Midnight Pub

The Porklet and the Ash


The springtime had finally come to the little forested valley in Vermont where the young ash tree stood. After another long winter and a rather surprisingly short and uneventful mud season, the slender tree was starting to unfurl its new leaves in the pleasant warm rays of sunshine beaming down over the hills that rimmed it on all sides. For a few days...maybe even as long as a week, the sparsely branching tree let its tiny feather-like leaves grow and spread like the wings of exotic birds. It was a good time in the valley.

And then the frost came...

Unexpected and uninvited, a zone of arctic air passed over the valley, pausing just long enough to freeze and wilt many of the new leaves reaching for sunlight just days before.

Although its neighbors, like the maple, birch, and apple shrugged off the chill weather and continued on with the business of preparing for the new season, the poor ash tree was devastated, seeing almost all of its elegant new pinions crumple, shrink, and turn dark and lifeless.

Having done its work, the frigid air moved on to visit other lands in need of its attention, and the warm sun returned vigorously with two long weeks of radiant, sweltering heat.

Though some may have counted it as yet another casualty of global climate destabilization, the little ash reached deep within itself for its last reserves of strength and put out a second flush of leaves, this time growing and unfurling much further than before.

But then (as all things must) the weather changed again, becoming dreary and moist as a heavy blanket of cloud and misty rain settled over the little valley. While the humans who dwelt there may have been less pleased with the momentary qualities of the air and sky around them, the plants - parched from the long sunny period - all drank in the water thirstily and grew fuller. The little ash tree was no exception here, swallowing up the rain in gulps and further unfurling its fresh new leaves in the misty air.

It seemed for a time (to those most closely acquainted with the ash's recent struggles) that perhaps the worst was over and the road ahead would be an easy one going forward.

Of course, the natural world is filled with unexpected surprises, and so it was that the days of ease were soon to be replaced with yet another hurdle for the little tree to overcome.

A hungry porcupine had entered the valley, shuffling down from its rocky home in the hemlock grove uphill of the little field wherein the ash tree dwelt. In its adolescence, its quills having hardened past its Porcupette stage but still having quite a small body, it had visited the valley in prior summers and enjoyed climbing new aspen saplings in the field and eating every milkweed plant in sight. Now as a more mature member of its race, it had returned to scout the area during the warm spell just prior to the current rainy period.

Having explored the vast wolf pines in the upper field and meandered through the mixture of spruce, fir, maple, birch, aspen, and beech trees that made up the forest edge, the hungry rogue decided it was time to venture out into the field to explore the unique gustatory delights that grew therein.

And so it was that the Porklet, as he was known by the humans who dwelt in these parts, came upon a stone-rimmed garden and smelled a scent wafting through the air that made his quills quiver in anticipation. Looking up, he could see the feathery leaves of the little ash spread out in the misty air, swollen with new life and youthful energy.

Without hesitation, he waddled to the base of its trunk, brushing his face against the long vertical grooves of its bark. He pushed himself up on his hind legs, his long claws finding purchase in the soft, pliable wood and began pulling himself up, arm length by arm length, until he perched comfortably upon a low branch.

And so it was that his feasting began and continued for what seemed to the little ash like time without measure. One by one, the Porklet crawled out along a slender branch, clipped it off with a sharp diagonal cut from its finely chiseled teeth, and let it drop to the garden below. From time to time, as the opportunity presented itself, the hungry rascal would even munch the leaves right on the tree and leave their branch intact with just a bunch of shorn stems protruding forth into the air.

Eventually, having dropped a bevy of branches upon the garden soil beneath him, the Porklet descended much as he had originally ascended, head up, butt down, and one arm at a time, with a gleeful smile upon his face all the way.

Now back in the stone-rimmed garden, the thief of elegant feathery wings gathered up his treasure and chowed down, leaving nothing in his wake but scattered branches covered with pointy, half-eaten stems. His hunger sated and his work done, the Porklet shuffled back out of the garden and headed back to his rocky ledge for a long nap.

