Category Archives: Safety

Topping is evil

Previously topped Manitoba Maple, that had had failed leaders in the past – photo credit: Jillian Creasor

We recently had a storm event that resulted in a lot of damaged trees throughout Brandon and the Westman area. With few exceptions, the reason that these trees failed was because they had been previously topped. I am not talking pineapple on pizza (which is delicious) or sprinkles on ice cream (literally the worst) Read on to find out what topping is, why people have done it in the past, and what you can do differently to take care of your trees.

What is topping?

Topping in the tree world is an outdated pruning practice that does not deliver. Generally, “topping” is just that – taking the top or upper crown off a tree.

After topping, many epicormic shoots arise and develop into weakly attached branches. These
branches, and the multiple leaders, continue to develop girth and weight and have an
increasing potential to fall and cause damage to people and property.

Linda Chalker-Scott, The Myth of Tree Topping, PlantAmnesty, https://www.plantamnesty.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Myth-of-Tree-Topping.pdf

Why do people top trees?

Trees may have grown and are interfering with power lines or properties. People may think that it is safer to have a shorter tree or that getting a serious pruning will give the tree a chance to “fill out” Topping promises a safer tree, but does not deliver.

How does topping a tree affect it?

Initially, the loss of leaves results in less food for the tree. The tree is more susceptible to disease, decay and insects through all the cut off stubs and limbs.

Trees understandably freak out after losing their top or upper canopy (how upset would you be if you lost your head?!) Trees react with rapid growth, which results in poorly connected branches in an attempt to replace as many leaves as quickly as possible.

Eventually the new branches grow to the original height, but are tied in poorly, which restarts the whole cycle again.

(You can use a chainsaw for proper pruning!)

What is the alternative to topping a tree?

Excellent question! A healthy, well pruned, watered tree is the safest. Depending on the age, placement, and species of tree, there are several effective tree pruning techniques that can be employed. Selective crown reduction, or crown thinning are two ways we can respond to some of the concerns that motivate tree topping. Bottom line, if you are considered topping a tree, you may want to consider tree removal and stump grinding and replace with a tree that will more comfortably fit into the space.

You can consult with an arborist, who can assess risk, and make suggestions!

You can request a visit online here Request a quote ! Or call Reta at 204-730-0368

Why does my tree look like that?!

After the stormy times of 2014, I found that a lot of folks in the surrounding area became very “tree aware”. I got a lot of phone calls asking “is my tree safe?” I would generally respond that all trees in our care do pose some degree of risk, and that I would assess the risk, with a few caveats. With the tough weather we have had over the past two years – hot, dry summers, and cold, dry winters, I am now getting a lot of calls wondering why their tree looks the way it does.

When assessing a tree with an eye to possible pruning, or removal, I work through the  pyramid, or three legged stool: Safety – Health – Appearance. Some of the questions I ask around safety are: how close is the tree to buildings, public walkways, powerlines? What kind of tree is it, how has it been pruned in the past, what is the overall structure? Then I assess if the tree is healthy, leafed out, fighting off bugs, mushrooms, pathogens. Appearance can definitely be subjective, and sentimental value is always a consideration.

When there is a question of infection, I prepare samples and send them away to a lab to test. We are generally not big proponents of chemically treating trees, that may just need water and pruning. It is important to know what the concern is, and we can discuss lab results when they come back.

Caring for your tree is the best defense. Trees are like us. They have a circulatory system, scars from injuries, neighbours.  Caring for your tree means regular haircuts (pruning for species and age as recommended by a certified arborist), watering your trees when we go weeks, or months without rain in the summer, and monitoring for the signs of decline (mushrooms, dead branches in the crown, root plate shifting, splits at unions, and premature leaf or needle loss are among the most obvious)

If you have questions about your trees, please call Reta at 204-730-0368

If you want to know what questions to ask – 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Arborist or Tree Service

Saying goodbye to one of my favourite trees

Tiny man or giant stump?

Oh dear poplar – you fell over so majestically.

And we just got to prune this year!

Safety Stuff

I am always looking at trees and buildings. I am in the tree business and I love architecture. So that is what I am checking out while I am out quoting, running errands, etc. Last week, on my way home for lunch, I passed two “job sites” and I was pretty steamed. The first was two men without hard hats, hearing protection, pylons/flags, who were chipping branches adjacent to a major thoroughfare. The vehicle was not identified in any way, so I am uncertain who it was. 

Chris and I came up in heavy construction and know that young workers are particularly vulnerable to injury or fatality as they are being trained for their position. This is a tragedy of our times, and as an employer, we believe it is critical to train young or new-to-tree business workers so that they can safely perform their jobs. People will say that there “isn’t time for safety” or “being safe takes too long and costs too much”

We disagree. We train our employees properly, and provide them with personal protective equipment. We are covered by contractor insurance, liability insurance, and Workers Compensation.

This means that Chris and I wear PPE.

This means that if you decide to book Bee EZ Tree Service, I will instruct you on how to engage our crew safely, where to stand out of the way if you would like to watch, encourage you to wear PPE if you are coming around your yard/our jobsite.

There is a cost obviously associated with buying lots of hard hats, gloves, safety glasses etc – but that is the cost of safely doing our business.

