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Confessions From a Tree Hugger

Updated on September 1, 2013
grandmapearl profile image

Connie knows how very important natural habitats are to our bird populations. That's why she loves bird-friendly flowers, shrubs and trees.

Look up into the dense oak canopy.
Look up into the dense oak canopy. | Source

Have you ever heard a tree talk?

They do you know. Sometimes it’s just a whisper, or a groan; they announce an imminent storm with squeaks, creeks and squawks. If you should happen to be listening, there is an amazing array of swishing, whooshing and sighing as well. When winter sets in, the trees pop like aging joints, scolding against the bitter cold. It is music to this old country gal’s ears.

Have you ever noticed that the trees signal us when rain and thunderstorms are on the horizon? They turn their leaves backwards, and present the gray side en masse. Pay attention to the leaves. They talk, too.

'Wine-spattered' maple leaves give us a tantalizing preview of the show to come.
'Wine-spattered' maple leaves give us a tantalizing preview of the show to come. | Source

Trees Talk to Us in All Seasons

Of course we all know about the changing hues of autumn, ushering in the bleak months. It’s as if the spectacular show is presented in order to take the sting out of the coldest and bleakest time of our year. The leaves are saying, “buck up; this too shall pass”. “But in the meantime, here’s some wonderful bright color to help sustain you”.

Acorns | Source

How Many Acorns Have Fallen?

The trees tell me whether it will be a mild winter or one ‘for the books’. One year there were so many acorns on the ground, it was like walking on ball bearings to step outside; and you needed a hard hat as well! That winter we had record snowfall, and record low temperatures. Last year there were very few acorns, and this year the same is true. The trees are letting me know that it will be a mild winter.

This little chickadee found some animal fur; just right for the soft interlining of its nest.  More chickadees!
This little chickadee found some animal fur; just right for the soft interlining of its nest. More chickadees! | Source

The Cycle Begins

Winged seeds, flowers and catkins herald the return of our migrating birds, and a promise of growth and rebirth after a season of sleepy hibernation.

An explosion of green leaves tells me there will be an explosion of insects, caterpillars, bees and woodland babies. Celebrate the sunshine and absorb its energy!

Multiple dwellings!
Multiple dwellings! | Source

From spring through wintertime, trees are home to millions of animals. Every chance I get to observe not only birds, but raccoons, bugs, butterflies, squirrels, bears, and yes, even snakes, using the superhighways and underground tunnels of the trees is a treat to my senses. All these animals and more depend upon the maples, poplars, oaks, birch, pine and beech trees for shelter from predators and storms, sustenance and family housing.

Deer with velvet-covered antlers.
Deer with velvet-covered antlers. | Source

Did You Know?

  • Fungi contain no chlorophyll, so they do not need sunshine to grow, just moisture and warm temperatures.
  • Many toxic varieties of mushrooms look very much like their non-toxic cousins. Never eat a wild mushroom, unless you know absolutely that it is safe. It’s best to ask an expert.

Trees Serve Many Purposes in the Woods

The roughness of the tree bark acts like a scrub brush as the deer rub the velvet from their newly-born antlers. Mushrooms and morels live and die as they hasten the decomposition process, releasing elements that will nourish new trees. Drilling beetles and chewing caterpillars ingest nutrients from leaves and bark, to be passed on to the next in the food chain.

Straight-Branched Coral Mushrooms
Straight-Branched Coral Mushrooms | Source
'Roadside cafe'   Holes drilled into the tree as the hunt for food continues.
'Roadside cafe' Holes drilled into the tree as the hunt for food continues. | Source
Early morning in the forest.
Early morning in the forest. | Source
One of the many grey squirrels that shares its habitat with me.
One of the many grey squirrels that shares its habitat with me. | Source
Chickadee found a spider!
Chickadee found a spider! | Source

Trees Are Highways

complete with on and off ramps, roadside cafes, housing developments and single family detached dwellings. There are apartment complexes and seasonal hotels boasting million-dollar views.

As I contemplate the myriad shades and textures of the tree trunks marching across my view of the woods, the sudden ‘crack’ of an acorn dropping and hitting an old branch on the ground turns my attention immediately upward.

On a limb high in the crown of an oak tree a grey squirrel scampers gingerly. The bushy-tailed rodent busily dislodges nuts with fierce agility. As the wind brushes the dense crowns of the trees, a sound starts faintly and begins to build. More acorns hit the grown like hailstones. The rodent is working its day job, cleaning the branches of accumulated air pollutants and dust that may have originated halfway around the world, while shopping for its winter stock of food.

