Looking at My Yard with New Light

Wet and windy weather has taken a toll on unstable trees this summer, impacting houses and homeowners throughout Door County. My husband and I are no exception. A tree was our alarm clock on June 23.

The wind was docile and a few sprinkles fell that night, when a long, rolling thunder shook our house as the massive maple tree in our front yard fell on it. A 10-foot limb pushed its way through the porch roof, greeting us at our front door. The power line running to our neighboring cottage was torn from the siding and hung under the trunk of the tree, while the power line to our home was missed by only a few inches. Wisconsin Public Service came out and disconnected the line right away, and we scheduled to have the fallen tree, now balanced on our home, removed the next day.

Storms continued into the evening. Plaster and lathe walls and ceilings in our bedroom had buckled. The next morning, we were relieved to find our home still standing when the father and son team of Dave and Todd Burke, of Dave’s Tree Service, arrived. Four ropes and a chain held the tree trunk steady while four men began sawing and removing “small” branches.

Todd prevented further damage by holding the 50-foot trunk with a log lifter as two men sawed and dropped logs until they safely lowered a 30-foot section onto the front lawn.

We used a tarp to bandage the roof holes until all were repaired. We left the other half of the tree standing, but it didn’t last long. A little over a week later, it too came down.

We believe the tree that toppled onto our house was over 125 years old, yet all that remains now is a nine-foot stump standing in the middle of our front yard. Though the experience has been a time-consuming eye-opener for us new homeowners, we hope to make something of that stump. Maybe finding someone to make something creative out of what’s left of our “alarm clock.”

Tree Tips

Be mindful of what’s swaying in your yard. As our experience proves, it doesn’t take a powerful storm to bring down a tree, and it’s always more expensive to wait until damage has been done than to be proactive to avoid it in the first place. Homeowner’s insurance only covers a portion of tree removal and home repair costs, especially with older homes.

There are no guarantees when it comes to nature, but here are some simple tree monitoring tips from Todd Burke.

Look Up: If a tree has multiple stems or shoots close to the house, it will have problems sooner or later, so check these trees on a regular basis. Big mature trees get rotten centers when branch intersections fill with water and wetness becomes visible, running down to the trunk base. If things are growing on the tree, like fungus, it’s a sign of rotting. A certain amount of dead branches are natural, but if a lot of dead branches are visible something is wrong. Those woodpecker holes can be large enough for raccoons to get in!

Inspect: Don’t wait till winter. Healthy trees should be inspected when they are full of leaves because it’s easier to see if there are dead branches or areas that need trimming. Old, large or suspected “sick” trees should be inspected when leaves are off because major cracks, splits, rot, holes and other problem areas can easily be seen. There are a lot of things you can do to prevent major problems just by going outside and seeing what the tree looks like. If you’re concerned about a tree, don’t hesitate. Have someone come out and look at it.

Care For: It is important to have someone come out with a trained eye if you have concerns because every situation is different. Depending on which way the tree is leaning you can do things not requiring whole tree removal – such as cabling or removing certain parts. Trees hanging over the house should be trimmed and trees that are leaning towards the house should be removed. Keeping dead boughs to a minimum is best because it eliminates weight that could be hanging over your house. There are a lot of things to take into consideration such as power, phone and cable lines, roads, and neighbors.

Dave’s Tree Service will thoroughly check the health of your trees and provide a free estimate.

Todd Burke is the Owner of Dave’s Tree Service Inc and certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) as an Arborist and Utility Specialist. Visit them at or call 920-823-2259.

To see photos of the tree on our house and its aftermath, visit