Fifty three years ago a Tulip Poplar seed fluttered its way down from high in the forest canopy. It skipped through the lush leaves of a stately red oak, danced about the fat twiggy branches of a tough dour hickory, and bounced about within the thorny crown of a holly before coming to rest in the moist rich undergrowth of an Eastern Kentucky creek bottom. Subsequent summer showers only served to nestle the young seed deeper into its new home, just as a corpulent Rhode Island hen would gather a wandering egg amongst her feathery warmth.
The rich loamy soil of the creek bottom along with a patch of open sky above soon catapulted our tiny seedling into the air. Within twenty years he had dominated his small piece of paradise in the canopy, and began to extend his leafy reach outward, amassing a gorgeous crown bejeweled with yellow flowers of his own progeny. If fate had been kind our young tree would have established himself as one true forest giant, his trunk could have reached more than ten feet in diameter, his height ten times that.
One early spring a blistery cold late ice storm rolled though the high country, bending mighty hemlocks, smashing spindly black pines against the hillsides, and even our stately Poplar could not weather the storm undamaged. His gorgeous crown, which had so dominated and impressed the clearing, was too heavily laden with ice, and broke off in a terrifying crash, leaving him doomed to an agonizing and protracted end. Not by fire or chainsaw, but slow vicious rot would eat away at his insides, till all which remained of our glorious tall tree was the hollow haunted tapping of a hoary woodpecker searching for grubs in his rotten remains.
In this case, we felt no grief in harvesting this tree. With axe and saw we would transform his yet whole wood into a home for ourselves, so that he may live on in another life, be enjoyed and appreciated for many years to come.
In this most intimate intrusion of the forest, the felling of a great tree, we feel doubly resigned to the use of hand tools. To give of ourselves, some great sweat and effort, in the taking of this tree, to not despoil the air with the noise and stink of a chainsaw, but add to the forest symphony our own tunes, of chopping axe and singing saw, it is this way in part we give reverence to this tree, and every tree we must fell to build our home…