Sunday, August 10, 2014

Through the Ages

We have been having severe afternoon storms. On Saturday, I experienced one of those bright flashes and a simultaneous crack of thunder, as chunks of bark pelted the front door. I opened the door to check the Ponderosa pine. It had been struck by lightning. I could smell burning wood and fresh pine. 

This was the largest tree in this part of our yard.
Hunks of bark littered the area around the tree.

Some of the pieces were thrown almost 100 feet.

Mr. Dreamy and I began speculating about how old the tree was.
Trees in this part of Colorado just don't grow all that fast.
We went online and checked Google Earth where you can see
historical imagery if it is available. 

Here is a recent satellite view of our home.
The tree that was hit is circled.

So, let's take a look back through the ages
to see if we can get an idea of the tree's age.

Here is the house in 2010. 
The house has a blue tarp on the roof.
(I still find blue tarp 'strings' when I work in the yard!)
No one lived there anymore. 
The owner gave up the property around 2008.
Shortly after this the bank began preparations to sell the property.
They had the roof repaired, and not long after, we purchased the home.
Yes, the tree is there.

Here is the property in 2007.
A new owner had purchased the house.
He made a lot of improvements inside and out.
Do you see all of the 'dots' in the yard between the
house and the white building (the barn)?
Those were 25 large trees he had recently planted.
Sadly, the new owner's wife passed away.
He sold the house sometime before this photo was taken
(All of the trees subsequently died.)
Yes, the Ponderosa is there.

This photo shows the house in 1999.
The 'barn' (the white square)
consists of 2 stalls only. 
At some point after this picture was taken, 
the barn was expanded to include a garage on the left side,
and white pipe fencing was added to enclose a paddock.
The tree is there.

We have heard conflicting reports about our property before our home was constructed in 1994. We have heard that the original farm house was near where the barn is currently located. We have also heard that our current home was built on the same plot of land as of the original house. 

This view from 1956 confirms that the original house was closer 
to where our barn is currently located.
The row of trees provides a good landmark.
In the more recent photos, those trees are just west
and slightly in front of the barn.
Not too coincidently, I am always picking up nails and glass
in the area where the original house stood!
I added a copy of this shot, with labels, below.

The tree shows in this shot, too!

 And the first available aerial photo from 1937...

If you look straight down from the little house on the left of the drive….
There's our tree!

How sad. A tree that was over 75 years old was struck by a random bolt of lightning, and in all likelihood won't live on. Nature is a cruel mistress, indeed!

As I received several comments about not knowing Google could do this, I thought it might be helpful to provide information so you can search areas back through time.

First you must download Google Earth. (Different from Google the search engine). It is free.

Once you have it downloaded and open it, there is a box in the upper left corner where you can enter a location, address, city, whatever. You will 'fly' to that location. 

On the upper toolbar there is an icon that looks like a clock surrounded by a green arrow pointing around the clock face going counter clockwise. If you hover over the icon it will say, "Show historical imagery…." Clicking on it will open a slider that shows the beginning and ending date of images from the area you are viewing. The white vertical lines on the slider bar are the points where images are available. Here is a screen shot from my search:

It's a great way to see the world!


  1. That's an amazing photographic history of your place. I don't think I've ever seen one quite like it.

    Sorry about the tree. It was probably collateral damage. If the lightning was aimed at your house, the Angel calling in the lightning would have to have given a correction. "Up 100, fire for effect!"

    1. You are probably correct - if it hadn't been the tree and it nailed our house, things could have been a lot worse!

  2. The tree may heal itself and be okay, I have seen many survive. I sure hope yours does as it has a real cool history:)

    1. I won't give up on the tree - and looking at some of the gnarled, dead limbs it already has, this probably isn't its first strike!

  3. Wow! I never knew you could do that with Google! How cool to be able to look back like that. Hopefully the tree will survive. A couple years ago a lady hit our tree with her car. It removed a huge chunk of bark, but the tree is fine. The outer bark is still gone though.

    1. We'll wait and see how the tree does. Hopefully it is a tough old bird/tree - would have to be to survive out here!

      I added instructions to my post should you care to play with the application.

  4. It might be okay for awhile longer. Don't give up on him or her. Trees are resilient. And, I didn't know you could do that with google. How interesting! Thanks for sharing :-).

    1. This tree would have to be tough to live out here - so I'm hoping. It also has some very interesting gnarled limbs, some dead and some alive, so perhaps it has gone through this before.

      I added instructions to my post should you care to play with the application.

  5. We had a pine struck too! Only ours was a little farther from the house. We were worried about fire, but all is well. Except the tree.

  6. dont start the funeral plans just yet - from a forestry tech cough* me cough*...

    There is a darn good probability that your tree will survive - as long as in any area, the bark is not loose all the way AROUND the diameter of the tree (girdled) then it should survive. In fact many trees that I have aged over 100 years old have some damage to them from something lol so yours will be considered "special" too :). The oldest Ponderosa I have aged was 400+ years..really! And it looked it LOL. Anyhow from your pictures, it looks like only bark was removed from the strike, not wood. thats a good sign!

    If you want, you could call your local/state Forester to come in and take a look - your tax dollars at work :) they could also age it for you with an increment borer if youd like...

    Anyhow, just be careful not to loosen any more of the bark, watch for any beetle infestation, and try not to inflict any more damage lol and she should be good to go. Its amazing how resilient the big ones are !



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