The end of an era – Monkey Puzzle Tree is down

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(photo of our home is among the featured illustrations in ‘Back Roads of Washington‘, 1992, drawn by illustrator, Earl Thollander)

Saga of our 90 year old Chilean Monkey Puzzle Tree ( Araucaria araucana ) comes to a close. The tree was planted in the front yard of our house, we are given to understand, some 90 years before we ever arrived on the scene. When we bought the house, the tree looked ragged along the lower branches, and the previous home owner told us it was not unusual for this species of tree to look like that when they reached these mature ages. He told us the story of how the species of tree came to be planted in Bay Center, Washington as it is not native to the area, although the climate is conducive to nurturing this species.

When our house was built in 1892, by a barge builder, the house was given to the daughter and her husband – the Bochaus. In those early 1900’s there was ship travel on our Willapa Bay and the Willapa River. The ships might harbor in Bay Center and spend a day or night as guests of local residents. Mrs. Bochau would entertain the ship captains in her home and one of the ship captains (Capt. Cook, I believe) gifted her one of the seedlings of the Chilean Monkey Puzzle Tree he had as cargo on his ship.

The tree grew successfully through their lifetime, and on into the life spans of the next two owners of the house. By the time we came along to to buy the house in November 2002, the tree was well into it’s maturity. However, these are prehistoric trees and have an incredible lifespan, living well past 100 years. The tree was not beyond it’s years, but it did succumb to some infection and it began dying from within.

The first year, we enjoyed the giant tree with it’s giant limbs and it swayed gently in the heavy windstorms. It was well rooted and not likely to fall over even with the highest winds. The first spring, I learned how prickly are the ‘leaves’ if you can call them that on the branches, as I did the yard spring cleaning. As the lower limbs lost their green, I asked a neighbor to cut off the lower limbs in hopes we could save the tree. It seemed to me the logical, compassion, caring and nurturing thing to do to try to save the tree. I neglected to consult my husband on my decision and that was one of the few times I have seen him livid. He was ‘not ready’ for the mangling of that great gracious tree, no matter that it had dying lower limbs.

Over the years the tree continued to die from within, turning browner and browner with each passing year until there was nothing left of green on the tree limbs even at the pinnacle of it’s height. But it continued to stand, testament to the community of it’s long history in Bay Center. I pointed out to my husband that there was nothing green left on the tree and it had indeed passed into that place where trees are no longer among the living. He would not be convinced easily. He had been following for a few years the attempt of a new branch shoot trying to grow and what was left at the tip top of the tree that was still green. He would not agree to the reality that the tree was no longer healthy or even living.

When the limbs became dry enough to begin to break off, I grew concerned that one could fall on someone passing beneath and insisted the tree come down. Our neighbor, who has some experience with bringing down trees agreed to take it down. He was able to get all the limbs cut off and the top of the tree when there was an accident kickback with the chainsaw. The kickback went across the top of his hand, and we are all blessed that it grazed his hand with no damage to the nerves or connecting tissue. My husband rushed him to hospital where they attended to his hand, but it did cost him some work on the fishing boats during his time of recovery. He has said he would come finish taking the tree all the way down, but a few years have passed and he has not taken it down. I can completely understand his reluctance! Nor did I really want him to take on the challenge as the county power lines create a tripod quite close to the top of the tree.

I explored having the tree made into a totem pole, asking the person who made the totem pole for our neighbor down the street if he could make one from the remains of the tree. He said the wood is too soft and if he made a totem, the features would split with the wood, ie, the eyes or nose might split causing a caricature image — not very totem like. So for a couple of years the trunk of the tree has been standing, withstanding our powerful Storm 2007 winds of 140 – 160 mph.

Another neighbor thought perhaps to use the wood from the tree to make unusual wooden crafts as it is a desired wood for such projects. We agreed if he could take it down, he could use the wood. He came, he saw the power line obstacles and changed his mind about taking it down. He suggested that the county might be willing to take it down.

Last week as I was leaving the community heading to town, I saw the county people doing some roadside tree cutting and stopped to inquire if they could take down my trunk of a tree. He said he couldn’t do it today as they had full schedule but would come back, to which I said no hurry, the tree will continue to stand. Surprised to find a work crew from the county in front of my house today, he kept his word and did come back to take down our tree.

