Do Hard Things, Like Pruning Your Own Trees With a Handsaw

When we first moved in to our little house on (what used to be) the prairie, I fell for one of those plant catalogs that shows pictures of towering trees and lush garden plants, with low low prices. I ordered a bunch of trees for a total of about $6, and was surprised to get a package of…18 inch tall sticks.

The catalog promised 6 foot tall trees in three years, so I dutifully planted those sticks. The dog ate several because she is part beaver as I’ve mentioned before. The remaining sticks, however, have grown into…some kind of plant…in the intervening years.

Last week as we chatted over the fence, our neighbor asked us, “So are those trees or bushes or what?” We decided it was time to prune. Maybe if our little stick trees could focus their energies on the top branches, instead of putting a ton of branches out the sides, they would be more diligent in growing taller.

First I tried the rusty pruning scissor things my mother-in-law gave us. They did not work. I gave up and moved on to other things. Then yesterday morning in a flash of inspiration while taking the kids on their walk, I realized we own a small (and I do mean SMALL) handsaw. It’s the kind you might use to miter a 1/4 inch dowel or something.

While Jack took his morning nap, I got medieval on the nine trees in the backyard. I sawed away for a long time. Hannah helped by carrying the discarded branches and piling them up on the patio. After I finished, Josh came to the door and said, simply, “Wow.”

Now the trees are like skinny gangly teenagers trying to grown into themselves. As with teenagers, some look better than others, and some stand up straighter than others (wow, did that analogy work or what???). I will say that by cutting out the lower branches, the trees do look taller. I realized that, as promised in the catalog, most of our trees are well over 6 feet tall three years after we planted them. I still have three trees in the front to work on, but perhaps I’ll get to that today, inspired by my previous success.

Here is one of the as-yet-unpruned trees from the front yard, so you can see how they look like bushes or something

Some of the backyard trees are now tall and thin like this one, because they didn’t have many branches near the top.

Others are more tree-like, like this one from the bottom corner of the backyard. This one is the tallest, and is probably about 8 feet tall.

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