Its actions stir up all sorts of flying insects, spiders and caterpillars. Birds enter the arena to scoop up an easy meal, courtesy of the ‘nut gatherer’. Acorns, hickory nuts and insects are in high demand this time of the year. The fall season means migration and winter storage preparations. The trees are telling me that we have again come full circle.

A chain of memories takes me to a place I have not visited in a while.

On the path out to the woods stands a grand old oak tree. I think of it as a sentinel allowing only the faithful to pass by unscathed. Some years ago, an industrious downy woodpecker deftly drilled out a place for its family in one of the sentinel’s gracefully outstretched limbs, which was connected at the tree in a ‘Y’ shape, about 15 feet off the ground.

The Oak Sentinel, without its lower limb.
The Oak Sentinel, without its lower limb. | Source
Very young Downy Woodpecker likes this tree!
Very young Downy Woodpecker likes this tree! | Source

Approaching the sentinel one day, I could see a fuzzy little head popping in and out of the cavity. Stopping dead in my tracks, I waited patiently while mama woodpecker flew in and poked her beak into the hole where the baby birds were nestled. I could tell by her movements that she was feeding them some tasty morsels she had found. She was soon off again searching for more baby food under the bark of nearby trees .

Wintertime suet supplements the bugs my woodpeckers find under the bark of the trees.
Wintertime suet supplements the bugs my woodpeckers find under the bark of the trees. | Source

Watch as they seem to multiply! Video from 'srcampsite', entitled "Squirrels Playing in Tree"

The days passed, and Mama Downy and her offspring stayed close by, gleaning all sorts of bugs and crawlies from tree trunks.

My bird feeders are not far from the old sentinel, so the woodpeckers also enjoyed partaking of the seed and suet buffet I placed before them. I want them to stay, you see, to police and keep my trees healthy.

Several years flew by, and upon glancing at the old sentinel one early spring morning, out from the hole in the ‘Y’ branch scrambled 5 baby squirrels, one right after the other!

The nesting hole had been re-sized to comfortably house the energetic bunch I was now watching with a smile. Up and down the tree they spiraled, occasionally hopping back into the hole in the branch where they had their nest.

Have you ever observed the joyful antics of tiny squirrel babies circling the trunk of a tree? There’s nothing like the carefree agility of a woodland animal for supercharging a spring day!

Chasing each other became a game of tag as they took turns at the lead position. Practicing jumps from thick to thin branches, occasionally one would falter. Maneuvering deftly while one or two feet were dangling in mid air, the critters contorted and quickly clawed their way back to four-footed stability without missing a beat. I could hear the sounds of their sharp claws skittering along as they grabbed at the bark for traction; little muscles and sinews stretching and growing strong.

The following year, while working in my herb garden underneath that same tree limb, I distinctly heard loud buzzing. Pausing to locate the source, I realized it was directly overhead. Very carefully and quietly I departed the area, pleased to observe a honeybee hive in the former woodpecker/squirrel cavity. Honeybees called this their home for several more years, busying themselves in my gardens. But I could tell that the underside of the limb where the hive was located was becoming decayed. No doubt the cumulative moisture from the honeycomb, combined with many years of animal residency, was taking its toll.

If you could live in any environment, which would you choose:

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That winter was especially snowy,

and the elegant old bough succumbed to the weight of the millions of snowflakes that had collected along its length. It was a heavy, wet snow that melted and dripped with the heat of the bright afternoon sun. My heart seemed equally heavy when I found that limb on the ground. After all, it had been home to so many for so long.

Because most of the limb was still solid, it was not left to decay, but cut into pieces that would fit into our wood stove. I am always mindful of the Native American practice of taking from the land, but giving back in kind and in thankfulness. Very often we leave fallen branches and trees to decompose, thereby returning to Nature the elements that were used in their growth.

Decaying fallen tree.
Decaying fallen tree. | Source

Old snags are left to stand, allowing many more to share their last vestiges before crumbling back into the soil. Millions of bugs, caterpillars, mammals and birds rely on such resources. Then bacteria, fungus and mold spores hasten the decomposition process, keeping our planet in balance.

Food Sources For Animals From Trees

Tulip Poplar
Pine Cone Seeds
Pine Branch Buds
Spiders and Spider Mites
Whiteflies and Ants
Caterpillars and Insect Larva

According to

  • A healthy mature tree can have a value of $10,000!
  • Two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four!
  • Each average-sized tree provides an estimated $7 savings in annual environmental benefits, including energy conservation and reduced pollution.

The size of the tree matters not. From saplings to mature specimens, every one serves a vital purpose in all our lives. The swaying tree tops filter pollutants; and photosynthesis provides carbohydrates from the breakdown of chlorophyll by sunlight, emitting oxygen as a by-product. In fact, according to,”today, the average rate of energy capture by photosynthesis globally is approximately 130 terawatts, which is about six times larger than the current power consumption of human civilization.” That’s a lot of power!

