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

Posts Tagged ‘tree trimming

Small Projects

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The weekend just passed consisted of many small tasks chipped off the ol’ to-do list, primarily addressing the first-impression appearance of the place. After getting the grass mowed and the landscape pond fixed my attention shifted to whatever miscellaneous project caught my eye, particularly if they had been staring me in the face for more than a year.

I finally got up on the roof to address the wind vane that came apart so long ago I’ve forgotten when. I ended up removing the base entirely to see if repairs on the ground are possible. I may, or may not, put it back up someday.

The kids stopped by on Saturday and Julian helped me quickly dispatch a dead pine tree located right in front of the approach to the house garage doors. Yesterday, I pulled out the chainsaw again and removed dead limbs from the next tree over, some version of a flowering decorative. I think that one is a form of lilac, but seems to have climbed to heights that exceed my perceptions of lilac.

While the chainsaw was out, I hoofed my way down to the woods behind the labyrinth to cut up a dead tree that fell across one of our small side trails. At the labyrinth, I removed the stakes that secured the transplanted maple now that it seems to have established itself. There, I discovered the deer have been feasting on the hostas by the peace pole.

I hope they had a very peaceful meal there while the angel’s back was turned.

The driveway got some attention in the form of lime screenings packed into a low dip that was becoming quite a bump in the road. The last time a UPS truck delivered a package, I heard everything bounce in his truck when passing over that spot a little too quickly.

Julian and I started removing anything attached to the side of the house in preparation for a resealing of the logs that will hopefully happen sooner than later. We have enlisted the services of professionals and they have teased us that we are next in line when they finish the current customer.

That’s another one of those weather-dependent projects that end up being hard to plan start and finish dates.

That brings to mind the hay fields. Things are growing so fast right now that our fields look ripe for the mowing. I don’t know what the farmer who is renting our fields this summer is planning, but I hope he is able to get enough dry days in a row to be successful this year.

The only thing I didn’t get to before time ran out last night was in fulfilling Cyndie’s wish to get the hammocks up.

That’s a good task to look forward to for starting my next spurt of knocking off small projects, whenever that moment comes.

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2020 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Green

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With a little rearranging in the garage, I moved the ATV and snowplow to the back and brought the lawn tractor to the front. It’s a definitive sign of the change of season. I also got the back yard mowed, which brought out a whole lot of green in our landscape.

Probably in large part, because it chewed up the leaves from last fall that were still covering the bulk of the back hill, because we never got around to raking them before the snow arrived.

From there, we headed down to the labyrinth, where Cyndie pulled weeds and I reassembled the fallen blocks around our compost and wood chip locations.

Now, we need to replenish the wood chips, and there are plenty of branches waiting to be chipped. A short distance to the right from the view in that photo, there was a collection of branches from two years ago, when we hired professionals to trim dead wood from our trees.

It was a big reward to finally start pulling the debris out, because every time I have passed those trees since the day it was cut, I’ve wanted to have the job done.

I probably got through about half of what needs to be pulled out and stacked for processing, but it’s a good start.

I look forward to transforming that pile of branches into a filled wood chip station, which Cyndie can then use to dress up the landscape around her labyrinth plants.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2019 at 6:00 am

Wild Life

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Lately, the night views at the coop have been dominated by the masked bandits. Luckily, despite their regular visits, there isn’t anything left out overnight to reward them.

Doesn’t prevent them from checking, just in case.

The only other (not-so) wild life we captured shots of recently was a neighbor’s cat. It sat for over ten minutes with its body facing the camera, but the head was always twisted side to side or around backwards. I don’t know why it didn’t just turn around.

I think maybe it was trying to see where that rabbit went that had been filling our memory card with pictures the previous week. That critter was pouncing back and forth across the view all night long.

The other wildness we have been enjoying was in the sky. Cyndie snapped this panorama as a thundering shower loomed large over the ranch.

I had just finished mowing and was putting the tractor in the garage when the first giant drops started slapping the ground.

It was a wild day of chores yesterday, after I squeaked in a short bike ride to start my exhausting day. Our grove of trees by the road was expanding to obscure the view of traffic coming down the hill, so I hauled out the pole chainsaw and did some highway crew style pruning.

