The End…

This will be my last post here on the old Sonoran Tree Service Blog. Don’t worry, there will be more information coming, but it will be on a blog within my newly refurbished website – http://sonorantreesvc.com/

All the old posts have been moved over. Now that the site is up and running, I will be back to a more regular schedule of posts. I have a pretty good backlog of photos and info to put on, so stay tuned!


We’ve been swamped with work – lots of palms to trim since it is now “the season” when everyone would like their palms done. This is with good reason, as the seed stalks are fully developed and if we trim them now it will last a whole year! Some customers like to wait a little longer “just to be sure”, which is fine with us – we are having a hard time keeping up! We do very much appreciate all our loyal customers who are willing to wait a few weeks for us. Thank you! 

The weather is still hot (not as bad as earlier in July) and the humidity is WAY up. This makes our working conditions tough, and makes thunderstorms pop up many afternoons. With that, we have started getting calls about storm damaged trees. Most of them so far have been big, old trees that were in poor shape; or young trees that had root problems (from the nursery or time of planting). We give these top priority and have to bump out the palm trimming jobs to take care of the emergencies. 

I have some pictures from one of the jobs we have been on recently where access was the biggest challenge. We have done this particular property three years now, so we know what we need to do. It is still a bit scary though… 

Taking the lift up some stairs!

In the picture above, we have already used the ramps to get the lift on top of the first stair, and moved the ramps to the middle stair. I’m about to drive onto the ramps which will act as a “teeter-totter” on the middle stair, and come down onto the top stair. We have tried to pad all the concrete with wood so the metal ramps don’t scratch anything. Last year I used my AlturnaMATs (plastic protective matting) under the steel ramps – when the ramps teetered, everything slid downhill (backward – no friction between plastic and steel…) about 20ft! THAT WAS SCARY! This year with the wood it was no problem. 

Looking up the stairs!

After we got the lift to the top of the stairs the trimming was pretty simple. The customer has two Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia robusta) that are “unskinned” – their trunks still have all the frond bases left on. He likes that look. But it makes climbing them with spikes pretty dangerous. No problem with the lift! The property is on top of a mountain with great views. There is also one Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) by the pool on which we always do a light pruning. Here is the setup: 

A Beautiful View!

Here is what it looks from my "office"!

There are three California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) in the front yard. They are all accessible from one location with the lift, but it has to be set up on a slope. The LEO18GT outriggers don’t extend very far below the body of the lift, so we have to set up cribbing on the downhill side to get it level. This is usually not a problem, but we have had the blocks shift before – never with the booms up! It is always makes me a little nervous setting up on cribbing. I try to make all my moves VERY smooth. In this case a thunderstorm was moving in, so I had to move smooth and FAST! I got the lift down just as the rain started and we took shelter under a porch roof for about half an hour. We cleaned up in a light drizzle, glad we were done cutting! 

The lift set up on cribbing - see the storm moving in?

Next week looks like more of the same – palm trimming and storm damaged trees. Hot and humid weather. Tough working conditions.

Queen Palm Trimming

I am still working on these posts on the palm trees that grow in our area. I have not yet covered the date palms, various miniature palms and the Queen Palms – the subject of this post.

First an apology for not adding much new material the last few weeks. The excuse is simply that we have been very busy doing routine work and there has not been much exciting news to talk about. Yesterday we did take out a huge Eucalyptus, a big pine and an Italian Cypress to make way for a home renovation/addition/replacement at a golf course community here in Wickenburg. I have a video of the Eucalyptus hitting the ground that I will try to get on here sometime in the future.

For now, I have some information to share about Queen Palms. I was asked by a Homeowners Association in Phoenix to quote trimming and “deep root fertilizing” some Queen Palms on their property. For the most part, trees don’t have “deep” roots so the term is a little strange. I corresponded with a professor at the University of Arizona about the situation and she agreed that “Since the active roots of the palms are quite shallow, you would be wasting fertilizer and perhaps not treating where needed at all.” This is the approach we took on the quote and have not heard back yet.

I find that there are some homeowners that desire to know more about their trees and how to take care of them. They will welcome new knowledge and quickly modify their practices to bring them in line with currently accepted practises. There are others who simply turn a deaf ear and continue to treat their trees with outdated and harmful methods even when confronted with better knowledge. I like to work for the first group of people!

