We named her the Crone upon first seeing her, for her lengthy limbs and wide trunk seemed to tell stories of old. It was obvious she was coming up in years and wouldn’t be around forever. Sawdust fell at her feet and pieces of her skin fell off in the dust. Her scant leaves held firm.
The tree men came and took down just the limbs over the electric wires and noted that the Crone was hollow. “Carpenter ants,” a shrewd one said. You have to go get ant killer. Bayer. It’s at the hardware store. It’s the only way to save the tree.”
Doug hopped in the car and started for the store. I had a sudden realization, like a deck of cards filing out quickly in front of me of what we were about to do. I called him and told him to come back home! No poisons. That is not how we have ever done things.
“Then your tree will die,” the tree man shrugged.
I had him put corn meal into the hollowed ends. I put the wood ash around her base.
The thing to remember here is that the ants are there because the tree is dying, not the other way around.
I watched the wood pecker the next day with his lacy wings and red head pecking at the tree. Several friends joined him. Sparrows and finches burrow into her limbs. Squirrels play among her arms. We would have killed them all.
I planted twenty trees in her place. She will fall when she falls. Then she will return to my garden and to the wood stove. All in nature’s time. No poisons necessary.