Welcome to the 9th issue of PITH + VIGOR, a weekly newsletter by me, Rochelle Greayer, with a focus on garden design, plants, and making this world a better place. I'm glad you're here. Was this newsletter forwarded to you? You deserve your own: Subscribe here.


Harvard, MA, February 19th, 2023


This week has been ROUGH.  


A tornado (not literally, but in the form of a good ol’ fashioned logger) spun through all of my new neighbor's property. He completely wiped out mature trees and woodlands.  A monster mess remains and the new neighbor has already told me he has regrets.

Then the frenzied tempest turned his chainsaw to my other neighbor’s property.  Apparently he was meant to only cut three or four trees next to their house.  He took out at least 25 - and over a half dozen of them were ours.  


Our previously quiet and enclosed private backyard is gone. 


My adrenals are shot. For days, I've been a state of fight or flight at the sound of chainsaws, cracking timber, and sickening foundation-shaking thumps that follow. 

This singular crazed menace with a chainsaw has been dropping trees after dark, without any safety measures and with complete disregard for anything other than wood he's stealing. He's also torn apart the social fabric of this little hilltop collective.

What remains is a giant mess on our property (he felled nearly all of 25+ trees onto our property and only took the main trunks leaving mountains of debris). He damaged the canopies of our living trees with the falling cut trees and he has left giant scars on the land with his stupid Tonka trucks. 


I’m so angry and sad and frustrated and I'm still in shock and mourning. I fear there is more to come. 



Here is  some humor so that this note doesn’t bring you down as much as I have been this week. 


I found these logger jokes on the internet: 

      If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it…

     …then the illegal logging business is a success. 😭


Or how about this one…


A logging company needed to hire another lumberjack. The first guy to apply was a little skinny fellow, who was laughed at by the manager and told to leave.

"Just give me a chance,” the little guy pleaded.


"Okay," the manager replied, "Grab your axe and cut down that cedar over there."

Two minutes later he was back at the managers office, "Tree's cut. Do I get the job?"

"I don't believe it, that is so much faster than even my best lumberjack could have done it. Where did you learn to use an axe like that?" the manager inquired.

"Sahara Forest," the little guy replied.

"Don't you mean the Sahara Desert," the manager corrected him.

"Sure, that's what they call it now.”

I sense this little comedy set is bombing hard.  



My “near-death experience"* has given me some clarity. 

How such a thing can happen?


My neighbors are slightly recalcitrant - but only with the smallest of oh-well shrugs. They (and the logger to an even greater extent) are so depressingly cavalier and uneducated about the long term impacts of their actions. It is all so thoughtless. 


  • Do you know that when you remove a grove of trees - at least 10% of the surrounding trees will also die.  (Lots of reasons for this - but it a straight up fact that you need to understand if you are cutting lots of trees)


  • Trees act as unit and protect each other - especially when it comes to bracing weather. If you take a bunch of them and change the aerodynamics of the grove, the remainders are often left totally exposed and ill equipped to survive. There are only three trees remaining on the downwind side of the wiped out grove, all right next to my house. The 15+ lost trees broke the prevailing winds for them, and I'm scared for their fate (and my house)


  • Driving repeatedly over soil kills it. It compacts and makes it less hospitable to future plant life. This guy made muddy rutted highways through our woods and over the still-living roots of the remaining trees. We're screwed, the remaining trees are screwed.  


I keep asking myself... Don’t they realize? - Don’t they realize it is even worse than it looks?  Much worse. 


They neighbors don’t realize. And the logger (who is literally doing this cutting for free— because he only sees dollar signs on the trees.**) - doesn't care. There is no repeat business for him.

And that is where I see a failing (that I take very personally). But it is also where I feel like I can make a difference.  

This week brought my values and purpose back into focus.  Yes, I teach garden design courses.  But the 600+ people who have joined me at that level just isn’t enough and it isn’t the reason I do it. I hope that they can take what they have learned and share that knowledge.  But more people - all people - need to have a better understanding of how their actions impact the ecosystem.  How can you make a difference? We all need to have better tools, a better understanding, and an altered value system.  



In 1978***  the USDA released a paper called “Facts About Landownership".  In it: 

     "We can only generally characterize U.S. landownership. The Federal Government owns about 33 percent of the 2.3 billion acres; private individuals own 60 percent; State and public agencies and American Indians own the rest.”


Things have certainly change since then - (primarily in the make up of the 60%).


Back then over 90% of the private land was owned by farmers and ranchers.


We all know, even without updated data, that number is significantly less in 2023. 


Which is to say - we, as private citizens and home and land owners, have an ever increasing importance in taking care of what we can in our own plots.  


These plots, when taken as a whole - link us from north to south and east to west, create corridors and constitute a significant amount of land. 

Doing everything we can to support the ecosystems that we need to survive is vital and our yards matter. 




I want to do my part to make this world better, more beautiful, healthier, and generally less on the brink of disaster. And the best way I know how is to share as much knowledge as I can with as many people as I can.


(That Is really the point of this newsletter… but I promise, in the future, I will try to make it a little more fun than this admitedly morose note)


I genuinely believe that landscape designers hold the knowledge and skills to save the planet and we should be leading from the front. 

You all have total control over what happens on the pieces of land you control.  Very few places in the USA protect large and established trees. In this Land of Liberty - we have given ourselves far more leeway to do as we want than private land owners have in most other developed countries.


"With great power comes great responsibility"  

-Voltaire and Spiderman


In many ways we are not rising to the challenge of this extra responsibility.  Yes, you can unleash a log-devil if you want and there maybe little legal repercussion but if I can leave you with any message today - it is this: 

You and your land are not an island. It is impossible for you to act in isolation. Everything you do impacts your neighbors and everything around you.  So don’t be an dumbass.****



Curses, like chickens, come home to roost. 

See you next week. 



P.S. I did manage to put together something less depressing this week - it is a list of my favorite apps.  Things I use daily as a designer.  It is posted on my instagram - you can check it out here.   They can help you design better too.


*(as in I have been very near the death of a lot of living things this week - things whose lives are longer than mine and would have perhaps continued beyond mine).  Plus the sheer terror of a flimflam hatchet man dropping 100 foot trees within a few dozen feet of your home, with no safety ropes, after dark, and in the most careless and cavalier way is absolutely paralyzing. 


**Lumber costs are high. A logger is the opposite of an arborist.  He wants to cut the healthiest straightest trees becasue they are the most valuable. He doesn’t want the branched ones (that in the case of pines are the most dangerous to property owners and are the first thing an arborist would notice and try and help you with). A logger will tell you they are they all dying (as in, aren't we all?) - but I assure you he wouldn’t cut and take unhealthy trees; there is no lumber money in that.  

Bottom line, you get what you pay for - if you need tree care (which you probably do if you own trees) - hire someone who actually gives a damn about you, your property and the trees (an arborist - not a logger).  


***For reference - during the Carter administration. Wishing the best and sending love to their family at this time. ❤️ 


**** I’m sorry if this might feel like I’m pointing at you personally - but if the shoe fits you should wear it, but please do stick around I’ll do my best to help you understand how we can all be better. Better yet - drop me a note and let me know how I can help you.


Greayer Design Associates

PO Box 394, Harvard, MA
United States