Trimming of Queen Palms is not as critical as the fan palms that I’ve covered in previous posts. They do have seed stalks but don’t seem to make such a mess. We are almost a little too cold here in the winter for Queen Palms, so we usually see some cold damage after the winter is over. It is important to wait to trim the fronds until after all the cold weather is past. Taking off the damaged fronds too early could expose more fronds to damage if the temperatures dip again. After that, it is just an aesthetic decision as to when to trim.

The frond bases (skins) on Queen Palms is very thick and tough to cut. We usually use a chainsaw (VERY carefully) to remove them if the customer so desires. There is no harm to the tree if they are left on.

I have a couple photos of us trimming some Queen Palms back when Shannon still worked for me, so he will be making a guest appearance in this post. I understand he is getting along well with his Army training!

Queen Palms are usually not that tall so they are easy to trim from the ladder.

We had cut the “skins” off these trees last year, so only needed to remove the fronds that were damaged by the cold along with a few seed stalks. These are pretty large Queen Palms for our area, in Phoenix I have seen much larger ones! This picture shows the feathery fronds that people like so well.

Shannon trimming off a frond.

The Heat is Upon Us!

Sorry for not posting anything for a while – my computer crashed very badly (total system rebuild) and we were also on a weeks vacation since my last post. I spent most of the last week trying to get all my software reloaded and associated with all the correct data. I had my people trimming Mexican Fan Palms while I was gone, but we still had a bigger backlog of work when I returned! 

I have some photos of the area we visited, but first I want to show you a picture from a job I did shortly before we left. I was approached by a member of a local church who said that they had a problem with bats getting inside their sanctuary! He wondered if my lift could get up to the peak of the roof so that expanding foam insulation could be sprayed into the cracks. It sounded possible, so I came over one afternoon after we finished our tree work. There were a lot of cracks completely through the brick veneer where creatures could get inside. I used 3 cans of foam to fill them. The lift made things easy! In the picture it looks like I’m pretty close to the power lines coming into the building but it is an illusion, I was more than 10ft away. 

Using the Spiderlift to fill cracks in the wall to keep bats out of the church!


We went to northern Nevada for our vacation and spent a week in Jarbidge, a very small and isolated town in the mountains. On the way up and on the way back, we stopped at Eureka NV for church and to visit friends. While there we had the opportunity to go to the north end of the valley to see a “salt” or alkali flat that stretches for miles. 

alkali flat in the Diamond Valley where we stopped to collect Tiger Beetles.


Jarbidge is a very historic mining town, where gold and silver were discovered in the early 1900’s. It is located along the Jarbidge River just 8 miles from the Idaho State line. Here is a picture of the East Fork of the Jarbidge River. 

Canyon of the East Fork of the Jarbidge River looking south.


A very generous friend gave us the use of one of his cabins (which in itself was historic) and a Polaris Ranger to run around with. 

The cabin we stayed in.


We looked around the area all week, taking short hikes and enjoying the cool weather and the river. We found the place where miners came down into the canyon and crossed a tributary on their way to Jarbidge before the current road was built. Here is all that remains of the bridge: 

Remains of old bridge.


Most of the trees we encountered in the area were completely different from what we have in the Sonoran Desert, but there were Cottonwoods along the river. The Chokecherries were blooming profusely, promising a good crop for jelly-makers! We got up into the coniferous forest on one day trip to see the snowdrifts which still blocked the road into Jarbidge from the south. 

I was able to collect a few tiger beetles, some Buprestids (mostly on flowers) and two species of Cerambycids. The lone scarab was a metallic green Dichelonyx that flew in front of my near the bridge shown above. It was not a tremendously profitable collecting trip, but that was not the objective! 

Now we’re back into the heat of summer. The California Fan Palms will be ready to trim after July 15, and we have a lot of work to get done before then! I’ve also been asked some questions about Queen Palms by a homeowners association in Scottsdale – I’ll share with you what I learn once I get all the answers!

