Broken tree trunk

We know that Icemaggedon doesn’t discriminate between homes it hits, and while you may have worked tirelessly to get your listing ready for MLS, a downed branch or broken limb is a huge issue when it comes to showing a home.

So, what should you do as a Realtor if one of your listings was hit hard by our recent history-making ice storm? Harold Spiegel of Preservation Tree Service says that you shouldn’t do a thing — let a trained arborist handle it.

Pear tree split“Potential buyers are looking for big mature trees, but the key is a healthy tree,” Spiegel says. He recommends homeowners partner with a Certified Arborist to help them achieve this goal. “Tree work should be completed only by those trained and equipped to work safely in trees, because your home’s value depends on it.”

Of course, just like our last catastrophic ice storm, tree companies will litter neighborhoods with flyers and business cards, but Spiegel warns that not all tree trimmers are created equal.

“There are many individuals with no more than a truck and a chainsaw who sell themselves as ‘tree care professionals’ or ‘arborists,’ ” Spiegel adds. “They’ll tell you they can take care of your trees and happily take your money; only to leave you with what translates to a butcher job and trees that will most likely succumb to decline from poor treatment.”

To avoid these “tree fakers” as Spiegel calls them, follow these tips:

Always ask for ISA Arborist certification numbers for staff they say is certified. Will one of their certified arborists come inspect the trees beforeany pruning work or treatments are performed? Are they accredited and insured? If they damage your property, will they be responsible, or will you? A logo doesn’t equal legitimacy. Nor does simply calling oneself an expert.

If you are trying to sell your home, Spiegel recommends you prioritize tree care and pruning, especially after an ice storm, because this is important to curb appeal and a huge selling point. “Trees add value to the property, help cool your home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower heating costs in the winter, and provide food for wildlife,” Spiegel said. “Homes with healthy mature trees also sell faster.”

Of course, when weather like Icemaggedon hits, firms with trained arborists and tree-trimming experts are often backlogged with customers, especially in areas with tons of mature trees like East Dallas and the Park Cities. Patience is important, Spiegel says.

“Don’t let anyone come in with a chainsaw,” he warns, “because they could cause irreversible damage to the structure of the tree, leave it susceptible to disease, and even harm the curb appeal and beauty of the tree, which will cost the homeowner money.”

 

 

Icemageddon 2013 branches

Nothing anyone has written about the recent Icepocalypse resonates with me as much as this bit from DMN beat writer James Osborne’s Icemaggedon aftermath coverage:

For more than three days, Angela Ponce and her family huddled by space heaters powered by a small generator. They wore mittens and hats to breakfast. All the while, Ponce looked around her neighborhood in Lake Highlands and wondered why the folks up the street still had their lights on.

“My friend who lives up on Windy Hill brought it up. She said, ‘Why do y’all always lose power and we never do?’ ” Ponce said.

“I’m a normal human being driving around before dinner trying to get warm. And I’m seeing people across the street from me with their Christmas lights on. I’ll say it, I’m bitter. It’s not their fault, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.”

That was my family, huddled around sipping hot chocolate (hot, thanks to my gas range and its magnificent ability to boil water without using electricity) underneath two feather duvets in my Casa View Haven home, occupying our 2-year-old, Cooper, with games on the iPad. When the electricity didn’t come back on by the time the iPad’s battery was dead, we knew we had to find someplace else to wait.

Ice tree on car E Dallas

The problem was, all of our friends who offered us a place to hang out, lost power in rapid succession. Just moments after we loaded a change of clothes and our air bed (battery powered) in our car, our dear accommodating friend called to tell us that his power was now kaput, too.

And it was frustrating to see that two blocks over from us, homes had Christmas lights ablaze. Too bad that two blocks was too far to string an extension cord, and so sad that even some of these folks would experience intermittent outages between early Friday morning and late Monday evening, which was, according to the voices on our neighborhood association Facebook page, the time at which the last of the powerless among us was celebrating the wonders of electricity.

And yes, Oncor and the many teams they recruited to fix this horrible weather aberration, worked as hard as they could for days. But you know what my father always said? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yes, we know that the ice storm came earlier than any other storm in recent memory, catching all the deciduous trees in Dallas off guard. But why were there limbs hanging over lines in the first place? Why weren’t trees trimmed back like they should be?

