I awoke to the sound of numerous trucks idling last week. Two of them were in the alley, directly behind my garage. The third was blocking the alley at the “T”. The fourth was parked on the next street over. Reading the name on the trucks told me all I needed to know. It was a tree removal service.

I’ve been in my house for 32 years now. During the first five of those years, a number of garages near me mysteriously burned. One fire damaged my garage so badly that I had to put in a claim. That claim reimbursement is what allowed me to have vinyl siding put on my garage, shingles instead of that rolled roofing material installed and replace the swing-out barn doors with an overhead door controlled by an opener. 

Over the years, the different people who owned the house across the alley from me ignored the weed plants that grew on the side. The trees’ favorite spot are the narrow spaces on the side of the garage and any tight spot near a fence. I’ve included a picture, because though the majority of us know this tree, it is also called a number of names. I’ve learned the name Milkweed is incorrect. But Weed Tree is appropriate. And if you’re old enough, it was the perfect tree for granny to get a switch. The actual real name is: Tree of Heaven. It should be more like Tree of Hell!

I sat on my deck, mesmerized by the process as a team of at least 12 men began the process of taking those trees down. In my estimation, they were at least 50 feet tall. Earlier this year one of the branches had fallen and landed on the neighbor’s garage roof. Although it didn’t do any damage, we could see from the top of it that the thing was slowly dying. And although I assumed it was just one huge tree, as the removal process began, I saw that it was a total of about six trees. Four of the trees had all managed to live in the narrow space on the side of the garage and the fence. The other two had grown on the side of the fence more toward the middle of the backyard. 

I haven’t run into the neighbor who owns that property. But based on what I know about tree removal, he had to have spent at least five grand, minimum. Tree removal is not cheap. But had somebody been vigilant when those trees were little seedlings, and addressed the problem immediately, it could have saved a lot of money.

Mr. Rat update: My neverending saga with the city of Chicago’s pests continues. I think I’m winning. I used quite a bit of the steel netting, to close off the rat hole that was on the alley side. I then used additional netting in between a wood fence and a chain link fence because Mr. Rat had chewed his way through. I even mixed broken glass into the dirt to dissuade him from continuing his freeloading lifestyle under my garage. As of this writing, the dirt on the alley side has not been disturbed. It’s going to take me a couple of weeks in order to declare victory.

Arlene Jones is a resident of Austin and writes a weekly column for our sister publication, the Austin Weekly News.

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