Travis Evans from Davey's Santa Cruz office talks about how to teach kids the importance of trees and how he teaches his own kids about them. He also shares advice for planting a tree for a memorial, how safe treehouses may or may not be and kids climbing trees.
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Doug: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each episode showcases one of Davey's certified arborists sharing advice with everyone about caring for your trees and landscapes. We'll talk about everything from introduced pests, seasonal tree care, deer damage, how to make your trees thrive, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more, because here at the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer. I'm excited this week to talk to Travis Evans. He's a district manager for the Davey Tree Expert Company out of Santa Cruz, California. We're talking all about teaching kids the value of trees. I have to assume, Travis, that like me, you've been talking with kids for a long time about trees and how important they are for us.
Travis: Yes, Doug, thanks for having me. I've been talking about trees for over 20 years, a second-generation arborist, I've been around trees, tree care my entire life. It's only natural to pass it on to the next generation.
Doug: That's interesting because you got it passed to you, and now you're passing it on again. That's pretty cool. I just want to start right there. Talk about following your father's footsteps into trees.
Travis: It started as a part-time job, evolved into a career. I saw [unintelligible 00:01:36] my father and our family, as well as one of my uncles is in the tree care industry as well. I started to take business classes at a local junior college. Just for kicks, I took an arboriculture class and was working for Davey Tree Surgery Company at the time as a part-time job. Once I realized that I could actually get some formal education and use my brain instead of my body for an entire career, it really took off from there. I've been now with Davey going on 20 years. It's been a wild ride.
Doug: Was your dad teaching you about trees when you were a kid?
Travis: Yes. Not only trees, but the equipment and the process of maintaining them. From plant healthcare to some tree biology as well.
Doug: What do you think the best way to start with kids and just explain to them how important trees are to the world?
Travis: That's a great question. [unintelligible 00:02:50] answer. Trees are definitely such a vital part of our environment, from removing pollutants in the air, to removing carbon dioxide, to providing shelter and homes for many animals, birds, insects, bats, owls, trees for timber harvest, for building our houses or tree forts, sheds and everything else. They help keep us cool, keeping air conditioning minimal. There's even providing food source, the orchard, the citrus trees or apple trees. There's a lot of different things that impact us daily from trees.
Doug: You brought up tree forts. Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a kid, everybody built a tree fort. How do we look at that in the modern era? Is it okay to do? Is it safe? How do we do it, or how do we think about that nowadays?
Travis: Coming from an arborist standpoint, it's probably not ideal to have a tree fort for a variety of reasons. If you are going to go down that route, you definitely should be consulting with the local arborist to assess whether the tree is secure, and sturdy, and safe enough to actually support the weight of a treehouse. You also need to be aware of what materials you're putting into the tree and how close they might be to the branches or the trunk.
A lot of times people put material into tree's wood that can often down the road basically not compensate for the growth and start to girdle, strangle the tree, injure it, and shorten the lifespan of it. In addition to the hardware and stuff that they're using to secure, fasten that lumber to the tree. If it's not well-managed, that fun fort, the treehouse can be a huge liability and a tragic ending. Definitely have a trained professional out to provide expert advice, whether it is the right tree and the right design for that particular tree.
Doug: After hearing that, I think clubhouse sounds better on the ground.
Travis: Much better.
Doug: When I think about it, too, back when I built a tree fort, we had no supervision, we didn't know what we were doing. We just climbed up there and made an actually two-floor treehouse in the woods, which now seems pretty crazy.
Travis: Crazy, but that is fun. The world has changed, unfortunately. We definitely got to be looking after our youth, try to protect them from the mistakes that we made as youth.
Doug: Yes. Tell me a little bit about your family.
Travis: My wife, two kids reside in Scotts Valley, California, just outside of Santa Cruz, California. I got a daughter who will be four next week and a son that's going be seven in May. Definitely trying to share my knowledge with them, especially during COVID, we've had a lot more time to spend outdoors. My son and I are avid fishermen, my daughter's definitely taken an interest in it as well. When we go fishing, naturally we're outdoors, around a lot of trees, and trying to take time to explain why a particular tree is such an important part of that particular environment, whether we're more than likely in a riparian corridor, and sharing the value of that particular species with them. Sometimes they pay attention, sometimes they're interested. Other times, they couldn't care less.
Doug: Yes, I can see that, especially with the younger one. The older ones, they understand a little bit about what you do. I'm interested to see the dichotomy between your dad telling you about trees, and then you telling your kids about trees. Eventually, when they get older, they're going to say, "My dad, he knew all there was to know about trees."
Travis: Hopefully, I can trick them into thinking that. Our industry is evolving so much, we know less about trees than the human body. What I'm telling them today might be totally wrong tomorrow. Hopefully, they think I'm very knowledgeable on the matter and not just passing a bunch of outdated stuff, but I think that they are taking to it, if I can deliver the message in a palatable way. We'll see how it shapes them as they grow older, if it's something that they would want to be a third-generation in or not. Again, our industry is evolving so much that they don't necessarily have to use their body to have a long career, but they could.
Climbing techniques have evolved so much over the last decade, and now guys are able to spend a much longer portion of their life climbing safely and without extreme wear and tear on the body. Hopefully, it is maybe a career path that they look into, and decide if it is something that they're passionate about. For me, I enjoy the fact that I get to change job sites almost every day or multiple times a day. Keeping that constant change going is really a good thing for my body and mind. Maybe that's something that will be of interest to them as well instead of sitting at a cubicle and working on a computer, but time will tell.