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Expert real estate stager and frequent contributor to CandysDirt.com Karen Eubank says that almost every listing on which she consults, she says the trees most often need some kind of preventative maintenance. It’s true that older neighborhoods in Dallas are loved and celebrated for their mature trees, but, as my mother said to me via text as I was warming my tootsies by the fire in Forney, “Your huge trees are lovely, but are they ever a liability!”

I couldn’t agree more, Mom.

I guess the question remains: Will we remember what caused this horrible scene when Oncor cruises alleys with chainsaws in spring?

Icemageddon 2013 branches

Nothing anyone has written about the recent Icepocalypse resonates with me as much as this bit from DMN beat writer James Osborne’s Icemaggedon aftermath coverage:

For more than three days, Angela Ponce and her family huddled by space heaters powered by a small generator. They wore mittens and hats to breakfast. All the while, Ponce looked around her neighborhood in Lake Highlands and wondered why the folks up the street still had their lights on.

“My friend who lives up on Windy Hill brought it up. She said, ‘Why do y’all always lose power and we never do?’ ” Ponce said.

“I’m a normal human being driving around before dinner trying to get warm. And I’m seeing people across the street from me with their Christmas lights on. I’ll say it, I’m bitter. It’s not their fault, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.”

That was my family, huddled around sipping hot chocolate (hot, thanks to my gas range and its magnificent ability to boil water without using electricity) underneath two feather duvets in my Casa View Haven home, occupying our 2-year-old, Cooper, with games on the iPad. When the electricity didn’t come back on by the time the iPad’s battery was dead, we knew we had to find someplace else to wait.

Ice tree on car E Dallas

The problem was, all of our friends who offered us a place to hang out, lost power in rapid succession. Just moments after we loaded a change of clothes and our air bed (battery powered) in our car, our dear accommodating friend called to tell us that his power was now kaput, too.

And it was frustrating to see that two blocks over from us, homes had Christmas lights ablaze. Too bad that two blocks was too far to string an extension cord, and so sad that even some of these folks would experience intermittent outages between early Friday morning and late Monday evening, which was, according to the voices on our neighborhood association Facebook page, the time at which the last of the powerless among us was celebrating the wonders of electricity.

And yes, Oncor and the many teams they recruited to fix this horrible weather aberration, worked as hard as they could for days. But you know what my father always said? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yes, we know that the ice storm came earlier than any other storm in recent memory, catching all the deciduous trees in Dallas off guard. But why were there limbs hanging over lines in the first place? Why weren’t trees trimmed back like they should be?

image

Expert real estate stager and frequent contributor to CandysDirt.com Karen Eubank says that almost every listing on which she consults, she says the trees most often need some kind of preventative maintenance. It’s true that older neighborhoods in Dallas are loved and celebrated for their mature trees, but, as my mother said to me via text as I was warming my tootsies by the fire in Forney, “Your huge trees are lovely, but are they ever a liability!”

I couldn’t agree more, Mom.

I guess the question remains: Will we remember what caused this horrible scene when Oncor cruises alleys with chainsaws in spring?

image

We’ve been displaced from our home in Casa View Haven for going on four days now. Our little corner of East Dallas lost power around 4 a.m. on Friday, and while we thought we could tough it out that evening, we ended up doing a white-knuckle commute to Forney, where our in-laws live. A trip that usually takes no longer than a half-hour took about an hour and a half on Friday afternoon, considering the snail’s pace we drove to negotiate icy bridges and 18-wheelers stopped on the shoulders. We saw cars and trucks in ditches, some getting rescued by tow trucks and fire engines, and more than a few devil-may-care-type drives being humbled by the icy roads.

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Since then, we’ve been without power for 81 hours or so. (Side note: Our Great Pyrenees mix, Horsby (above) does not seem to mind the cold at all.) For the duration of that time, we’ve been relying on reports from our fellow neighbors who are either made of stronger stuff than we, or don’t have 2-year-olds, who have stuck it out in the cold and ice. The Casa View Haven Neighborhood Association has really come together during this time, with neighbors offering a warm bed to those who would otherwise turn into ice cubes overnight, hot meals, and even helping find animals who were spooked by the storm. The consensus among residents, though, is that service has been ridiculously slow to our area. Calls and texts and emails and web messages to Oncor have resulted in little to no service to our Zip code — 75228 — the largest in Dallas.

