We have a dead tree problem at Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast. But despite the ugliness of a dead tree, it also has created some new blessings.
When we moved into our home in 1985, there was a Cottonwood tree in our neighbors yard just a few feet from our property line. It was just about as tall as our single story home at that time. Because we live so close to an irrigation ditch, our neighbors would open their flood gates at their southern border to flood their yard once a week. This is a normal way of watering yards for many of Albuquerque’s residents living in the valley parts of town. The areas of the yards or fields that get flooded are depressed to contain the flooding. Even though everyone now has access to city/county water the tradition of flooding is a throwback to a time when the irrigation ditch system was utilized for agriculture, which was localized in the fertile lands close to the river that is now just called “the valley”. When the patriarch of a family died, the land was split up to the heirs and each of the splits had ditch rights. Over the decades the valley properties became long strips of lots, all having “ditch access”.
Still utilizing their ditch rights, many modern-day property owners continue to irrigate their yards in this fashion. For our neighbors, who have a fairly large property, irrigation enabled them to create a pretty lush oasis filled with fruit trees, pines and a few Cottonwood trees. Mr. Drake, our neighbor patriarch, watered like clockwork. It was his weekly ritual, from April through September when the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy regulates and distributes water into the ditch system along the Rio Grande Valley. This is how it was for nearly thirty years and the trees in the adjacent property thrived and grew quite tall, and then Mr. Drake passed, and the irrigation ritual stopped.
It only took a few years to see what was happening. First to die off was the 40′ Blue Spruce that was also planted along the property line. Then the mulberry died and the other fruit trees started to wane as well. Our beloved Cottonwood was dying too, so we asked our surviving neighbor if we could try and save the tree, at our cost, by bringing in an experienced tree crew to pollard the tree. Pollarding is a common way to extend the life of an aging Cottonwood. At first she agreed, the date and time was set, and then she backed out saying her son didn’t think it was the right time of year to do this. I won’t get into the whole sordid story, but the tree died the next summer and started rotting where it once stood majestically shading our backyard from the morning sun. It is ugly as sin, but we have now had time to realize that a dead tree has some real worth, besides firewood.
The number of bug-eating birds visible from our yard has grown exponentially. I see birds I have never seen before, and oh, the Woodpeckers! We watch them pounding away every morning. Here is a list of some of the birds we can now see from our backyard.
Also visible in the naked tree, we have seen Blue, Black Headed and Evening Grossbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, a lot of warblers, jays, finches, tanagers and orioles. We have even has a flock of Cedar Waxwings come through and spend several days to feast on the insects that abound in a dead tree. This is all in addition to what we commonly see in our yard anyway.
The other big dead tree benefit to us? It no longer sends roots into our raised bed gardens and we don’t need to dig them out by the bags full every Spring, Additionally, we get much needed morning sun to our gardens, and the leaves no longer have to be picked up in the fall.
The new birds are the real plus though, and I highly encourage any bird lover to keep a dead tree in their yard, look past the ugliness and enjoy the year round show.
I know the best places to see birds in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!