Green Acres

Remember that really old TV series, Green Acres, where a city slicker decides he wants to live in the country and drags his fashionable wife there where they meet all sorts of wacky characters? The theme song entered my head today for some reason, probably because we are living deep in the country. I haven’t met any wacky people that I can think of but living in Provence can sure be different from living in the city. Of course Mother Nature can hit you unexpectedly with all sort of things-remember that freak wind storm that knocked down hundreds of huge trees in and around Paris? It just seems like you are more up close and personal with nature here. It sits right outside your back door and you never know what you will find when you walk outside whether it be poisonous caterpillars, wasps, flies or thousands of weeds, not to mention flooding or fires.
It has been an extremely wet winter here in Provence and the rain continues into spring which sets the stage for my story-it was a dark and stormy night with heavy winds. I woke up at the ungodly hour of 3 AM with a sort of upset stomach so got up to read for a while. My cat, meanwhile, was throwing up himself every fifteen minutes or so with some sort of problem. I had forgotten to turn on the dishwasher when I went to bed so decided to do so. Right after that I heard a loud noise. I sort of looked around the house and at the dishwasher but didn’t see anything that had fallen on the floor so forgot about it. For some reason at 7 AM or so when Maurice got up, he looked out our bathroom window. He never does that. He was wondering for some reason if I had closed our new gates on our new wall the day before. I was on my computer when he said, “Linda, come here!” as he opened our front door. There on our driveway was a huge tree which had formerly stood up above on our neighbor’s property but which had sort of leaned onto ours, a tree probably two hundred years old. It totally blocked our garage and we couldn’t get our car out. Of course, this was the day when we had not one but two doctor’s appointments in Aix. Our new wall was gouged with a deep trench in one place and some tiles had broken off the corner of our roof. The tree missed hitting our house by inches except for that one corner. I still haven’t seen the plants underneath the tree’s body but I’m thinking that there will be some major damage there and maybe on the retaining wall which took most of the brunt of the fall. A neighbor kindly offered to take us to Pertuis where we caught a bus to Aix. We didn’t arrive back to our home until almost five. By then some forest type guys with huge saws had come and gone and cut away what blocked our garage but a lot is left. I don’t know when that will be finished. For some reason they cut the largest portion of the tree trunk at the top of the hill and it must have rolled down the hill because there was now a gouge on our garage.
Thinking about it all, we think it was a convergence of reasons-the perfect storm as they say-that caused the tree to fall. A few years ago they widened the drainage ditch on the side of the street for rain runoff as our neighbor was getting flooded out each time it rained. We think they must have cut some major roots when they did this. I had noticed that each summer the tree had fewer and fewer leaves and that it dropped a lot of braches and twigs in our yard. I should have spoken up and then maybe the tree could have safely been cut down but, coulda, woulda, shoulda. It’s too late now. Then we had that huge amount of rain over the last six months or so and then a big wind the night the tree fell.
But, there’s all sorts of ways in which we were lucky when this happened: the tree could have hit our house, it could have fallen on my son’s van a few weeks before, it could have fallen the night before Maurice had to take his son to catch an early train back to Paris, our car could have been parked there, somebody-maybe meor Maurice-could have been standing there when it happened, if Maurice hadn’t opened the bathroom window that morning we wouldn’t have know it happened until we tried to back out to go to Aix. So even though we have an incredible mess to clean up, I still feel lucky but, to tell the truth, I’m sort of ready to pack it in and go back to Paris. I’m hoping for a warm and sunny summer with no rain at all.


Notice there are no roots on the trunk sticking up. I think the whole thing was rotten.


See how close it came to the house?


A little closer view. What a mess.

14 thoughts to “Green Acres”

  1. Wow, Linda! That’s way too close for comfort! Never mind the mess to be cleaned up: it certainly is extremely lucky that no one was hurt. Life is all about timing, isn’t it?

  2. Yikes! That is a huge tree. Of course, in the U.S., the neighbor would be responsible for paying for the damage and clean up. I’m guess people are more autonomous in France and it’s every man for himself, right?

  3. …….so weird because I actually dreamed just last night about Harricane Fran in 1996. A huge oak tree fell on my car in the driveway, destroyed it – also other trees in the back of the house fell on roof etc. All eventually led to our starting a landscape project and garden. Sometimes beauty comes in the most extraordinary way!

    Anyway dear, so sorry about this happening and the damage caused – thank goodness nobody was hurt. I guess a hot dry Summer is now needed there – my brother just had snow in Caunes this week after very warm weather – he’s worried about his veggies of course!