Considering the number of downed power lines and fallen trees in our neighborhood of post-war traditional homes, you’d think response time would be faster. And yet, a neighbor posted that a power line that has been buzzing on the ground in her backyard has still not been addressed. She’s finally decided to call 911, hoping that firefighters or emergency responders can help address the dangerous conditions.

It wasn’t until last night that we started to see trucks labeled “Alabama Power” in our area. If you’re keeping track, that’s about 64 hours after most of our neighborhood (including our home) lost power. We bought some of them coffee to help sweeten the deal to perhaps expedite our power restoration, but they were gone just about as fast as they arrived. They told us they were trying to figure out who would be working on our outages, and they were shooting to have power restored by midnight. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

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We saw a few more Alabama trucks this morning, and even an Oncor truck, but still, no power. Even more galling is that Oncor’s text system keeps reporting some customers’ power as “restored” when those residents can tell you through chattering teeth that nothing could be further from the truth. What we’ve heard from some workers is that there were a lot of branches over lines that should have been trimmed, and when the perfect storm of winter conditions arrived — Hello, Cleon! — those branches crashed on the lines, resulting in massive and widespread outages.

Our neighborhood would have to agree. We’re still reporting outages to Oncor, every hour, on the hour, employing the “squeaky wheel” strategy. Here’s hoping we’re back in our own home, safe and warm, this evening. Until then, we’re hiding out in the Casa Linda Starbucks and other warm places that can keep a 2-year-old busy considering that his preschool — along with all DISD campuses, Fort Worth ISD, and pretty much all urban districts save for Garland — is closed. We definitely have a case of cabin fever.

Do you have power? What has been your experience from winter storm Cleon? And are you seeing crews working in your area? Sound off!

HLC Frost Cloth

With “Icemaggedon” hitting soon, and the cold weather officially upon us, it’s time to keep an eye out on protecting your plants from the freezing temperatures. We’ve asked noted landscape architect, Harold Leidner, to provide some insight and suggestions for protecting those plants from the cold temperatures.

Freeze Protection Methods

One of the essential freeze protection items that we install on all our projects is a rain and freeze sensor on the irrigation system. This sensor (which can be hard wired or wireless) activates once the temperature drops below 40 degrees and prevents the irrigation system from operating in cold temperatures and adding any water to the plants that may cause damage.

HLC Temperature detectorAnother primary method of protection those plans is to use a frost protection fabric or freeze cloth over the top of the plants. This fabric, which can usually be found at any nursery or home improvement store, will help wick water away from the plants, provide an additional layer of protection and help prevent any ice from forming on the plants.

We typically use short wood stakes to ‘tent’ the frost cloth above the plants and also use landscape pins to anchor the fabric down so windy conditions don’t blow it away. If the cold temps sneak up on you and you’re in a pinch, a good old bed sheet will work as well. (Just don’t use the nice ones!)

Plants That Need Protection

Most plant varieties sold at nurseries and used in the Dallas area will be cold hardy for the climate. However, there are certain varieties of plants, usually tropicals, that will need a little extra protection.

Palms are one of the primary plants that we take care to protect from cold temperatures. Sago palms (Cycas revoluta) certainly are fragile to the cold and will need to be covered. Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) are generally cold hardy, but the trunks can be wrapped with a blanket or frost protection cloth. Other plants that are susceptible to freezing are Oleander (Nerium oleander), Variegated Ginger (Alpina vittata) and the vine Fig Ivy (Ficus pumila). All of which could benefit from the protection of a freeze cloth.

We find annuals to be optional but some of our clients prefer that we also cover their newly planted winter seasonal color like Pansies and Cyclamen. Any containers or potted plants that are not connected to irrigation or drainage, we would suggest simply moving them into the garage to weather the frigid night time temperatures.

Miss those 100 degree days yet?

Need help preparing for freezing weather? Contact the talented staff at Harold Leidner Landscape Architects to guide you.