It was fascinating to watch as with their power equipment and trucks they were able to stabilize the tree while someone else using chainsaw cut through the lower trunk. The truck with the stabilizing equipment held the tree steady, lifted it and gently swung it to the side of our road, laying it down gently.

She lies there in less than all her glory now, having been stripped of her limbs and foliage, a tall trunk of a tree that used to be and is no more. Good bye dear Monkey Puzzle Tree, we did not get to enjoy your heyday and were there at the time of your demise, but we truly respect your tremendous history.

Deersong

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What we did, what we do now

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My husband started a blog we intended to partner and write as a daily journal, using the blog as a vehicle to chronicle some elements of living our life in this wonderful treasure of a hamlet called Bay Center (named so because it is a peninsula that juts out into the center of Willapa Bay). We didn’t do what we intended with that blog. Some years have passed and elements of our life and activities together are reflected in bits and pieces spread out amongst our other blogs.

It would be a bit time consuming to capture the last five years of our life living here in this village on the bay into one blog entry, so I won’t try. As we move on with postings about our lives now, likely some of our past activities will show themselves in our future posts together.

He is five years to retirement, and I ‘retired’ a little earlier – May 2003 – but since I only put in sixteen of the required twenty years, I’m not going to be receiving any kind of a retirement pension. Thus, I am not officially ‘retired’ whereby I receive monthly retirement compensation (income). We are trying to figure out how (if) our income in retirement will meet our daily needs. We used the rules we grew up with as the basis for our retirement, but we can see those rules have become antiquated and outdated for these tumultuous economic times.

So in between our intense efforts and activities to speak out as military family with loved ones deployed in Iraq (see more on our activism at one of my blgs, Dying to Preserve the Lies), there have been some other things we do in our daily lives besides activism. Although it has taken me about the last year to clear my head a bit from the intensity of the previous five years of activism, enough to see that it became so all consuming for me, therefore for us, maybe we are finding some balance in our lives now. Looking out at the horizon, there are new challenges for all of us ahead in these difficult times with the looming oil/food/economic crisis. As we blog, we expect to be addressing our efforts at how we are trying to be somewhat prepared for an uncertain future.

Recognizing that we don’t have the survival skills of our ancestors, we are trying to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Learning about food management is one of several of our current shared focus – growing our own food, harvesting, preserving what we grow – and that is a large enough chunk to bite off as the peripheral topics that accompany it become their own kind of challenges, ie, making a root cellar.

I think because it is something we CAN do, it helps us to feel like we are attempting to do something concrete in the face of knowing that the wolf is at the door. We have spent a goodly amount of the last five years being messengers, and it feels good and right to turn attention now to spending less time messengering, and more time doing. Amen.

Deersong

End Time for Our Monkey Puzzle Tree, a neighborhood landmark – fading, to dying to dead and time to take it down

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Ahhh, I found someone else who’s mature Monkey Puzzle Tree died – like our 90 + yr old tree has died. Big hat tip to blog That and This (no longer active) for providing an account of demise of the tree, decision to take it down (fell it), along with great accompanying photos and links.

Last spring/summer season I knew our Monkey Puzzle Tree was dead beyond dead. Husband was unwilling to let go and acknowledge the tree was a goner – no more – the one almost green instead of brown branch just wasn’t enough life to save the tree. This spring/summer he acknowledges it is dead and we need to bring it down.

I honestly do not know the habit of this tree in it’s natural setting when it finally does die and have been trying to find out. Does it fall, does it remain standing and if so how long before it falls of it’s own accord. The neighbors seem to think because it is so old, so rooted that it is unlikely to ever fall. I think if it did fall it would take out the entire street corner, and then which way would it fall – on our house – which neighbor’s house??

We are talking now about having it felled and leaving enough stump to have a totem carved out of what is left. We are being told that we should think about selling the wood as it is highly valued in some places. We are told the wood is too difficult to carve and the totem pole idea does not have merit. One way or the other though, I think the tree needs to come down.

Which is why the blog account I bumped into was such a good find for me… thanks!


photo 2000 of the real estate listing for the house, shows the Monkey Puzzle Tree as it was then, when we purchased the house. We bought the house in Nov 2002, and the lower limbs were already straggly and looking sickly. Our neighbor was willing to cut the lower limbs in early spring 2003 (a decision I made that I didn’t consult with my husband about first and he was very, very unhappy about it). Because the tree was planted on what over the next 90 years would become a paved intersection in our small fishing village, the largess of the tree caused a blind spot for traffic making turns at that corner. Losing the lower limbs opened up visibility at the intersection. However, and it may or may not be related, the tree seemed to quickly lose what vitality it had and began the process of dying.