I’m a tree hugger, and darned proud of it! I cannot imagine life without the green of the woodlands, and all the fascinating creatures living there. Some people just love the ocean, seaside vistas and sand; or the dry heat of the deserts; others could not fathom life outside of the big city. Still others enjoy life above the tree line in the snow-covered mountains. And that’s just fine with me: to each his own. But I’ll keep listening to my forest, and bask in all its glory in all seasons.

Young Blue Jay.
Young Blue Jay. | Source
Grandma Pearl a/k/a Connie Smith
Grandma Pearl a/k/a Connie Smith

'You can create yard and garden habitats that Help Birds Survive and Thrive'

Read more by visiting; and

Join me at Rusticbarnwoodbirdhouses to discover more about wildlife in general, and birds in particular.

Are You a Tree Hugger?

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    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      IslandBites, Thank You! I'm so pleased you stopped by to visit me in my woodland ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Dear Eddy, thank you for your visit and sweet comments. No matter how awful things are in the rest of the world, the nature in my backyard, and my friends here on Hubpages keep me grounded!

      Have a wonderful day my friend ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      bac2basics, so nice to see you as always! Once in a great while I notice red squirrels around here, but none lately. But I often see a black squirrel as I motor down my rural road. This has to be the 6th season that it has been evident. Squirrels are intriguing little fellows. I rescued one that had ended up on the ground after a particularly windy and rainy night. After calling the local wildlife 'rehabber', I found a shoe box and lined it with shredded newspapers. She advised keeping it close to a light bulb for warmth until she could come and pick it up. The little guy's eyes weren't quite open yet, but it was making the cutest little sounds. I found out later that it had been released back in to the woods none the worse for wear! I was quite pleased with myself for having helped the little one to survive.

      Just this morning I watched as a deer was wandering through the woods. She looked up and saw me, but evidently perceived I was no threat as I spoke softly to her from about 50 yards away. Nature presents me with awesome stuff everyday!

      I'm so glad you stopped by and shared your love of wild things with me. I truly enjoy your comments and visits ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      FlourishAnyway, thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. You really brightened my day! We nature lovers share a common thread and mindset; we understand that every part of this world is interlinked. I'm truly pleased to know that you share my thoughts and feelings. Your visits are always appreciated; thank you so much for the votes and your sweet support ;) Pearl

    • IslandBites profile image


      5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great hub!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      Oh yes as always a wonderful hub Pearl. I love all your hubs as a fellow committed nature lover and here's to so many more hubs for us both to share on here.


    • bac2basics profile image


      5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Pearl.

      I thought I was in tune with nature until I read this hub. I often have squirrel baby´s and their parents in my trees and they are a joy to watch. All the Squirrel´s here are red and I was watching 3 having fun just this morning. I think the parents must have reared more than one family this year unless red squirrel´s mate later than their grey cousins because a few weeks ago I was just watching 2 playing in the trees and also looking like they were preparing to mate, then a few weeks later one of them was making a low and different noise than is usual and kept nipping in and out of what looked like a nest or drey in the fork of a tree and now I think feeding a baby. Looks like baby is now out and about having fun with his parents until they go their separate ways.

      Great hub pearl and wonderful photo´s , I loved that one of the deer and he obviously was as used to your presence as you are to his.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      What a beautiful hub, so well written with remarkable insights and splendid images. You truly appreciate the magic of nature. I enjoyed this hub. Voted up and more, grandmapearl. Just marvelous.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Shyron, welcome to my tree hugger club! We don't have any Live Oaks here in the northeast, but I understand why you love yours. What a lovely gift from your husband, even though you had to plant it yourself. Mostly I have red, white, black and swamp oaks, hard and soft maples, birch, beech and 5 kinds of hickory nut trees. I feel so fortunate to live here in my woods. I'm so glad you stopped by to visit me; the votes and share are very much appreciated. Here's a hug for your tree ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      ThompsonPen, I'm smiling back! How nice of you to send me a hug....I'll head for the woods and hug a tree for you, shall I? Thank you for your joyful comment ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Nell, trees evoke those same feelings in me--the forest is my comfort zone! If I'm feeling blue or anxious, into the woods I retreat to magically forget my cares! Thanks for your visit and wonderful comments, the votes and share--all are very much appreciated ;) Pearl

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      5 years ago from Texas

      I am a tree lover and hugger. My favorite is the Live Oak, hubby bought me for my birthday and he was in the hospital (Countdown to a Miracle)when it was delivered and I had plant it myself.

      voted up, beautiful, interesting and shared

      Yes I hug them!

