Tag Archives: Jonathan Bantle

Choosing a Tree Care Company

Matt Climbing Clean UpChoosing any contractor to work on your property is something everyone has experienced. We check credentials for contractors like plumbers, builders, and electricians, but what about tree care contractors? Does anyone think about what to look for in a company that deals with trees? I mean, it’s just trimming a tree, right? Or in some cases, it’s only cutting down a tree, right?

When it comes to needing tree work, most folks use the approach they take for other large projects such as roofing, landscaping, or even putting in new windows. They have a general idea of what they want completed and they get a few estimates. Now, if someone were to adopt any of the above adages such as “It’s just trimming a tree” or “It’s just cutting down a tree,” price might be the only deciding factor. It is no secret that tree work can be very costly, but do those folks really know what they are getting for their money? Is there any way to know if it’s truly a good deal? Here are a few important factors to consider.

 

The Estimate

In order to distinguish a good deal from a bad deal, you must give each estimate a fair shake. Find out exactly what work will be performed so that you can compare. What kind of proposal do you have in front of you? Is it even written down? If one of your estimates for “trimming” a maple tree in the front yard is for $200, and it’s given verbally and agreed upon via handshake, it may not sound like a bad quote. Now compare that to written quote for the same tree, with a detailed outline of what work will be performed. It lists that the company will remove all deadwood 2″ in diameter and larger and prune away from the home to a distance of 8 feet for $800. The quote is either emailed or mailed, and you must sign and return it. How can the two quotes be compared to each other? The first quote might accomplish the same as the second, more expensive quote, but how do you know that? It doesn’t state what will be done. They cannot, for any homeowner’s purposes, be compared. There are a lot of branches in a tree. Which branches need to go, and which branches can stay? How can you trust that the estimate will yield your expected results? You can start by looking into the company’s education.

Education

Education is something that, although lacking in our industry, is getting better. Knowing how to properly prune a tree and what it means for the overall health and vigor of the tree is something that CAN be taught. I often mention credentials, and while certifications aren’t always a fool-proof method of weeding out a true tree care professional, it is a step in the right direction. One good thing to look for is someone who has a full-time, certified arborist on staff. I mention full time because there are companies that may say they have a certified arborist on staff, but only refer to them and pay a yearly or monthly consulting fee. So their certified arborist doesn’t actively work for them; he/she is there to consult, or sign papers when certain contracts require a certified arborist.

A certified arborist is someone who, I hate to say it, passed a test. The test consists of anything and everything tree related: tree biology, biomechanics, climbing techniques, rigging techniques, tree identification, among many other things. As a person who has proven that they know a little bit about the industry, they should have a good idea on how best to care for your trees.  

Another great thing to look for is some sort of degree in Urban Forestry. There are many great programs for bachelor’s and associate’s degrees offered throughout the country. Folks pursuing this degree have a passion for bettering their knowledge-base to become great at what they do.

Professionalism

Professionalism refers to who works for the company, how they carry themselves, and the image they portray.

A few things that can determine professionalism in a tree contractor are things like: personal protective equipment (hard hats, chaps), clean vehicles, how well the job done, how clean the area is after the job is complete, availability for communication, and returned phone calls.

When a company invests in proper PPE (personal protective equipment), it really shows that they value their employees. Valued employees tend to appreciate their jobs, which is reflected in the type of work they do. They show pride in what they do and they constantly seek improvement. This, in turn, gives the client a better value when their services are performed. The same can be said about having clean work vehicles and cleaning up after a job. If a vehicle is maintained well and clean, and a job site is kept neat and tidy, chances are that the employees are taking pride in their job, which often reflects in their work performance as well.

Perhaps one of the most professional things a tree company can do is be available to talk and return phone calls. Tree care is a service industry. Tree companies cater to a customer’s needs, and there is no way they can do that if no one answers the phone, or if they don’t call back when they say they will, if at all. If through the process of obtaining an estimate, the company has either not returned phone calls, or failed to answer the phone at all, it may be a warning sign.

When choosing a tree care company, be sure to consider the thoroughness of the estimate, as well as the company’s education and professionalism. When all three of these elements come together, you are sure to receive quality service.  

~Jonathan Bantle

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Women in the Tree Care Industry

Melissa Treating for Apple Scab

Melissa treating for Apple Scab at the Selner Tree Shrub Care office

There is a certain stigma associated with tree workers: strong, bearded, rough and tumble, and in general, not dainty.  A lot of our clients are surprised to find that when the crew arrives on site, that we usually have at least one woman on the crew.  Folks usually associate tree work with men, and why wouldn’t they? Trees are heavy. Believe me, I’ve tenderized my back lifting many pieces of trees, and I’m no tiny person.  Selner Tree & Shrub Care, LLC employs three full time female arborists.  They are full time employees, and are some of our most valuable employees on staff.

Let’s spearhead the obvious reason most folks are shocked to find a female on the crew: strength.  Forgive me for the generalization, but it’s no secret that women just aren’t built the same as men.  Although there are a few anomalies, women aren’t usually as strong as men when it comes to lifting heavy things.  These ‘things’ in the tree care industry include: their own body weight, heavy pieces of wood, tree branches, and even certain pieces of rigging gear.

The beauty of working for an advanced tree care company in the 21st century is the fact that many of the heavy things that need lifting daily, are often lifted using equipment that is built specifically to do so.  It’s for this reason that there is no need to be built like an ox to be a valuable employee in the tree care industry.  A careful and dainty touch is often required more so than brute force.  When we are removing a tree over a glass sunroom surrounded by landscape beds full of tender perennials, I’ll opt for a softer hand over a bull in a china shop any day. 