Back above the garden though, the poor, much-maligned ash tree stood now in tatters with many of its once beautiful, feathery branches strewn about the base of its trunk in utter disarray. It still retained branches and leaves as of yet untouched, but for how long it wondered...

With a long sigh (seen to those around as nothing more than a gentle rustling of its leaves in the wind), the ash tree was grateful at least that it had survived another day and began to refocus its efforts on its all-important task of growth and renewal.


Well, dear reader, do you think our protagonist is through the worst of it? Are there plenty of sunny days ahead for the little tree, or are worse hurdles still to come? As usual, only time will tell...


Hi tracker, can you write more about your experience of life of the grid?Very interesting. Just visited your profile.



Sure. I'll try to write something up one of these days.



The unpredictability of nature – some consider it scary, others find it fascinating. But trees... trees, like other plants, do not speak. And when they suffer, they are mostly subtle about it.

On the other side of the globe, two old lime tree s in the middle of a tiny village experienced what no individual will ever achieve. They witnessed both World Wars, two dictatorships, and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Unlike other lime trees in some other places, both were free to grow however they pleased for two centuries and one of them nearly lost one of its strong branches, if it weren't for the villagers that kept it in place with a steel ribbon, which now has become part of the tree.

Despite withstanding the harshest conditions, two droughts within four years caused the lime trees to slowly become hollow. Their leaves, once huge, and their blossoms, which one could smell from miles away, are small and wilting fast. The surrounding area was covered in wilted grass and several other trees struggling for at least a drop of water.

With the nearing end of the unusually warm winter, it was decided that both needed a drastic cut, with no one considering that cutting them down to the bare minimum makes them vulnerable to diseases. And even when it became apparent that only one of them was in dire need of it, they did not stop to mutilate it.

In a strange turn of events, a third tree was chosen to receive the same treatment, yet did not budge. After one branch, the guys gave up – the tree refused to be cut and damaged their chainsaws. The weather changed in the following weeks to months, blessing the entire area with rain. Both lime trees have begun to regrow faster than expected; their leaves are twice the size of those grown by the uncut lime trees, their new branches follow the path of the ones that got cut down, and the bees – despite the trees still needing a few days to bloom, several types of bees already are occupying the newly developing crowns.

But now...

Now this village experiences yet another drought. The grass – while being a wild meadow harboring protected plants, it is being turned into badly-mowed lawn every May and June – has turned into hay again, yet all trees collectively decided to withstand the lack of rain. The old, the young, and the different ones – all of them carry more buds than usual and refuse to rid themselves of parts of their green dresses. They now better (wet) days will come and that fighting each other over resources is not beneficial to any of them.

In fact yet another tree near another street lived a solitary life. It was visibly younger than the old ones, 100 years, at best. Of course, it also experienced quite a lot, yet it wasn't enough... Five years ago, the first drought was enough to endanger the villagers living close by, with the younger tree losing its strongest branch. Upon closer inspection, this branch consisted of nothing but bark. Its intimidating appearance disappeared the moment it was picked up by a petite woman. The tree had to be put out of its misery. In its place, a new tree is growing.

All the other trees, as it appears, seemingly do not want to experience the same fate and now stick together, even the old chestnut tree at the other end of this place, which struggled for years after it witnessed two healthy apple trees close to a playground being removed for silly human reasons; their place is now occupied by a bench no one uses.

It is not just mammals that benefit from sticking together. And maybe, the ash tree in Vermont will be lucky enough to receive some form of support from its neighbors just like the old lime trees on the other side of the globe renew themselves, alongside their neighboring younger fellows, the birches, the huge chestnut, and the remaining apple trees.

Yet, as you said, only time will tell. Trees don't talk.



Having listened intently to Alex's story about his resilient community of lime trees, Tracker took another sip of his tea and nodded in appreciation.

"That was a beautiful tale, Alex. I'll have to remember it to share with my friends back in Vermont. I'm glad to hear that the old lime trees survived the droughts and are growing back stronger than ever. My little ash is enjoying the continued cloudy and rainy weather, and the Porklet has yet to return."