came available and we grabbed that one too. We could have more, but we’ll only be here 2 more years. His contract ends then. No idea where we’ll be going after that. But we’ll have to get a house with land or a community plot! Funny how life is kind of dictating we get back to the land. The way BigAg grows food with all the poisons, it’s forcing us to also. It’s causing mass health issues. I don’t know about indolent lymphoma, sounds scarey. I’m a healthcare practitioner, but never had a patient with it. Do you know about Gerson Therapy?

      6. I remember reading about Gerson Therapy when I was first dx.I read almost everything! I could get my my hands on the first few years. Then I figured it was better to grow my own medicine-lol.I got tired of paying such high prices for organic food, so I tore up my lawn and grew my own! I use food medicine. I am growing purple yams ( not GMO!) next year! I found 14 slips( that is all he had since they are hard to come by) which I am so excited to grow. I grow purple tomatoes , purple potato, but purple yams sound so exciting, and they have Anthocyanins which fight cancer naturally. It is good you took to growing organic food to heal your “prediabeties” it will be the best way to conquer it…and I sure look forward to watching + reading all that you grow! You have some interesting finds!

      7. My regular doctor was surprised I got my blood sugar under control. I no longer have diabetes, but I do have to be careful what I eat. I was doing a lot of juicing therapy, and still do most every day. Very little, if any grains, try to avoid gluten. No processed foods. I loosely follow a paleo diet, but have also done raw foods, a raw food cleanse, vegan, vegetarian. I feel better when I eat whole organic foods, that’s for sure. I’ve been pouring over my Baker Creek (rareseeds.com) catalog/book. It’s not their free catalog, I paid for this one. It’s really awesome. There are so many things I want to grow – purple carrots too. Purple yams are that rare? I haven’t checked that out.

      8. Awesome! Sounds like a plan. And thanks for the link to the heirloom seed shop/catalog nearby! Those carrots look awesome.

      9. Thanks for the links! I’ve bookmarked the other seed site. I read either that article, or one similar, about purple carrots, which is one of the reasons I want to grow them. I used to volunteer at the University of British Columbia’s children’s garden, and we grew purple carrots there that were awesome. I never bothered to ask which variety! Silly me. It was so much fun teaching kids to garden. I’m a big kid at heart. haha

    1. I know..we all seem to care about them very much, but no one really talks about it:-) I am noticing how many people have special tree stories..It always makes me sad when I see those NEW neighborhoods being built with the McMansions and NO trees…they take the trees out for those huge boxes…where do the animals go:-) Where do the children play or hang out!

      1. Ha, McMansions! Love it – how apt!!

        I knew someone once who lived in just such a place right opposite the sea. She dressed her little children head to foot in white plastic suits which she made herself – like mini spacemen without the glass bubble – for ‘playing’ on the beach. She hosed them off and stripped them down before allowing them back in the house. She was very proud when she told me. The children grew up with issues. She also didn’t like trees, especially deciduous ones, they made too much mess every Autumn!

        I never did warm to her.

        I like people who like trees 🙂

      2. LOL..I should not laugh, but it is so true…a little dirt never hurts anyone:-) I have to add one more to that story, I was out to lunch with a friend and her mother’s friend a few years ago, and we went to a local winery. We were walking outside in their gardens, and I was admiring a purple Russian sage. The older lady said,”Oh, I took that plant out of my yard too many bees were on it.” YIKES…what did she just say!!!!!!..to this day, I DON’T like people that DON’T like Bees…really, the hardest workers on our planet! It would of been okay ( a little) if she took it out because someone at home was allergic to bees, but to take a plant out because it fed our pollinators…WOW…so I add to the ” I like people who like trees” also, ” I like people who like Bees”…

  6. Big old Silver Maples are a treasure to have. I’m so glad yours is safe and sound. It’s great that you found that arborist! 😉 Lovely blog…
    peace,
    Steve

    1. Hi Steven:-) So glad you stopped by, I am heading over to visit your blog now. I am so glad I did find an arborist ,and now I can relax and know my Old Gal won’t be falling on anyone anytime soon:-)

  7. Yay! I am so happy for you and Old Gal – keep on keeping on! What a beautiful tree she is. We moved around quite a bit and one thing I admire in other gardens is a sense of age. It adds a richness to the sense of place in a garden. You are right, trees add so much dimension to a city block. I am always sad when one is taken down in our small village due to age. I always hope that another will be planted in its place. An area devoid of trees feels like a void! My garden which began from scratch had ZERO trees and I LOVE trees. I am certain I over-planted and will be battling shade gardening one day but I so enjoy watching the trees grow. Right now they are encased in ice as we are having freezing rain and I always fear for them.

    1. I did plant some dwarf fruit trees:-)My father did that on his property, he loved to take little seedlings from the woods when he would hike near his place, and eventually his vegetable garden was shaded by all his little trees as they grew larger:-)

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