2005 spring/summer season photo of our dying (dead) 90 + year old Monkey Puzzle Tree (The Araucaria Family: Araucariaceae)


Winter 2006 photo of what is now clearly a dead monkey puzzle tree – all that is left is trunk and limbs and that green at the very tippy top – the last breath of hope of life for the tree – by spring it was brown.

Deersong

The house – 1886, thru the 1900’s to present day

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Original house, 1886, saltbox structure, wood built on piers — third house from the right in the photo. Church on right, preacher’s house next to church, and what was then the original house (with white picket fence). I’ve heard different accounts as to when the house was built – 1886, 1887, 1892. Whichever of those years it was built in, it is still standing sturdy over a century later and that’s something!

The first modifications to the house in early 1900’s. Added was the second story level cupola, and the two large bay windows on side of the house. The porch remains, and the white picket fence remains. House originally built by the Miller’s; her daughter married Harry Bochau and they became the owners of the house. Harry Bochau was a barge builder by trade and added the architectual details of the second story cupola and the two bay windows on the side of the house. Mrs. Bochau was pleased with the additions and called her house a chateau. It came to be known in the community as the Bochau Chateau.

Lower left hand photo and you can see the baby Monkey Puzzle Tree that was planted then. As this is a community on Willapa Bay, it was more so then that all the communities on the bay commerced by boat, ferry and ships. When the ships would sail into this community, Mrs. Bochau would go down to meet and greet the ship and boat captains, invite them to dinner, while others in the community would do likewise for the rest of the crew. One ship captain had monkey puzzle trees from Chile, South America, on his ship and gifted one of the trees to Mrs. Bochau (so I’m told the story goes). When we bought the house, the monkey puzzle tree she planted was still there and 92 yrs old. But our saga of the monkey puzzle tree is for another blog entry and I’ll tell that story another time.

The house as it is today after several more modifications and additions by the 3 owners who followed the Bochau’s. This is the house in 2003, not quite one year after we bought it.

Deersong

Adventures in living in an old house surrounded by water

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We’re the homesteaders in what some residents consider to be “God’s Valium” (cause it’s so quiet most of the time.)
After years of renting beach houses on weekends and vacations, we finally bought our own beach house as our permanent residence.
Bay Center is an old fishing village on a finger of land that juts out into the center of Willapa Bay on the Washington Coast. We’re 45 miles north of the mouth of the Columbia River and about the same distance due south on Hwy 101 from Aberdeen, Washington.
Cities?
Well, if you drive south east 125 miles you’ll be in Portland and to the northeast some 150 miles is Seattle.
Bay Center ain’t no city. From our house if you go 4 blocks east or west you’ll be in the Willapa Bay. If you head north you’ll be in the woods on the tip of Goose Point. If you head due south 4 blocks from our house you’ll be at the only dining facility within 15 miles.

Bay Center (the house is inside the small elipse in the center of the foto)

on Goose Point

Deersong’s husband

Haunted? Old houses are rumored to retain their residents for a very long time … I’m told

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About a year after we bought the house, we made both upstairs rooms into bedrooms. My sister came on a visit from Utah and slept upstairs in the bedroom where in the photo below shows a red circle around the window to that room.

About a year after that visit she was out here again and we were talking about the Tokeland Hotel which – as the seagull flies – is less than 5 miles across Willapa Bay from our house. However, we have always driven there which is almost 40 miles one way going out to Hwy 101, up the coast thru South Bend and Raymond and West on State Route 105 to Tokeland. The Tokeland Hotel has some rooms that are haunted. As we talked about that, Sis looked at me and told me the following …

“My dear Brother,  one morning after getting up, I came in from the bathroom and sat at the chair there to put my shoes on. Something drew my attention to the bed (she’d just slept in) and I looked up. I saw a woman sitting there on the bed and somehow knew that she used to live here.”

Yeah, yeah yeah ….. and I soon forgot about it.

Yesterday at work I was interviewing a woman – I’ll call her Dot – who was a pre-teen in the late 1960’s and knew the elderly lady, June Bochau, who’d lived most of her life in this house. Born in 1877, June Bochau died in 1970 at the age of 93 and was still living in the house with her son.
Dot remembered for me how she used to brush the old lady’s hair, telling me that she remembered mostly how long it was.