No mercy.

Being clever, I put the battery charger on the truck before heading out on my bike ride earlier, thinking I might want to load the cuttings into the pickup so I wouldn’t have to work on chipping them near traffic.

There is a phantom load draining the battery that we haven’t been able to identify. I have finally heeded advice from a smart thinking friend and purchased a switch to protect the battery. After all the branches were loaded in the back, I parked the truck at the shop to install the device while the battery had some life to it.

I bought a unit that will automatically switch out the battery when it senses the voltage drop to a certain point. To reconnect, we simply press the brake pedal or toggle the headlights and the switch re-engages the battery to start the truck. This way, we don’t have to pop the hood and open or close the switch every time we use the truck.

We never know how long an interval it will be between uses, and both Cyndie and I are prone to forgetting just this kind of occasional detail.

With the installation complete, I moved on to the lawn tractor to finish the yard that I started Thursday afternoon, before that round of all-night thunderstorms. On my bike ride in the morning, I saw a lot of farm fields with brand new lakes in them. Our rain gauge indicated over 4-inches had fallen overnight.

Low on gas, and running out of time before the next thunderstorm, I wildly hustled to the arena to mow that, too.

By the time Cyndie and I called it a day, the clock had reached 7:30 p.m.

Another wild day in our wild life.

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Next Phase

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dscn5840ePicking up where the tree trimmers left off, I pulled the tractor out of the garage yesterday and we started the process of turning the piles of branches into wood chips. With the temperatures pushing into warmth much more typical for May or June, the timing was perfect for having fresh ground cover over the now muddy path leading down toward the barn from the driveway.

I quickly relearned how much physical effort is involved in the process of repeatedly feeding the chipping monster. The variety of branches that came out of our trees made for a constant struggle to detangle, reorient, and guide into the chute.

The smallest ends of branches will catch and get hung up on the corners, which interrupts flow, and the big limbs tend to bounce and torque when first struck by the powerful spinning blades. My body and hands frequently get smacked by the kick-back of the bigger branches.

After a prolonged session of working to make a pile of branches disappear into a wonderful mound of precious wood chips, I feel like I’ve been a few rounds in a boxing match.

dscn5836eCyndie helped to bring branches from farther and farther, and worked to cut junctions that “Y” off too wide to fit the bottom of the narrowing chute. We parked the tractor on the solid pavement of the driveway to be out of the mud that is quickly becoming the prevailing footing during this unbelievable February melt down.

We took a little break for lunch and then when I came out for a few more rounds of battle, it was T-shirt weather. It is just plain sad to be living through the end of cold and snowy winters like the ones I enjoyed as a kid. I fear for the precious trees I have been focused on caring for these last few days, as they react to the warmth and prepare to sprout new buds.

If they sprout leaves too early, they risk an ugly death from freezing when a hint of real winter returns for a last gasp reminder of cold that usually happens this time of year.

When I turned the key to restart the tractor, nothing happened. Well, not nothing. The indicator lights lit up, but there was no hint of sound from the starter. I have experienced this before. It was how I was first introduced to this tractor. No matter what I did, I could not get it to start.

That first time, I ended up needing to have a service person come out. He accidentally figured out the safety interlock of the PTO lever wasn’t getting met. After chasing a different possibility for a time, I came around to the same conclusion. It was the PTO lever again.

I got the engine started, repositioned the tractor to a new spot and was ready to go. I picked a big old dead oak branch to start and quickly busted the shear pin of the chipper.

I took the hint and called it a day for chipping.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

Tree Artistry

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These guys are good. I got worn out just watching them work.

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The weather turned out to be pretty good for the work we had planned. Morning started out sunny enough to feel energized, but the air temperature remained cold enough that the lift unit was able to be navigated to more trees than I expected. The trimmer in the bucket moved around like the apparatus was an extension of his own body.

His chainsaw was on and off without effort and he held it with one hand as he cut, while his other hand supported the branches being removed, to guide them to the ground.

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Trees out of reach of the lift were simultaneously being rope-climbed in order to cut down dead limbs that have been looming threateningly over our trail for far too long. It is quite something to glance up and find a yellow jacketed person so high up in our big old trees.