Many of our clients are often shocked to hear that most of our female employees also climb.  You heard that right, girls! You can be a professional tree climber too!  I still remember the first time I watched a woman climb a tree professionally.  It was about five years ago at an international tree climbing championship.  I’m not going to lie (honesty is the best policy), that I was skeptical about how the female competitors would stack up to their male counterparts.  After the first female competitor ascended and started through the work climb, I was shocked.  She was absolutely crushing it.  She made many of the male climbers I knew look like silly fish flopping around aimlessly in a tree.  This same feeling was reassured again just a couple weeks ago when I competed in my first tree climbing competition.  I always thought I was an above average tree climber, but the few women that were at that same competition made me look like a toddler just learning to walk.

As a man in the tree care industry, I have no doubt that women can be just as, if not more, valuable than most men doing the same exact job.   

 

~Jonathan Bantle

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Ashwaubenon Street Tree Pruning Contract

As of Monday, January 30th 2017, the crews have finished pruning 183 village-owned street trees. Go ahead, applaud. I’ll wait.

This is the second pruning project we have been a part of for the Village of Ashwaubenon. The first project was completed in June of 2016. The pruning of village-owned trees is just as important as pruning privately owned trees (if not more so).. Have you ever witnessed a tree branch taking a ride on top of a garbage truck? This is one of the main reasons why we prune these street trees. Although the garbage truck did effectively “prune” the limb off the tree, this is not ideal for the tree or the truck. Street trees need to be pruned properly to provide clearance for larger vehicles on the street side and to provide ample head room on the residential side. While our arborists are up in the trees, they take a little extra time to remove any larger deadwood as well as any branches that may be crossing or rubbing on one another. This is better for the overall health of the tree, and also allows the arborist to move around the entire canopy. This also lets the arborist see any parts of the tree that are (or could become) threats for any people on the street, sidewalk, or lawn areas below.

Along with the obvious vehicles driving down the city streets, our crews had to work around many obstacles. Some of the things we encountered on a daily basis were: mailboxes, our own chipper and truck, street lights, and signs. All of these things need to have ample clearance so they can be most useful to village residents. One of the largest obstacles of this year’s project was quite simply: weather. With the April showers in January, we did lose a lot of snow, but rain can turn a lichen-covered Norway Maple or Green Ash into a very slippery situation. It’s for this reason that we had to completely cancel pruning the street trees for four of the eleven total days we had originally scheduled to complete the job.

With all the weather-related setbacks, it seemed that completing the project would be a little tougher than we imagined. However, the crew seemed to look at the time-crunch as a sort of challenge and, with a little extra work and a couple of late days, we made up the extra four days without trouble. Looking back on the project and all that we’ve accomplished, it’s hard to ignore everything that was done to keep us on track despite the challenges and setbacks we encountered. I’d like to thank every one of the crew members that had a hand in getting the project completed to Selner Tree & Shrub Care LLC.’s standards. Thank you Casey, Matt, Phil, Aree, and Skye for putting in the extra effort to make sure everything was completed on time in a professional manner regardless of what the weather had in store for us.

All the trees for Part 1 of the contract are now completed and won’t need much attention for the next 8-10 years or so. Yup, you read that correctly. I wrote “Part 1.” Which might make you wonder, “Does this mean there is a Part 2?” That’s exactly what it means. For the second part of the pruning contract, we have 299 trees to prune, inspect, and clean up for the Village of Ashwaubenon. If you happen to see our crews out working on the street trees in 2017, feel free to wave and say “Hi!”

 

~Jonathan Bantle

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Pruning Trees in the Winter

One of the most common questions we hear is “What do you do in the winter?” Simply put: we zip up our coats and do the same work we do in the spring, summer, and fall.

This response often leads people to wonder how we know what to prune in the winter since the trees have no leaves. It does take a little eye-training, but after a day or two, it becomes quite easy to distinguish dead from living branches even from the ground. Some of the obvious signs are mushrooms covering the bark, all small twigs missing from the branch, or bark missing from the branch. If the limb hasn’t been dead long enough to show any of the above signs, we can look at the bark or buds of the branch. The buds of a dead branch will either be very small and dried up, or non-existent, and the bark may have a different color or look shriveled up compared to nearby living tissue.

Most people assume that we don’t prune in the winter. However, there are certain species of trees that must be pruned in the dead of winter to help prevent disease; especially fungal disease. Oaks and Elms are great examples of this. Both species suffer from fungal diseases that will outright kill a tree over one or two growing seasons. These trees are more susceptible to diseases because insects can carry fungal spores and introduce them to a healthy tree with any damage or pruning cut. By pruning in the dormant season, the trees are less susceptible to disease through insect vector.

Pruning trees in the winter may look insane and very hard to do, but sometimes it is the only way to keep the health of the tree as our top priority.

~ Jonathan Bantle

Tree Pruning

Tree Pruning – Image Courtesy Lowell Franklin

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Benefits of Mulching

Trees are cannibals.  Plain and simple.  They eat themselves, and they have adapted a pretty good system in doing so.  Think about where leaves and branches fall to when they come off a tree.  Those branches and leaves are, in a forest setting, being recycled by either the parent tree, or another nearby tree. 

In an urban setting, that all goes out the window.  Leaves are raked, branches hauled to the curb for a municipality to chip up and dispose of.  So why not try to give your trees a little piece of the paradise like their counterparts in the forest?  Mulching does just that.  It adds some of that lost organic matter that is hauled away in large trucks.  Not only is mulch a great food for trees as it breaks down, but it helps to amend the soil, adding organic matter which improves water-holding capacity, reduces compaction, and increases beneficial microbes in the soil. 

-Jonathan R. Bantle

Mulch around a tree

Mulch around a tree

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