Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘felling trees

Breathing Room

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There is a lot of effort required in felling every single tree surrounding a large oak tree, but when the job is finally complete, the result evokes a rewarding feeling of satisfaction every time you walk past it. The newly opened space beneath the crown of the oak inspires increased visual energy solely on the oak. It’s nice to reclaim the more pronounced prominence these dominant trees deserve among the vast number of surrounding volunteers that naturally sprout and eventually rise up to become pests.

We are literally providing them more breathing room.

Over time, my perspective of managing a wooded lot has evolved from a basic belief that there can be no such thing as too many trees to one of being able to sacrifice some toward a goal of a healthier forest overall.

That’s not a simple transformation.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2020 at 6:00 am

Not Simple

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We really didn’t plan for this. I picture gardening as digging up some dirt and dropping in some seeds. Cyndie mentioned wanting to grow some of our own food. I’m not one to quickly volunteer for a huge project that only grows more laborious with time, but I was willing to support Cyndie in having a garden.

She suggested the slope and I agreed to create terracing to facilitate. From there, things have slowly evolved to include our simultaneous lumberjacking project to remove marked trees from beneath our preferred mature oaks. There is no longer anything simple about this modest little produce garden.

Yesterday, I finally felled the last, most difficult, trees from beneath the two oaks nearest our house. Only about 27 left to go throughout the rest of our woods.

We are wrestling with placing tree trunks that are almost too heavy to manage in place of creosote-soaked fence posts as the wall in the first terrace. The fact that none of them are as straight as first glance implies throws a real complicating challenge into my attempts to make reality merge with our fantasy of perfect results.

For her part, Cyndie is keeping the pressure on to complete this first terrace with her early planning and execution of starting plants indoors and testing soils.

The first peek of a sprout was from one of her lettuce seeds. I’ve never seen what a lettuce plant looks like when it goes to seed.

We now have data on the nitrogen, phosphorous, potash, and acidity levels in the clay-dominant soil on the slope, as well as in three different locations where we have stores of composted manure. Our hope is to combine the best of each to build a premium growing environment in this first terrace.

Seeing how involved this has become is a classic revelation of why I am not quick to jump on board with every idea that pops up. Sure, I’d love to have fresh food from a garden of our own, but can we get there by just digging up some dirt and throwing in a few seeds?

I guess it’s not that simple.

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Written by johnwhays

May 3, 2020 at 10:06 am

Breaking Point

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How far can things stretch before they break? The one sure way to find out is when the “thing” in question actually breaks. I’m inclined toward not discovering this in most cases, and as a result, try not to stretch the limits of unknowns that could involve harm.

It’s weird to watch the number of people who are choosing to march together in protest over having businesses forced to shut down and people commanded to shelter in place. Have they honestly reached their breaking point? Something tells me that would be a poor use of the descriptor.

For the most part, I avoided breaking anything I didn’t intend to break yesterday while pretending to be a lumberjack, although I did suffer a significant contusion just above my right knee. Wood is really heavy. Really, really heavy. A tree that didn’t seem all that large tipped precisely in the direction I intended, but at the last moment when the upper branches reached the ground, it caused the trunk to swiftly roll back toward me and smack my leg.

I was able to cut the smaller trees straight through with a single swipe, such that I am right beside them as they respond. Sometimes they lay down on their own, other times the trunk shifts and lands upright on the ground with the high branches held up by surrounding limbs. The tree that got me was just a bit bigger, so I smartly cut a notch on the front side and made a slot on the backside for the hinge technique of felling trees.

There was one important next step I forgot where I’m to swiftly move away when the tree starts to tip.

I stretched the safety rules, but luckily this time, not to a breaking point.

Out of the many trees toppled yesterday, I only had one get hung up on a nearby three so solidly that we couldn’t pull it down. I cut the leaning trunk to separate the upper portion from the base but that didn’t do anything about the limb that was tightly nestled deep in the “Y” of the standing tree.

Using the skills I learned from my brother, Elliott, I tossed a weighted line into the branches in order to pull a rope through. Cyndie and I took turns trying to pull in every direction, but nothing was going to change that perfect catch-point of the two trees. I headed back to the shop for the pole-chainsaw.