There were some startlingly large chunks of tree plummeting from these heights. It was instantly rewarding to see the pieces safely on the ground after enduring the risk of dead limbs overhead for a few years.

Once they get up within reach of these branches, the work moves along swiftly as they study the task and make their cuts with great skill.

dscn5811eBetween the strenuous sessions rope climbing the tallest trees, they did some pole-saw cutting and limb climbing of our smaller trees to thin out overcrowded growth, removing co-leaders and opening space for wind to move through easier. This will help the trees withstand wind storms and give them a healthy shape for years to come.

Some of the trees look like they just got a serious haircut, but I’m thrilled it’s being done to give them a few years to grow into a new, healthy look.

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Written by johnwhays

February 17, 2017 at 7:00 am

Project Begins

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I’m home from work today to guide tree trimming work on our property. It has been over a year since we wanted this to happen, so we are very pleased the project will finally be getting underway. On my drive home yesterday, I received a call from the arborist who quoted the job. I wasn’t surprised to hear that they are now unwilling to bring the bucket truck due to the melted ground from the warm temperatures lately.

They don’t want to risk getting stuck in mud, which is okay with me, because I don’t want to risk having the trails significantly messed up by a heavy truck. However, I am disappointed over the implications they won’t be able to trim as many trees as I had wanted.dscn5778e

The bright side of that is, it will create less work for me in the realm of chipping, cutting and splitting the branches that will be on the ground when they are done.

Part of me is lamenting the time and effort I spent a month ago plowing and shoveling to make sure the routes through the woods would be wide enough for their truck.

I didn’t know at the time that it would take them this long to fit us into their schedule, or that the weather would be so summer-like that snow wasn’t a problem by the time they arrived.

Our tree guy did mention that instead of the truck, they will bring a lift that will help to a lesser degree. The less time they spend climbing is the more time they can be cutting.

I expect most of my day will be spent standing around gawking, and getting very little else of value accomplished. I want to be present at all times to guide decisions and direct priorities, so the day won’t be conducive to my digging into any other chores.

I suppose I could dabble in some wood splitting when we are back by the shed. It would certainly be a complimentary task to the professional trimming going on overhead.

Guess I should dig out my helmet in preparation for the big day. I’m pretty sure I know what tomorrow’s blog topic is going to be…

We’ll be toiling away to make our trails safe again. It’ll be a win-win project, because in addition to safety from unexpected falling limbs, the trimming will make our trees more healthy and improve their odds of surviving wind and storm damage.

It’s expensive, but I think the investment will be money well spent.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2017 at 7:00 am

Much Better

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dscn5742eWe enjoyed a brief visit from the sun yesterday, which made quick work of melting areas I cleared of the small amount of snow left from the most recent precipitation.

The front tire on the Grizzly held air, so the Slime patch appears to be working. After getting the driveway and barn areas plowed, I hand-shoveled to clean up nooks and corners, then parked the ATV for this photo and headed in for lunch.

Once refueled, I ventured out again to shovel off the deck before turning my attention to plowing trails to make way for the bucket truck of the tree trimmers. I wish it had been a colder day.

Our record-setting January thaw has left the ground a little soft in places and my plow blade tended to dig in to the muddy ground, peeling up large rolls of earth. There isn’t really any flat ground here, and as the angle of the ATV tilts, the result at the end of the plow blade gets exaggerated. That makes it very difficult to figure out a height setting of the blade that won’t be too high or too low.

There really is no “just right” setting. If it is not digging in a little bit on one side or the other, it is usually because it is not plowing any snow at all as a result of being too high.

Regardless, I think I’ve established a drive-able section of two, maybe three, routes down our trails to reach a majority of the big trees we are hoping to have trimmed. I will not be surprised at all if the truck looks a lot bigger than I’m imagining once it arrives and attempts to turn the corners.

At the end of the day, as promised, I got a call from the auto body shop that my Subaru repair was completed. Cyndie drove me to pick it up. It looks good as new. They even gave it that new car smell. The owner was reviewing all the work they had done and I added, “Alignment.”