Backyard Habitat

Three years ago when we moved into our new house it had nothing but a flat sand and gravel yard all the way around it. There were some plants on the 1-1/2 acres, but nothing at all near the house. That had to change! We spent some time  with a tractor building berms to help direct traffic and storm water. Then we spent some money putting in a fairly good drip irrigation system and we also bought a number small shrubs and a few trees. I then started collecting seed and growing plants in put in our yard. When I was out in the desert and saw a nice plant (tree, bush, whatever…) I would make note and collect its seeds whenever possible. We now have hundreds of plants growing in the yard – most native to this area or at least native to Arizona or the southwest. Many of my customers have given me cuttings from their cactus, or the entire cactus when it was unwanted. This has added an interesting aspect to our landscaping!

While working for a well driller I found out he had a surplus windmill, so we bought it and set it up. One day we hope it will have a pond and fountain associated with it. Right now all it does is spin in the wind! We do have a decorative pond in the back yard with a fountain and goldfish/lily pads, but the wildlife prefers to drink from a “dripper” (similar to this)we have set up on a berm outside the kitchen window.

At some of our other houses we have had our property designated as a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation and we wanted to do that here. They can guide you through the process of providing the three keys to wild creatures needs – food, water, and cover at this website. Once you have all the components in place, it is a simple process to get certified!

Our yard has a lot of growing to do. Some of it is certainly “overplanted” and looks full now but will probably be crowded later. We’ll deal with that when it comes… Right now I am growing a lot more native plants in the greenhouse and I need to figure out a place for some of them! If you are interested in any particular native plant and can’t find it give me a call. I may have it, or be able to find seeds and grow it. If it has any interesting qualities (and what plant doesn’t!) I will probably want to have some growing on our property!

We enjoy seeing all the wildlife close to the house. We have only seen 81 species of birds in or from the yard, but give us a few more years – when the habitat grows up we will surely get more! We have seen some interesting mammals including Javelina, Mule Deer and Bobcat. I hear that there is a Mountain Lion up the river 3-4 miles and that is not a long way for one of the big cats to roam!

Our Front Yard

Heavy Equipment

The other day we took out a medium size pine tree in Wickenburg in a trailer park. The tree was littering the owner’s property with debris and they were tired of cleaning up. We used the spider lift to piece down the tree very quickly. All the branches were chipped and taken to a customer for use as mulch. The firewood sized pieces were given to friends for campfire use.  

Then we were able to use the parks backhoe to dig out the roots. The tree was well-connected to the earth and we spent more time cutting roots with axe and hand saw than we did cutting down the top of the tree! The backhoe was a great help once we had if sufficiently loosened. Here’ s a photo from the job:

Big Backhoe Bite!

Fringe Benefits

One of the fringe benefits to doing tree work is having the first chance to get wood from the jobs we do! I’ve saved some nice pieces of Mesquite and Ironwood for turning on the lathe (bowls) – most of that wood remains unused at this point. I’ve also saved some pieces of Mesquite to cut into lumber for other projects.

A little over 2 years ago we were working at a property in an older neighborhood in Wickenburg to remove some broken branches from a fence. I noticed a very large Mesquite tree in the front yard that actually was resting on the roof of the house. I talked to the owners and it turned out that the house was condemned and they thought that whoever bought the lot would demolish the house and take out the tree at that time. They agreed to let me have the log in return for taking down the tree. I tried to find a buyer for the log to pay my costs for removing the tree but nobody was interested. I decided to keep it myself!

I had help from some friends, and we got the tree down without incident. I called someone I know with a sawmill and we took the log over in the dump trailer. It was almost 20″ diameter, straight, and about 9ft long. The man with the mill had never seen such a log! I got it cut up into 2″ thick slabs and stacked it to dry.

The past winter I checked the moisture content and found that the slabs had dried to 6%, which is very good! I worked at a friends shop and built a front door for our house. It is built the “old-fashioned way” with mortise and tenon joints, all solid wood except for the epoxy… There were (typical for Mesquite) cracks through the slab in many places which I filled with black epoxy. I was able to make the center panel from only 2 pieces of wood, bookmatched! I did a special copper finish on the hardware, which I think matches the color of the wood very well. I still need to make some Mesquite trim to go around the door opening (when I get some time…), but I like the looks of it the way it is so I’m not too motivated to find the time!

The finish is oil and beeswax, which can be easily renewed and will not peel like a film finish. I used some dark brown wax that brings out the textures in the hand-carved perimeter of the center panel.

I am not completely satisfied with this picture – it is hard to capture all the beauty of the wood!

Completed Mesquite front door!