    Kent I know is a lovely area, they grow hops (for beer) and there are probably nice places to see. I have never traveled through that area though and don’t anyone who lives there so can’t help much….sorry.

    Take care – hope the cleanup and repairs are soon over – does your neighbor’s insurance cover the damage?

  4. Oh wow Linda. So glad you are safe. The pictures really tell the story. So very close. Ye, you need a few days away to absorb all that has happened. I can’t imagine what a huge clean-up effort is in store.

    Thinking about you and Maurice. Take care.

  5. What a lucky escape you all had! Although there is a great deal of damage it could have been so much worse! Take care!!

  6. That is one huge tree and I am so glad that the damage was not worse! I would say you are right – that tree was slowly dying .
    I remember that huge storm that came through England and then over to France and Paris in particular!Think it was 2000 ??
    I visited Paris that year and my husband and I walked the grounds of Versailles where trees were just removed and I believe those trees were not wasted for they auctioned off the wood – HUGE trunks of oak etc to the public – you can bet there was ALOT of furniture makers that bought it all! I do hope so for they would make wonderful furniture with that special history behind them . We visited the Bois de Boulongne to see the famous rose garden there (delish rose lovers) and we saw all the huge trees there all being cut up and I do hope some furniture makers got that wood too for you could really do wonderful things with these old rare trees!
    Do you think your old tree will have that fate too?
    So glad you are all well and not too much damage to your roof Linda!
    In time it will be one of those stories you all talk about “remember the time that big old tree……”
    We are getting rain now – yeah! Hope to see you have some sun and it dries up your soggy soil.
    Does your council make you replace that tree with another tree???? they do this here in some suburbs!
    Don’t put another tree in if you don’t Have to — too close to the house!

  7. Oh my goodness!! So thankful that no one was injured but what a mess. Those photos are amazing and the work ahead is enormous. Wish I could be there to help!

  8. Yikes, your photos show how close you came to so much more grief – you are right, you ARE lucky. Nature is so powerful, and we have tampered with it with such bad results(thinking of the off-shore oil well spewing oil in the sea). Hope you get some days of sunshine soon!

  9. We took down all of our huge pine trees after one came down next to the house.
    Do tell about the poisonous caterpillars.
    We just got back from Florida, my other half says he never feels at home in the environment there, too many snakes, bugs, alligators, etc. In the north you can go for a walk in the woods and nothing is going to bite you except the mosquitos and black flies. And you can sit on the ground without worrying about chiggers (whatever they are)

  10. Oh my goodness, now scary! Amazing pics re how close it was/is to the house – good luck with the clean-up.

    I understand your wish to be back in Paris — many blessings indeed as it could have been so much worse. Hang in there and I’m sure you’ll have a great summer in Provence.

    Cheers and take care.

  11. Very lucky no one was hurt! That was quite a big tree too!

    OK – so now the real question – do you think it was just a coincidence that you and the cat were sick at the same time? or were one of you having phantom symptoms of the other?

  12. What a mess! But you’re right, all in all, it sure could have been much worse. Years ago, back in NJ, an actual TORNADO blew threw my old neighborhood where my mom and sister were both living (my mom still lives there, in the house where we grew up). The neighborhood was lucky overall, only one house had a little bit of roof damage but nothing severe, and no one was hurt, but a LOT of trees were either down or were shorn off at the tops. I drove up there soon as I heard, and it was like a bunch of bombs had gone off with all the debris in the streets. And in my mother’s front yard were the two HUGE birch trees that my dad had planted when I was 1 year old… we even have an old (soundless) home movie of me toddling around with my mother, and my dad in the background walking around with a shovel, the day he planted them. Well, these trees were enormous, more then twice the height of my mom’s ranch house, but luckily they boy blew AWAY from the house, because they fell over, roots and all. One of them took out all the power/phone lines on that street. They were over 30 years old. She lost another tree in the back that also, luckily, was not too near the roof of her house. My sister also lost 1-1/2 trees, and she SAW the funnel coming and grabbed her baby (who is now 17) and her little boy (now 22) and the dog, and headed for the basement. New Jersey NEVER gets tornados.

  13. Firewood! That’s what I would have thought after making sure there was no damage. Intuition is often quite strange if you think about it. Looking out the window, etc..! Thankful though it did not cause a lot of damage or harm to anyone. Our spring here in the south has been quite weird too. Usually we are having hot weather by now, but it has been half way decent. Plus it has been cool at night (50’s) which is really strange although nice! The only bad thing is that with cool wet weather I will now have to replant my veggie garden as I had done it last month. I must say though weeds do love all sorts of weather!!

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