Excerpt from our training manual “Safety is an attitude, that infuses your movement and approach to a task. Safety needs to be an automatic response to the situations that we will find ourselves in every day. People look at our work and say, That’s dangerous! No. Our work involves risk, and through training, planning, talking, and executing the plan – we mitigate those risks.” (Saborowski 2017)

If you would like to read about the questions you can ask your arborist, check out this post 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Arborist or Tree Service

If you would like to talk about the good old days, and how we can safely take care of your trees and hedges, call Reta at 204-730-0368

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Arborist or Tree Service

**UPDATED July 6, 2020 to reflect changes in MB Provincial Licensing Rules

How do you know if the tree service or arborist you are hiring is up-to-snuff? How can you protect your home and family from injury and liability?

Ask questions! Do some research!

Here is my list of questions that I encourage people to ask me:

  1. Are you licensed? (In the province of Manitoba, you must show proof that you have passed the Arborist exam and carry a minimum of 2 million dollars in liability insurance. I carry a copy of our license in Dropbox and can email you a copy, upon request.  We are licensed through the Dept of Forestry. UPDATE – People who previously held an arborist license with the province of MB are allowed to continue as arborists, however, those new to the industry will be certified through the ISA, the International Society of Arboriculture of which I (Reta) am a member. The information is here)
  2. Are you insured? (Tree services must carry a minimum of 2 million in liability, in addition to the insurance on their own equipment. I carry a copy of our license in Dropbox and can email you a copy, upon request.)
  3. Are the safeties on your vehicles current? (Dump trucks must be inspected a minimum of once a year, depending on the Gross Vehicle Weight)
  4. Do you carry WCB (Workers Compensation)? (If the business is owner operated, they are not required to carry WCB – unless they are subcontracting. If the tree service has employees, it is a requirement to be registered with WCB. Check the WCB database to see if you are hiring someone covered by WCB here.)
  5. What is your tree management/pest management philosophy? (There is no right answer here, I think it is important to work with someone whose ideas resonate with you.)
  6. How many years experience do you/your team have doing this kind of tree work? (We are celebrating five years in Brandon! Before that, Chris worked in Winnipeg for 2.5 seasons)
  7. Have you done this type of work before? (Tree work ranges from pruning fruit trees, to large removal in tricky situations. It is important to get a sense of how much experience someone has in the type of work you are looking to have done.)
  8. How do you plan the work? What is your felling plan? (I usually discuss how we will proceed with the planned work with my customers, so that we can discuss any surprises/possible challenges before the work starts)
  9. Do you have references? (Yes! You can check our Facebook page here . I can also provide you with additional references, if you need.)
  10. When can you get the work done/how much will it cost? (This is usually the first question, and it is an important one. Beware the person who can get it done immediately, unless it is an emergency. During the summer, we are usually booking 2-3 weeks ahead. We are subject to the weather, so our schedule may change! If you need tree work done because of other contractors, or because of a special date, we will make our best effort to fit it in. Beware the too-good price. A few times a year, we are called to finish up work that was started by a different outfit that got in over their heads or took the deposit and left.)
  11. BONUS QUESTION ~~ Do you need a deposit? (I accept payment once all the work is completed, and you are 100% happy. We don’t need to order any supplies, which is often why contractors take deposits. We do appreciate being paid once the work is completed, unless other payment arrangements are made in advance)

If you would like to ask me questions, call Reta at 204-730-3068

If you are buying or selling a house, check out Look out behind those bushes! and This Wild Trick Means Selling Your House Easier!

Look out behind those bushes!

Look out for this guy!

When we look to solve problems, we often look to our own professional experience. Makes sense! An accountant may suggest that a budget makes owning a home easier (but not as fun!) A contractor may suggest a new bathroom (good idea!) A locksmith may suggest a new lock (do you see where I am going with this?)

A recent article in Popular Mechanics about home security listed the normal “update your locks” suggestions that you already know, but what jumped out at me was the importance of landscaping. Read article >>>>

Being able to see clearly out of the front door and windows means that someone cannot hide, or get close to the house without attraction notice. It would be helpful if burglars wore little black masks and striped shirts, but in real life, I don’t think they do. A well lit home, with nicely pruned trees is an excellent start.

Call Reta if you’d like to talk security strategies 204-730-0368

Is there a tree on your house? 

We can help! The summer storms that are becoming all too regular (read also – it seems like we have had destructive storms every year since Chris and I moved back from Winnipeg four years ago)

During the storm season of 2014 or ’15, Chris was photographed and interviewed by the Brandon Sun. He was quoted as saying that “a downed tree is a spring loaded death trap.” Now to be clear, he is not trying to scare people. What he wants to make clear is that a downed tree presents many, many risks – some of which are not obvious at all.

One of the challenges of storm work is how to remove trees and branches without further damaging your property. Maybe something is fully on your house, but depending how it is removed, there is a possibility to damage eavestroughs, soffit and fascia. Or perhaps, as a post is taken apart, there is the possibility of logs sliding down the side of your house, damaging siding or stucco.

While there is no 100% guarantee in storm work, we deploy a host of tools, trucks and expertise to safely make your home tree-free. From using a pole saw to cut branches from a safe distance (logs/posts can turn or shift suddenly depending on how their weight is distributed) to using jacks, straps and chains to support trees as we take them apart, we enjoy solving the challenges presented by a downed tree.

We would rather take down a marginal tree on purpose, than come clean up after an accident.

If you would like to know if we can help, call Reta at 204-730-0368