Trees are a major part of our landscape in Sisters Country - the forests that surround us and our own little forests on our private land.
The health of our forests is under threat. Drought, wildfire and insect infestation can kill the beauties we hold dear - and the problem may be getting worse.
"With this drought we're sliding into, the stress on trees is going to be phenomenal," says Dave Vitelle of Bear Mountain Fire.
Drought can make trees more vulnerable to attack by insects such as the western pine beetle; the mountain pine beetle and the Ipps beetle.
Trees push out pitch to seal themselves off when tested by boring beetles. When conditions become more arid, trees produce less pitch.
"That lowers defense to beetle infestation," Vitelle explains.
The best means of protecting your trees is to thin them out and make sure there's adequate spacing between them so they are not competing with each other for resources. And for high-priority trees, a little extra water is a good idea.
Inspect your trees. The crown and upper third of the tree should be very healthy looking. Yellowing limbs "should be removed and actually taken off site," Vitelle says. If you catch a tree just as it begins to yellow, you may well be able to save it. Brown crown? Too late. Get the tree removed before it becomes a hazard and before beetles move from it to another tree.
Older trees are magnificent, but they can be a danger to your life and property. It's a good idea to have your trees inspected for stability. You can take the "sail" out of a tree by thinning its branches so that it doesn't catch the wind, greatly reducing the stress on the tree and the likelihood of it toppling over on your house or your car.
Double- or triple-topped trees are a risk. That malformation represents a weakness in the tree that could lead to breakage.
"You really need to assess and see how much structural weakness is in that crotch," Vitelle says.
Trees that are "fading" - losing all their needles - may be suffering from heart rot or root damage. Such trees can be dangerously unstable and pose a risk of toppling. They need to be removed.
With drought conditions comes a lengthier and potentially more dangerous fire season.
Create a defensible space around your home. That means no combustibles up against your deck. Line the deck area three to five feet out with gravel, not bark that can catch and hold an ember.
"Bark chip is easier to get primary ignition in than dry grass," Vitelle notes.
Keep your gutters clear and your trees limbed up.
Have a complete evacuation plan that includes where you'll meet up with scattered family members and how you'll handle pets and livestock.
Living in Sisters Country is rife with the blessings of a beautiful natural environment, but it also comes with risks. It pays to be aware, educated and prepared.