It wasn’t long enough to reach the critical point from the ground, but I was able to trim and bring down the bulk of the tree.

I was reaching the breaking point of my tolerance for dealing with that blasted tangle of branches and called it a day.

There is a terrace wall construction project that is in need of attention.

Counting my blessings that sheltering at home for us does not mean staying inside an apartment or our house…

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Red Marks

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For months now we have been walking past trees in our woods that are marked for removal with a red spot. It was more subtle when the forest was lush and green. Now that there aren’t any leaves on the trees, those red marks are impossible to miss.

When our local DNR agent responded to our invitation to walk our woods, we learned our most valuable trees are the oaks, and that they will be kept healthiest if we remove competition growing directly beneath their canopy. I mentioned it would be a challenge for me to identify what is good and what is bad.

You know how much of an aversion I have to cutting down live trees.

He was quick to volunteer to return later and mark trees for removal. Most of them are relatively small diameter and will be easy to bring down. Cyndie and I decided yesterday was a good time to start on the project.

Heck, I can’t drive the tractor anywhere yet, so we may as well create piles of branches to be chipped at a later date.

About those red marks… When you get a chainsaw in your hands, suddenly trees with red dots show up at every turn. Maybe that is because I just chose to start with the trees right below the driveway. Some of our biggest oaks are right there (hence the thick carpet of leaves that land on the yard) and that meant a lot of trees to be culled all the way around each of the large oak trunks.

I took some solace in being able to see visible evidence of just the problem our DNR forester described. Oak trees stop feeding lower limbs when other growth begins to encroach from below. That can lead to a lopsided or top-heavy oak.

When we pulled down the smaller trees, it was easy to see the number of bottom oak branches that had already been left for dead.

Unfortunately, we grew weary after just a couple of hours of cutting up and piling branches of the easiest trees felled. Several substantial sized red-marked trees remain. That will be a project for another day.

I may just move on further into the woods where I know there are a lot of small (easy) red-marked trees, before returning to take down the larger diameter encroachers by the driveway.

That project will be delayed a little bit now, though, as the more immediate pressing need is for plowing and shoveling snow. We received a decent amount of sticky flakes yesterday afternoon and overnight.

So much for easily spotting those red marked trees…

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Open Call

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Dear Twin Cities friends and family, if you have been longing to get out in the fresh air of the countryside to put in a good day’s work helping take down a couple of dead trees, I have an opportunity for you!

On either Friday or Saturday this week, depending on the availability of a majority of hoped-for volunteers, I am plotting to finally bring down a crown of dead branches located at a particularly prominent front corner of our property.

It doesn’t appear be a complicated project, but it has potential to be a chore that many hands will greatly ease and likely expedite.

My plan involves using a chainsaw to cut down each of the 5 “trunks” sprouting from the common base of the first tree, and then grinding the multitude of small branches in our chipper. We will point the chute of the chipper into the bed of our pickup truck and haul the bounty to the storage nook by the labyrinth garden.

Any limbs larger than 5-inches diameter will be cut for firewood and hauled up to be stacked beside the wood shed.

When the first tree is out of the way, we will toss a rope into the second tree and repeat the routine with that skeleton.

The weather forecast six days out is looking promising to accommodate outdoor work.

Volunteers will be rewarded with food from Cyndie’s kitchen, your choice of take-home bags of wood chips or Wintervale soul-soil, and an invigorating workout in the great outdoors with bountiful good fellowship.

If you are ready, willing, and able for this one-day lumberjacking adventure, let me know as soon as you can.

Be all that you can be.

Just do it.

Advance and be recognized.

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

Smashing Success

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Sunday was a day of major accomplishment. Finally, after a serious thunderstorm tipped multiple trees back in mid-July, we have pulled down and cut up all of those, plus some other dead ones in the area that weren’t affected by the winds.

DSCN5110eThere were some complicated techniques required to force these large trees to tip back from the direction of their lean, over center and down to the ground. It didn’t all go flawlessly, but they all did go successfully in the end.

The rope rigging that Julian helped get set up on Saturday paved the way for yesterday’s first big success. That tree was key to getting after the one behind it.