Doug: Do you get the question very often about people that might want to plant a tree for a new baby, for a new member of the family? I get that question a lot. I try and dissuade people actually from doing that because if the tree makes it about five years, it's quite a disappointment. Do you talk about that all with your clients?
Travis: We actually plant trees for beginning and end-of-life situations. We've worked on a number of projects, we're memorializing somebody, planting trees with ashes. There's a lot of pressure as an arborist to make sure that we're helping guide our clients to the right tree. For us, species selection is key in these situations because, as you mentioned, it's such a disappointment if the tree does not survive. There's a lot of sentimental attachment to that particular species, or not the species, but that particular tree.
We really try to listen to our clientele and give them feedback that will help guide them in the direction to a tree that's going to be successful for their particular property, for the exact planting location that they're wanting to put it in. Sometimes that means that we're going to have to change to a different species that might be more successful than what they initially envisioned. Sometimes, it means we might have to put it in a different spot of the yard in order to plant the species that they wanted.
Then we try to basically ensure that they know that they should be reaching out to an expert annually after every severe weather event or any major change in the tree, so that we can help preserve the memory of that loved one or keep the tree that was planted in memory of their newborn alive and well. There's a lot of pressure, but it's doable and that's why I do enjoy what I do, because I can help positively impact somebody's garden, hopefully.
Doug: For a newborn, are there certain tough species that comes to mind right off the bat? I know there's a lot of variables in every location. That's a big part of it, right tree for the right place, but just in general, do you start to think about, "Okay, let's see. They want a tree, but we better give them something tough because we want it to grow"?
Travis: For sure. A lot of times people will ask us for a fruit tree. In our particular area, we try to guide people to two particular ones. One's citrus would be the Meyer lemon, for the most part, very easy to grow in our particular area. A fig tree would also be another very easy tree to grow in our area. We try to dummy-proof it, if it's a tree that is going to be such an important memory for somebody. If they're looking for a non-fruiting species, then we try to go with more natives, something that's going to naturally be growing here instead of trying to fight against the elements against it.
For us, two common natives would be the coast live oak and coastal redwood. Unless we're right up on the ocean, those two trees typically will do very well with very minimal effort to keep them looking good. Down the road, they're going to need some trimming, but typically, they don't need a bunch of plant healthcare to keep them alive and well.
Doug: Talking about natives and bringing that back around to kids, if you were talking to a group of kids and you wanted them to know about natives, talk a little bit about the importance of natives as a great tree to put in the landscape because it's from that general area. Whether it's out in California or here in the east, natives have become really popular.
Travis: For sure. For us in California, water consumption is a very hot topic. Wildfires is a very hot topic as well. When we are planting natives, typically, we are basically planting trees that are going to be low water use in our area, which is helpful for both those situations. They're going to have typically less pest and disease issues than a non-native. Both are absolutely critical to having successful trees in your landscape.
Doug: You have the big redwoods out there, the Majestic Redwoods. Here in the east, I have a tree in my landscape, a dawn redwood, metasequoia. After I moved in here, I went out to that backyard, and it ends up, I didn't even think of this, a metasequoia or dawn redwood is a great-looking tree to climb. I looked up and saw my kid, my nine-year-old at the time, about 50 feet up in the air. Again, something that I used to do as a kid, but I don't want to see my kid 50 feet up in the air on a good-climbing tree, because the way those branches are set up, it's basically a ladder to get up there. Talk a little bit safety-wise about that in this new era.
Travis: If you're trying to avoid that, educating your kids on why it's dangerous, but sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands a little bit further. Sometimes elevating those lower limbs off the ground, so that it's a little bit more challenging for the kids to actually get into the tree and start climbing it to begin with, might be the appropriate thing.
Doug: That was the first job I did. [laughs]
Travis: A dawn redwood actually happens to be my favorite redwood to begin with. It's very interesting in the sense that it's deciduous, and we don't have that with our coastal redwood and our giant sequoias out here. Very neat tree, but lifting the lower canopy off the ground is typically a good practice when we're talking about fire safety. We're trying to reduce ladder fuels. As a byproduct of that, you're keeping your kid from having that opportunity to hop in that tree and be 50+ feet off the ground before you know it, without proper climbing harnesses. It is really fun if you can safely get your children up into a tree with the proper climbing gear and supervision, but it's not comforting if they're up in that tree without any harness to keep them up there safely.
Doug: Not comforting was the understatement of the year when I looked up and saw my kid in that dawn redwood, I'll tell you that.
Travis: I'd imagine.
Doug: If you just had one message for kids about trees and how important they are to our environment, what would it be?
Travis: That's a great question, Doug. If I was to think about it long and hard, I would say, trees help us breathe. That's probably the most important thing about them.
Doug: Travis, that's a great way to end it. I really appreciate your time and all that great information. Keep those kids out of the trees, though.
Travis: I will. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
Doug: Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I'm your host, Doug Oster. We have some great topics coming up for the podcast, small flowering trees, celebrating Arbor Day, hooray. Wait until you hear about the Davey planting project. We'll have some free seeds for you. Remember on the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer.
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