“Was that on the estimate?” Uh oh.

We headed inside to check, and sure enough, I was right. He was very apologetic. Said it was completely his fault that it got missed. Oh boy. Now I need to bring it back next week and drop it off again. People!

At least it looks much, much better than when I brought it in the first time.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2017 at 10:31 am

Moving Snow

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Yesterday’s weather was a wonderfully ideal day for moving snow. After all the abuse we have endured so far this winter, from extreme cold, terribly windy, to freezing rain, we finally came to a day with warm sunshine, perfect below freezing temperatures, and negligible winds.

That came in very handy following an appointment I had with an arborist from a tree-trimming service. We have so many trees that need attention that we had to devise a plan that would be affordable. It’s not based on the individual trees, but on a set amount of time. We are going to have a crew here for 2 days to do as much work as possible.

That puts responsibility on me to make it as easy as possible to reach my highest priority trees.

In order to get to the most trees in those brief two days, their truck with a boom and basket will be essential. I need to clear a lot of snow from trails to allow their very large truck to get where I need it to go.

Any time they would spend trying to drive their truck through snow, with a risk of getting stuck, will come at the expense of valuable minutes cutting branches.

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I started plowing around the barn with the four-wheeler, finishing with hand-shoveling, to widen access as much as possible. After that I headed onto our trails, trying to split the difference between plowing snow and just trying to maintain forward momentum.

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I made a good start down the trails, but there is a lot left to be done today. Our trees may think I’m nuts to be moving all this snow beneath them, but won’t they be surprised when the cutting crew shows up for the main event.

It’ll be time for them to shape up and drop all that dead wood they’ve been holding for years.

I’m looking forward to having branches come down when we want them to, as opposed to the possibility of falling unexpectedly when some unsuspecting soul happens to be strolling beneath.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2017 at 10:48 am

New Tricks

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Just like when I was a little boy, I have once again been inspired by my big brother, Elliott. He taught me new skills in tree trimming while he was here to rope climb into our trees and cut hanging dead limbs. Ever since that day, I have wanted to emulate the techniques he demonstrated for tossing a line over a high limb, and for handling ropes.

On a (now-regular) shopping errand to Fleet Farm for equipment and supplies, I picked up a weight from the fishing department and several hundred feet of small gauge woven line as my new method for getting a rope over a tree branch. I can now look back and laugh at the time I tied a heavy pad lock on the large rope we had, and repeatedly threw it aloft in attempt to snag a hanging branch. It was laborious and inefficient, although ultimately exhaustively successful. My new skill has made that exercise ancient history.

I was able to use the new weighted line, and technique learned from Elliott, to get a rope around the huge limb that came down in recent winds. The heavy end of that limb made it to the ground, but it was so big that most of it remained hung up in the branches of the neighboring trees. As I cut the lower portion with the chain saw, we wanted to pull the top over, getting it out of the branches in which it was held, hopefully without causing any additional damage. It worked like a charm.

DSCN2380eWith that task accomplished, I was able to practice the braiding technique Elliott showed me, gathering the rope in a method that allows it to quickly come undone next time it is needed. For some reason I haven’t figured out yet, I’m doing something that causes the ends to be uneven. Happily, it gives me an excuse to keep practicing. I’ve discovered I really enjoy handling rope.

Since my current tree branch trimming methods primarily involve keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground, my new rope skills caused me to reconsider the high-limb rope chain saw that I previously looked upon as having questionable viability. Comically, what I didn’t recall was that I already owned one.

While searching for a container to hold my throwing rope, I spotted a short bucket on the floor in my shop that was exactly what I wanted. Inside it were a pair of worn out gloves that deserved to be thrown out, several rags, an old ratcheting pruner that has been missing, and lo and behold, a rope chain saw I had never used and forgotten I had received as a stocking-stuffer gift (I think) some years ago.

Dispelling my previous doubts, I have discovered that it works GREAT! Thanks to the new tricks Elliott showed me, I was able to get that chain over a branch that was higher than I ever imagined I could reach from the ground and cut through it with relative ease.

Look out lofty dead tree branches… here I come.

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Written by johnwhays

September 21, 2014 at 10:04 am