    • ThompsonPen profile image

      Nicola Thompson 

      5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      This made me smile. And want to hug you :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      I am a tree hugger too! lol! there is just something so magical about trees. I feel really relaxed when I am walking through woodland. They feel so homely, wonderful hub pearl, and voted up and shared!

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      radhikasree, thank you! I'm so glad you stopped by to visit me in my woodland home. The trees are so alive in all seasons, even in the coldest months they still talk!

      Thank you for your supportive comments; they are very much appreciated ;) Pearl

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      5 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Lovely pictures with nice description!

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      pstraubie, Where would we be without our trees?! We are kindred spirits, indeed. I love that you and your daughter are tree huggers! I wonder just how many of us there are? Hopefully it's a big number, because appreciation for the environment and all its needs is a huge issue for me.

      I love that you were a tree in another life--I've heard people say that they were different animals, but you are the first 'tree-person'!

      Thanks for your sweet visit today, my friend, and for the votes. Have an awesome day ;) Pearl

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Hi Connie

      I love reading your articles but I think this is my favorite. I was right thee with you as you carried us along on this road to understanding of our TREES. I am a tree hugger too and so is my daughter.

      What is not to love about them?

      I often say that I must have been a tree in another life as I love them so much.

      Thanks for sharing Voted up up and away!!!!

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Thanks Deb! Mother Nature knows all about balance. But somehow the majority of the human population just doesn't get this essential concept! Thanks for stopping by, and for the supportive comments.

      Have a great day in Oklahoma ;) Connie

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      A balanced planet is always important. Your tree has truly been serving its purpose, making it home for many. Another wonderful article accenting the joys of life and living.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      bravewarrior, I don't know what's happening. I've been trying to add my comments to your latest and several others, but something seems to be wrong. I tried to answer your comment this morning, and when I hit the comment button, it took me back to the top of the hub. It did that 5 times before I finally gave up! Hopefully whatever the glitch is, they will work it out soon.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      bravewarrior, thank you! Your comments and compliments have boosted my confidence level sky high!

      The squirrels are still very active here, especially when it comes to playing and chasing each other. They seem to be enjoying themselves instead of worrying about food. I'm convinced from my observations that it will be a warm autumn, and a mild winter.

      You know, you and billybuc ,and so many other generous and gifted writers on Hubpages are great cheerleaders and motivators....I have learned what good writing is all about from reading your articles, and I am in awe of your talents and wisdom.

      Thank you my friend for your sweet and encouraging support ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      epbooks, I'm pleased to find another tree lover who appreciates their language! Not many people realize the music of the trees. Thank you for your visit. Have a beautiful day ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Carol! I'm pleased to see you as always! Your pretty smile always brightens my day! billybuc has taught me to carry a camera and a notepad whenever I go outside....this article is a direct result of one of my walks in the woods, and his excellent teaching skills! Thanks, my friend, for the votes and share. I'm happy I am able to convey the way I feel about our precious environment. I hope you have a very special day ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      purl, thank you so much for visiting me and my forest full of wonders! I appreciate your very supportive comments and compliments. Thanks for sharing my appreciation of our magnificent trees, my friend ;) Pearl

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      billy, I published this just in the nick of time the other day, and then the rains came. I was so anxious to see what my teacher had to say, but I had to patiently wait until this morning! Your comments have tickled me pink, my friend, and that's putting it mildly. I have you to thank for this 'growth', and you will never know how much you have come to mean to me.

      You have taught me well. Thank you and bless you for your friendship and excellent teaching skills ;) Pearl

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      What happened to the comment I posted yesterday?

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      Pearl, I think this is your best article yet. The way you tell a story in addition to providing an education kept me reading and wanting more. I was unaware that acorn count relates to the upcoming winter. Now that you mention it, this year and last, I had very few acorns on the ground, while the previous year there were more acorns on the ground than grass!

      I have Live Oaks and Laurel Oaks all around my property. I just love watching the squirrels play tag, chasing each other round and round the trunks, then leaping to nearby trees and continuing their frolic, chittering all the while.

      I really enjoyed this, Pearl.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Interesting information here. I have heard the trees talk by when they squeak. Thanks for posting!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      I so enjoyed reading this and feel your passion for nature. Some new things to think about. Love all the photos. Voting up and sharing.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      5 years ago from USA

      Wonderful observations and great information to remind us just how important trees are to our environment and our lives. I love your photos! Thanks for sharing this with us :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      From one old tree hugger to another....beautiful!

      You had me at the title; from then on it just got better my friend.

      You are growing as a writer and your love of nature shines in every article that you write. Well done, Connie!



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