Monday, May 9, 2011

Waiting for Woodpeckers

Today I worked at making our enormous compost pile at our Ann Arbor home look like a 'feature' (i.e. reduced in size and tidy) for potential buyers. We started our compost pretty quickly after moving to Ann Arbor in 1987. We attended it, turned it, added to it, turned it, used it, added to it, replaced the pallets that contained the two bins on the sides and the bottom several times, used it, added to it, invited our neighbors to add to it and use, and on and on. It has been an on-going part of our life, our yard, and our gardening efforts for 20+ years. 

Right next to it are two cottonwood trees. In the spring of 1988, my older son was looking out of his second-story bedroom window during a thunderstorm to see lightening strike one of those cottonwood trees and blow the top right off, nearly at eye level about 40 feet away. To say that was exciting (i.e. maybe even electrifying!) for him would be an understatement. 

What to do, what to do with that tree? Well, we cleaned up of course, picking up the branches and other debris, but the bigger question was whether to cut it down. I voted to keep it up as I have always wanted to have a 'woodpecker tree' (i.e. a dead tree!) in our yard providing both a food source and a potential home for woodpeckers. Most people cut down dead trees right away for the 'tidy factor' and the 'safety factor', which I can understand, but here we had a chance to provide this special habitat for such beautiful birds, most of which stay year round in our part of the country, and need trees that provide both food and home sites. 

While good in theory, I can't say that my idea was particularly successful. I'm a pretty faithful bird-watcher and bird-feeder and know what birds are in my yard year round, and I would not be able to truthfully say that the tree was a woodpecker magnet. 

Until today! While working at the compost pile this afternoon right next to the dead cottonwood tree, I suddenly heard a jackhammer in my head!! I looked up to see a downy woodpecker giving our dead cottonwood tree a very enthusiastic hammering about 10 feet above me. 

Our son was 10 in 1988 when lightening struck that tree and I had the idea to keep it up for a woodpecker tree. He is now almost 34 and getting married in a few weeks. Wow, it was a long wait for a fabulous woodpecker experience, but definitely worth it! 

That male downy woodpecker gave me a great view of him from the underside, as I was being showered with teeny tiny wood chips, definitely a new experience for me. The next owners of our Ann Arbor home can decide what to do with that dead tree, but I hope they keep it and also use the remaining compost. 

Personally, I think a yard with a pile of aged and organic compost ready to use plus a woodpecker tree are great selling features that should be highlighted in any real estate listing! At least they would attract me. :-)

Whew! Tomorrow I need to use different muscles to give all of these a rest. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Definitely selling features that would entice me to make an offer.

Wonderful story, too.