Golden sunlight glimmers through tree leaves in master gardener Sue Wurm’s backyard. A cool evening breeze passes through as a weimaraner and two red chickens trot among a stream, hydrangea bushes, conifer trees, a rose garden and more.
The space, with numerous garden “rooms” connected by flagstone paths, looks much more like a verdant wonderland than a typical Lincoln backyard.
Tucked between two clumps of quaking Aspen is a sagacious-looking old man’s face, carved from the stump of a maple tree that was at least 65 years old.
The carving, which Wurm dubbed “Old Man Wind,” is a new life for the 80-foot tree.
“There was nothing left of this tree,” she said. “It was losing humongous branches, we replaced the roof twice and there were two branches left up top.”
It was impossible to bring a wood chipper into the space, so Wurm wanted to creatively incorporate the stump into its surroundings. She posted an ad to Facebook Marketplace requesting a stump carver.
That’s how she connected with University of Nebraska-Lincoln architecture student David Huismann, who didn’t have any previous stump-carving experience but had made wood carvings in high school.
“I knew I could do it, I’ve just never done something like this before,” the rising senior said. “I just got a chainsaw from her and kinda went from there.”
The creation process started with Wurm’s request for a “wood spirit,” a figure associated with forests or trees. Huismann sketched a concept and went from there, using tools like a hammer and chisel, grinder, drill and chainsaw to shape its face.
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The carving process itself took about 23 hours and spanned three days, he said.
“It’s back-breaking work — after four hours of doing this I’d stand up like this,” he said, hunching over.
But he hopes to continue doing tree carvings as a side hustle, even buying a chainsaw with his commission money. The experience also inspired him to start a Facebook page.
For Wurm, the piece is a “serendipitous” addition to a garden she’s spent more than 20 years cultivating.
“I love it, it’s amazing,” she said.
The piece is different from other carvings because most are vertical, whereas this one is horizontal.
“This is very unique, I’ve never seen anybody do a stump like this, even in my research online,” Huismann said.
Wurm will be showcasing Old Man Wind as a part of her backyard masterpiece in the Garden Club of Lincoln Garden Tour on Saturday.