Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘lumberjacking

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

First Cut

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For some reason, surrounded by more simultaneous projects than I can keep track of, yesterday I decided to do something that wasn’t on the list: mow some grass. It was earlier in the year than I usually choose to mow, but it was something I could just get done while quickly making the place look better. Cleaned up the leaves nicely.

That’s just a way to not say that I’m bugged by an inability to finish taking out all the trees that have been marked for removal by the DNR forester so long ago I’ve lost track. That whole project is conflicting because I’d rather be planting trees than cutting them down. It is also daunting due to the large number of trees in multiple locations with red dots painted on them.

Compared to that extensive lumberjacking exercise, sitting on the lawn tractor while spiffing up a few of our lawn grass areas was easy picking.

Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get sidetracked after the mowing by attempting to remove several of the last piles of downed wood from Saturday’s effort, which ultimately usurped plans to make big headway on the produce garden terracing.

The intended quick effort to remove two of the heaviest sections of downed tree trunk ended up killing valuable time while I fought a losing battle with the winch cable on the ATV. I allowed the cable to unspool too far and it came off the winch. Unfortunately, I had upsized that cable because the previous cable kept breaking when used with the snowplow blade.

The bigger diameter cable doesn’t fit well in the hole of the winch spool hub, so my hasty attempts to re-secure it were repeatedly foiled. In the end, I temporarily rigged it to accomplish the immediate task after multiple iterations and we were able to move that wood into the barn. I’d like to let those pieces dry out for use in undetermined future sculpting projects.

It just took three times as long as it should have.

We think the tree was an American Hornbeam or Hop Hornbeam and may have some burl adding bulges to the otherwise muscle-looking features of the trunk.

I think it will present some interesting visuals when carved and sanded.

I’ll have a hard time figuring out where to make a first cut on that beauty when the time comes after a year of seasoning.

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Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2020 at 6:00 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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Showing Preference

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It’s been almost two years since a DNR forester walked our woods marking trees to be cut down to improve the overall health of the forest. Certain trees tend to have higher value for their qualities, oaks and maples chief among them, but also trees of a certain maturity. The biggest trees definitely stand out as our most impressive.

To show our big, old oaks the respect they deserve, the forester painted the smaller trees beneath them, marking which ones to cut down. It seems counterintuitive to cut down trees to save trees but considering the bigger picture, it is understandable.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I set out to make overdue progress on culling more of the red-dotted clutter beneath some of our preferred oaks. It was invigorating, exhausting, rewarding work.

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It’s not real obvious, but if you click on those images you can see more detail of the before and after of our effort around one particular majestic oak on the edge of our property.

Cutting down a relatively small tree is a simple act, but there is a surprising amount of follow-up work necessary to deal with all the branches suddenly on the ground. We’ve only just begun to cope with all the wood and branches the hours of work brought down yesterday. There is now a wealth of raw material awaiting our chipper and splitter.

There are also plenty more small trees with red dots yet to be cut. So much opportunity on just 10 acres of wooded land.

We laughed yesterday over the time we spent years ago clearing one section of all the downed branches and grinding them through the chipper. At the time, we thought maybe we could clean up all our land. When the following season revealed as many or more new branches filling the area we had previously cleared, we realized the folly of our intentions.

After cutting trees yesterday, we were dragging some of the trimmed branches into the middle of our woods to deal with them.

When you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2019 at 10:57 am

Precarious Perch

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I would love to have been watching the action when this unlikely balance resulted. We’ve got a new “situation” not far off-trail in our woods today.

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It is so high that I’d rather not mess with trying to bring it down. Imagine what must have happened when that snapped off, tipped into the adjacent branches and then dropped back onto the trunk from which it had come. Impressive.

I would prefer that we soon have another high-wind event to wiggle the trees enough to dislodge that precarious perch so we don’t have to do it ourselves.

We probably have enough rope to toss a line over to pull it down, but I’m not too keen about spending much time beneath it.

For all the “widow-maker” half-fallen trees we endlessly see in our small acreage of woods, this one is a rarity.

Maybe our forest bathing excursions should require hard hats.

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Written by johnwhays

November 16, 2019 at 9:49 am

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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