Creative stump removal

If you have never dug out the stump of a large tree by hand, then you have missed out on the true pioneer experience. There are few jobs that are more miserable and that are harder on your tools and your body.

When I was building the Wheelhouse there was a large double birch tree quite near the building. I went to great lengths to protect the tree and the roots. Despite this, the tree came down in an ice storm several years later. The stump was too large and too near the building to ignore and it looked like a back-breaker to remove. After considering my options, I decided to take the approach that “obstacles can be opportunities”. So, I turned the stump into a planter.

A couple of hours with a chainsaw and a chisel and mallet and I had carved a face on each of the two stumps. I cut a shallow bowl in the top of each head and drilled a couple of holes to allow water to drain out of the bowls. Then, I filled the bowl with potting soil and transplanted some myrtle that was growing locally. The myrtle grew out like hair and what had been an ugly stump became a piece of sculpture and a planter.

stump planter

stump planter

It has been many years now since I carved these faces and the stumps are rotting away, one is almost completely gone and the other is in advanced decay. The carvings have become echoes of what they once were. I no longer make a concerted effort to plant anything in them because nature has taken them over. They have evolved into something that looks like fragmentary ruins of some sort of Viking settlement. Accented with moss, a favorite hangout for woodpeckers, they have acquired a value different and more complex than the one that I originally intended.

I had hoped that by making the stumps into planters, the constant exposure to dirt and water would accelerate the process of decay so that the stump could be more easily removed. What I did not anticipate was that the process of decomposition would actually add something to the sculptures. Now, I find, I will miss them when they are finally gone.


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