Dot then told me that later on, when she was older, she was back in the house helping another owner do some clean up. She said that June’s presence was still in the home even though she had died a few years earlier and that June’s presence was most strongly felt in the bedroom where the window is circled below.



I then remembered my sister’s story. I’m sitting in that room as I write this since it is now the room where my Sweetie and I spend probably half of every day while on our computers.

I came home last night thinking about June Bochau, a character about whom I’ve heard many stories in the 3 1/2 years we’ve lived here.

My Sweetie is not here right now but down the road some 40 miles this week in Long Beach with her mother so I’m home alone. I moved her computer chair with it’s arm rests and high back out from her desk and turned it to face me last night.

Every so often I’d turn and look at that chair which is the only place left in her former bedroom where June Bochau could sit down right now.
No, the chair did not move and although the window is open, the curtains did not rustle.

Nevertheless, I think about Dot who told me that she got chills up and down her spine when I told her what house we had purchased and were now living in.

I think about my sister who is not prone to telling ghost stories ….

I look at that empty chair, look out the door to the upper tower room where I can see above the houses in the immediate nearbye streets … and think some more about June Bochau.

This is the room behind that window in the other picture. That’s me at my computer and immediately to my left is my clothes closet.
My Sweetie’s computer is separated from mine by that waist-high cabinet to my immediate right.
Sweetie’s computer module is in the corner and the window looking out would be to her right if this were a panoramic view.
In the bottom right corner, her desk chair with a red sweater draped over the back sits empty.
I turn and look at it and just smile.

Deersong’s husband

Wow, a store opened in our village!

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I told you we had no stores in our little fishing village community, just the one tavern and a KOA campground, the oyster farms and 2 processing plants, and a county campground park. Welllllll … three days ago the one and only store opened and we, of course, went to the grand opening..lol.

Actually, I’m tickled at what the ‘store’ has to offer and it will make daily living in our village a bit more convenient. The new owner is from Long Beach area (highly tourist draw on the WA coastline) so she brought with her a bit of the flavor of Long Beach in conceptualizing our store in Bay Center. The store offers a pizza, deli and dessert bar; necessary grocery items, the beginnings of a gift line (oh we do get the ocassional tourists here) and a cozy relax sitting area with new polished wood burning stove, couch and chairs, newspapers and magazines, and this nifty reproduction record player that actual plays LPs (I want one!).

So now, instead of going the 12 miles into the nearest ‘town’ for the daily needs like milk, bread, eggs, cheese and such, we can go the 1/2 block to our own little store in Bay Center. Woo hoo!
Oh, and she even introduced a new line of coffee blend = Bay Center blend. My, my aren’t we upscale now? No espresso though, not yet anyway. (Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are known to drink a lot of espresso .. you know, the latte although I prefer a vanilla breve.) Me and the dog, Jake, can take a stroll down to the store and have a morning coffee and cinnamon roll while listening to some great vintage music LP playing on the record player. And yes, my dog can go into the store with me, cause it’s that kind of laid back community here.

Next – those developers trying to cultivate a high-end housing development around the ‘lake’. The plan is for 70 lots, selling at about $400,000 for the lot alone. So it’s not hard to imagine what kind of houses will eventually go up on those lots. I worry some, cause we moved here to get away from those insta-grow developments and the cookie cutter shop malls that go with them. I wanted to find a place that didn’t yet have a McDonalds or Super grocery store or Super any store and not likely to get such in near future. We’re not in jeorpardy yet…..but, still I worry some that our sleepy little paradise village, not more than a road sign on the state highway, will be ‘found’ and transformed. I like the identity this community already has and has had for the past century. Developers – stay away from here – and people, don’t come to Bay Center except as a drive through tourist.

The locals aren’t as concerned as I am, cause they’ve seen high hope developers come into this community before and try to develop a not quite gated community, but one of those development ‘estates’ with a fancy name like Rialto Beach or Meadow Woods or some such similar type name. But, I’m still concerned and time will tell.

photo of the ‘lake’ area which developers hope to turn into McMega House estates.

awww….don’t mow it down. photo of the first swatch of lake area being mowed down, next comes the sale of the lots, then comes the mega-mansions dotted all around the lake.

Deersong