Across the pond, the world’s finest are chasing a life-long dream; to harvest sporting’s most coveted prize and the planet’s most desirable metal, gold!

The fierceness of the competitors in my yard cannot be viewed in a moment, and a replay  helps little. They can only be judged by seasons, decades, and centuries. They fight for their own gold, the Earth’s closest star.

My, did we just have a Richard Attenborough moment? I promise not to do that again.

On with today’s competitors:

                                                 The Bur Oak

AES…3     YdCom…5     Val...5 

We also have Red Oaks, but not directly in the yard.  And the Bur Oaks are not like the massive ones of the open prairies or your yard. Living this far north, they never sport the thick trunks and heavy horizontal limbing of the oak savannas further south. It has much desired wood for both fireplace and table saw. The seeds make this a nuisance tree in the urban setting, though not here. An  acorn seldom has a chance to bounce on the ground before a critter pounces on it. Just ask the red, grey, and flying squirrels, the grouse, ducks, and jays.  Ask the chipmunk and deer mice. The raccoon, skunk, and foxes have a say, too.  And the deer and bears collect their kickback as well.  (13)

The Ironwood

AES…4     YdCom…4     Val…3    

A strange, uber-slow growing understory tree. Not all that common, but I have a couple in the yard. The few I have cut with the chainsaw have lived up to their name. It felt like trying to saw a flagpole.  It would score much lower in AES, but for the beauty of it’s unusual and oriental looking catkins that droop from its branches in mid-summer. The fact they also look like hops (as in beer-making) give rise to its other name “Hop Hornbeam” They are a great food source for  grouse. (11)                                                                           



The America Elm

AES…4     YdCom…3     Val…2

This is one of the few that has survived the dreaded Dutch Elm onslaught of the last few decades. If  I gave points for sentimentality, this trooper would gain a few. I’ve always enjoyed the elm’s vase-like silhouette.  Anyone whose tried to split elm for firewood has cussed the day the tree sprouted. Their tendency to grow in a corkscrew fashion gives one a splitting headache. The wood and smoke tend to smell like urine. (Not my first word choice.) (12)   

                                                     The Sugar Maple

                                    AES…4    YdCom…4     Val… 5

Always a charmer, good fall color and nice shade. This one was transplanted by my father and nursed into adulthood like the first test tube baby.  I have few on the property, but my neighbor to the east has hundreds, if not thousands. Maple also yields great firewood and furniture. By the way, it can be drizzled over your pancakes and waffles, too. (13) 


The Red Pine (Norway) 

AES… 5     YdCom… 5     Val… 3

This is really my favorite yard tree. Why? It looks great and it plays nice. Hunh? What I mean is, it grows out the ground like a toadstool.  No base mounding, no roots showing, and it hangs onto its branches like a banker with a buck. But like its big sister, the White pine, it shouldn’t be used in a fireplace. But if you want to build your log cabin,  fifty years from now we will have a kazillion of ’em. ( 13


The judges have conferred and the tallies are in….

GOLD goes to the… Paper Birch!   14/15

Silver goes to the… Red Pine    13/15

Bronze… looks like a two way tie between the Oak and the Maple   12/15

So that concludes the Tree Olympics for 2012. I hope you rooted for your favorite tree and didn’t pine for the losers.

I was going to build a medals stand out of some lumber I had, but that seemed, well…, insensitive.

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