Retiring the Old Guard

06/06/13 5:31 PM

Belle Grove Plantation small

Today was a very interesting day at the plantation. I woke bright and early so I could get ready for the contractors to come in. First thing in the morning, I like to open the front and back Grand Hallway doors so people know I am up and here. As I opened the front door, I was greeted by Jasper and his family. They were up close to the front porch and I had to stand there and watch for a few minutes as they hopped around the yard eating the sweet grass.


I headed back to the kitchen to get my breakfast ready. I was surprise to see our deer standing by the wooded area eating. I have seen her every evening either there or back near the front gate. But I had never seen her in the morning. It was a nice surprise. So off I went cooking myself a quick breakfast.

As I moved around the kitchen, something darted pass the window near where the deer was feeding. I didn’t catch what it was so I moved over to the window. What a surprise I had! There standing next to their mother were twin fawns! It was the first time we have ever seen them. They were chasing each other and kicking up their heels. It was so precious!

deer 4

After breakfast, the contractors started arriving. We have had the handyman contractor here all week. His team has done an amazing job and is making good progress. We also had two volunteers here today. Terri and her son Nick came up from Richmond to lend a hand. Nick got out in the front and helped me transfer a plant from our front entry bed to the caretaker’s house. Terri helped Nick and also helped me clean some appliances in the kitchen. With my broken finger, it is a little harder to do things with water or dirt. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all that they did for me today!


Around 11am, MOTS Tree service arrived. You may remember them from our three trees that had to be cut down about a month or so ago. Matthew and his team did a wonderful job for us the first time. So when we knew that we had to take another tree down, they were who we wanted. I just love how Matthew takes the time to explain things to me and how sensitive he is to my desire to preserve the wood.


The tree that we had to cut down today was one that was located on the north Riverside of the Mansion. It became very apparent that it was no longer alive. While all the other trees have filled with their beautiful spring foliage, this Maple has stood bare.  So with a heavy heart, we scheduled MOTS to come out.

As they set up for the cutting, Terri, Nick and I watched from the back portico. They tied a line to one of the upper limbs and attached it to their truck. Then they pulled the line tight. This was to help bring down the tree where they wanted it. It was located between a line of trees on the bluff and the Mansion, so placement was very important.

Once the line was in place, they started cutting.

It took all of maybe five minutes for them to complete the cuts and bring down the tree.






It still amazes me the sound of the tree hitting the ground. It just sounds so massive. I had told Terri earlier that I wouldn’t cry this time. I knew it was dead and I worried that it might fall during some of these storms we have had lately and possible hit the house. So bring it down was a good thing. Still…. after that sound of it hitting the ground, the tears flowed. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I have come to love this plantation so much. It’s like someone taking something so special away from it. Terri gave me hugs and I was better.



Unlike the last time, we asked MOTS to clear the wood, grind the stump and remove the mulch. Last time, we cleared the wood and mulch. It took us four weeks with the help of some wonderful volunteers. This time, they had the wood cleared, the stump grinded down and the mulch removed within hours. It was wonderful! I have to say there is something about letting the professionals handle it. It was much better not having to face that pile again.


Before they started removing the wood, Terri pointed something wonderful out. The base of the tree where they cut it lay exposed after it fell. I came over to see if I could see the rings to figure its age. It is about 60 years old. That means it started growing in the 1950s.

But Terri pointed one thing out to me that I missed….


The base of the tree was shaped like a heart.

After she pointed it out, my heart broke again.

Not too long after, they finished cleaning up, packed up and left. Looking at the space where this wonderful old guard stood, you would never know that it was there. All that is left is a space of dirt. We held on to two pieces that we will place in the artifact boxes. We want to remember this tree. One that stood guard over this Mansion and the family that lived there deserves at least that.

To see more pictures of the trees of Belle Grove

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 34 Comments »

34 Comments on “Retiring the Old Guard”

  1. New life at Belle Grove in many forms! Exciting!

  2. Yes it is a new beginning in many ways! BTW I get to see Hurley tomorrow! First time in 2 weeks! I miss my baby!

  3. I feat that I have moved too far away and will most likely never see Belle Grove Plantation. I so enjoy reading your progress and can’t wait for your grand opening!