While clearing a standing tree from the landing zone, the exercise expanded when that tree didn’t fall free as hoped and became another challenge to our skills.

IMG_iP1626eCyndie and I had to toss a rope up for leverage to pull so we could coerce it to come all the way down to the ground.

The extra effort of throwing rope and hooking up and operating come-alongs turned the big effort into an all-day project, but it was so thoroughly satisfying to have those trees down after weeks of wanting it done that it didn’t matter.

The chainsaw performed admirably, despite some abusive handling it was subjected to on a couple of occasions when I allowed the blade to get trapped in a pinch.

Beyond that, we are extremely happy to have completed the day injury free. It was a day filled with some dangerous work, but the equipment held up and we avoided the many potentials for calamity.

Despite the gleaming success, I will be very happy if I don’t need to use the chainsaw again for a very long time. I admit, it is an incredibly rewarding feeling when a tree you are trying to bring down finally falls, but it is a strenuous job. Plus, we have so much splitting that needs to be done now, I won’t have any time available to be cutting even more.

IMG_iP3716eCH.

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Written by johnwhays

August 29, 2016 at 6:00 am

Incremental Progress

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Thanks to the added support of our son, Julian, I made it another step closer to bringing down the last two ‘widow maker’ tipped trees in our woods yesterday. He arrived in the morning to assist me in finalizing the installation of our new signal booster for cell phones and internet connection. In the afternoon, I had him out in the woods, lending a hand with tree work.DSCN5100e

Just having him standing by boosted my confidence to attempt a cut I had only observed in demonstration videos to release the tension of a hung-up tree and get the base onto the ground.

After that, we started the tedious exercise of tossing a leader over a high branch so we could string ropes to pull the tree back from the direction of lean. It is a daunting task.

This morning, in a thick fog that has the forest dripping wet, I plan to attach a come-along in a test of geometrical physics. I have no idea whether I have the right angles and properly placed force to coerce this dead weight off its tangled perch, but I’m happy to experiment.

The final measure of success won’t be whether I am able to get it to fall. No, my celebration will hopefully be over getting it to topple over anywhere that isn’t on top of me.

One added bit of drama this morning is that I am hoping to achieve it in a narrow of window of time before a looming thunderstorm arrives from the west.

Never a dull moment.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2016 at 8:38 am

Helping Hands

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We are feeling a new level of satisfaction today, after an afternoon of long sought progress yesterday. Sure, it was Sunday, but our fence contractor showed up and made quick work of removing the old section of fence on the south side of our hay-field. At the same time, Cyndie and I worked together on clearing overgrowth in the main ditch just beyond that fence line.

With the advantage of having more people than just me out there toiling away, a lot more was accomplished in a short amount of time than I ever achieve on one of my home-alone days. While Cyndie was using the power trimmer to clear some brush, I cut out some small trees with a hand saw. After a short amount of time, I switched to the chainsaw and went after one of the large trees.

It was already dead, and there was nothing around it to worry about, so I may have been a little casual in my attempt to bring it down. My wedge cut wasn’t deep enough and the tree leaned back away from it. Luckily, I pulled the saw in the nick of time to avoid the pinch. On my own, I would have started devising some laborious attempt to pull or push it over, but with the fence contractor right there in a skid loader tractor, the solution was a breeze.

After he pushed it down, he asked me where I wanted it. I would have needed to cut it into small pieces and drag it away. He scooped up the entire tree with the forks of the skid loader and placed it on top of my brush pile. Done! I asked him to push over two other trees.

If I cut down a tree with the chainsaw, there is a stump left over. Tom would push a tree down, drive the forks under the roots, and pop the whole thing out of the ground. After he carried the entire tree to the pile, he returned to fill the hole and drive over it to pack it down. It was magical. It was incredibly quick. Tree gone, in an instant.

With obstructions out of the way, Cyndie encouraged me to go get the diesel tractor and mow the ditch with the brush cutter. I hesitated, not used to moving this fast, then allowed the momentum to carry me away. By the time we wrapped up our afternoon efforts, the majority of the ditch was cleared and mowed.

It was wonderfully satisfying. For me, it was a great chance to enjoy a day’s work with the support of helping hands.

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Written by johnwhays

October 6, 2014 at 6:00 am