The Mighty Ash

New trees in 1965
New trees in 1965

When my parents built their house in 1964 it had no landscaping.  Soon after it was finished they planted four trees:  a honey locust and pin oak in the front yard and a maple and ash in the back yard.  Those four trees have grown up and up over the years and provided beautiful shade for the house.  Large trees are also good for the environment.  But a few years ago the mighty ash tree in the back of the house was struck by the emerald ash borer.

Emerald Ash Borer adult
Emerald Ash Borer adult
Tunnels created by the larvae

Emerald Ash Borer, an ash tree-killing insect from Asia, was identified in Ohio in 2003. Because there are 3.8 billion ash trees in Ohio, it is a serious problem in the state.  Emerald Ash Borer kills ash trees within three to five years of infestation. Adults are dark metallic green, 1/2 inch in length and 1/8 inch wide, and fly only from mid-May to September. Larvae spend the rest of the year developing beneath the bark.  The larvae burrow tunnels in the wood of a tree, turning it into rotten sawdust.  Limbs will break off with no warning as the branch loses its structural integrity.

Because the mighty ash tree had grown over the house, Mom and Dad decided to have it taken down before a branch crashed through the roof.  A tree company came out on Tuesday and had the tree down in a few hours.  They hauled away the trunk and most of the leafy, smaller branches.

After a conversation with a neighbor who has a wood-burning furnace, Dad decided we would cut up the rest for firewood.  On Thursday he rented a log splitter, the neighbor brought his chain saw and three (adult) boys, and Tom and I joined in the fun to cut up the mighty ash.

Steve and Tom Bowers work with Dad and Tom to split the wood
We hauled away the wood as fast as we split it
Bruce Bowers and Dad working the log splitter
Tom and Tom used the sledge and wedges to split some wood apart
Steve Bowers supervises Tom
The work team: Steve, Bruce, Dad, Mr. Bowers, Tom and Tom
All that is left of the mighty ash

I found the log splitter especially fascinating, almost hypnotic.  It used a hydraulic wedge to split pieces off the biggest logs and was very powerful.  Here are several pictures that show how it worked:

Tom places the log
Dad pulls down the lever to lower the wedge
The wedge splits the log

We were done, and the log splitter was returned, by 3 p.m.  All the firewood was hauled away to various houses where they can use it this winter.  Mr. Bowers was especially pleased that he wouldn’t have to worry about cutting any more wood this winter – and it was fun to see some of my childhood friends!

As Mom and I looked at the pile of sawdust and mulch where the mighty ash used to be, she commented on how amazing it was that such a tiny insect could bring down such a big tree.  Well, that will preach!  We can feel pretty small compared to some of the things that we encounter in the world, but with persistence, by enlisting the help of others, and by relying on God, we just might be able to overcome those problems.

Maybe we all need to learn a lesson from the emerald ash borer:  even a tiny insect can bring down a mighty ash.  What might we be able to do?