  4. Thank you. And never say never. 😉

  5. All the large oaks here in Raleigh, NC are reaching 200 years old so they are begin removed as they die. Its sad because it will be many generations be replacement will be that large!

  6. That us is true. You should talk to History Pen Company about getting some of them!

  7. Jayde-Ashe Says:

    We have had to cut down many dead trees on our farm, so I feel your pain! Although it sounds like you had a bit more of a professional set up…unlike the time my pop decided to burn one down, set a huge fire in the base and left it…it took six terrifying, painstaking days to fall down. The whole time we were panicking that it would fall down in the middle of the night and set fire to the farm. It still lays out there in the paddock, its base charcoaled, providing a home for sheep and rabbits.

  8. Wow! That is crazy! I don’t think I would have slept for days!

  9. John Says:

    There is something sad about it. If the tree could talk – what stories it could tell.

  10. Yes I do feel that.

  11. Elephant Says:

    It is always hard when you notice a tree just isn’t coming back in the spring. But thankfully nature is kind to us – new trees or plants will come into being and your beautiful garden will renew itself – nice that nature moves on with her magic even if we aren’t always ready to let go of our old friends!

  12. What a beautiful comment! Thank you!

  13. Terry Says:

    it was as if the tree was saying it loved the plantation too

  14. Aw, don’t make me cry again!

  15. Terry Says:


  16. Its ok 🙂

  17. BJ Deming Says:

    Take a tip from the fawns: plant a new tree as soon as you possibly can. That will help heal your heart, too.

    I’ve studied forestry and those pictures are interesting. Out in the open like that, there was really no need to use lines to bring the tree down, or even to do it in sections like that…except for the presence of a beautiful and historic building so near. Those tree experts did a wonderful job of protecting your building – you’ve got good professionals there!

    I love all the wildlife images – thanks for sharing them.

  18. Thank you! We have plans to plant two tree in the back. But they won’t be Maples. It was a beautiful, old tree. It will be missed.

    You are so welcome. I am sure that will be lots more!

  19. Virginia Chilton Says:

    You have such wonderful stories of this beautiful place thank you for sharing them. Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2013 21:31:12 +0000 To:

  20. You are so welcome!

  21. chr1 Says:

    Wow. The place looks great.

  22. Thank you!

  23. chrisstov Says:

    Another lovely story. It is always sad to see a tree cut down.

  24. Yes I have to agree with that one. Thank you.

  25. vanbraman Says:

    I am surprised that it was only 60 years old. My guess, when I heard that it was coming down, was about 100 – 120. Nice to see another picture of your rabbit. I see that we are not on the same wavelength tonight as I posted about chickens :-).

  26. Haha… well we won’t be doing allot about chickens. We don’t have any on the plantation. We do have wild turkeys though! I have to say I was figuring around 60 to 100 for the tree. It wasn’t as large as the others.

  27. My son is an arborist apprentice and he has a hard time every time they have to take down a whole tree. Maybe you’re kindred spirits.

  28. We must be. Thank you!

  29. Looking forward to visiting this summer…

  30. We can’t wait to see you! I want to share that glass of wine with you as soon as we get that ABC license done!

  31. Looking forward to it…I’ll be in Virginia July 18 – Aug 5

  32. Very good! I hope to see you then!

  33. becky6259 Says:

    Just when composure is regained, the tree says a last goodbye with its heart shaped stump. I can see why this process would bring tears.
    What a wonderful surprise to see those sweet fawns! I have never personally seen deer that small, and it’s a real treat that you were able to watch them!
    Your posts create an anticipation so that I am looking more and more forward to how Belle Grove will look when it’s ready!

  34. Thank you! It was a hard day, but we know that the old sometimes has to make way for the new. It is just a new beginning from here. Yes the fawns were so wonderful to see! We can’t wait to share the end results soon!