Monday, May 3, 2010

My Life As A Lumberjack

A movie that starts at the end. Here is what's left of the tree. Join me 3 days earlier....

We've got 6 cypress trees in the back. We've been talking about taking them out anyway, as they are diseased and we have been concerned about them blowing over.

But while cleaning up last Thursday morning's dog poop I noticed one in particular that seemed critical. Something in the way it was moving in the wind, with the estimated path of tree failure directly in line with Ian's bedroom window. Action was required, and Sunday was the day.

The thing is I don't know anything about cutting down 40 ft trees.

But I do have a chainsaw and a 20 foot ladder. So my plan was to clean off all the branches and limbs up to 20 feet, and then notch the trunk and pull the top half down via rope from the relative safety of distance.

Cleaning off the limbs up to 20 feet was easy. I then climbed up the actual tree another 10 feet and looped an old climbing rope around the trunk, extending the rest of the rope out into the yard.

I then started incrementally notching the trunk back down at 20 feet. First halfway through. I then pulled, but it wouldn't come down. Then I went 2/3rd's in. I pulled again and it still wouldn't come down.

Dilemma. I was a little nervous to go back up and make further cuts. And who wouldn't be? There just wasn't much trunk left. And it was a well founded concern. Because as I cut in to just under 3/4 of the way through, I heard a snap.

The snap caused me to freak out. The freak out caused me to perform a hyper-quick egress off of the ladder. The hyper-quick egress caused me to slip. The slip twisted my ankle and bruised my thigh when I hit the ground. By the way I still had a chainsaw in my hand. Stupid. It wasn't a "fall" fall. It was more of an uncontrolled decent down the ladder. And the chainsaw was off. But still.....I hit the ground hard.

And I have a slightly twisted ankle and a bruised hip to show for it. No running for me today.

The cruel joke was that all the crack did was scare the hell out of me. The tree was still standing, and I still couldn't pull it down. But I was completely committed to getting to a conclusion. It was far too late to give up and call in the experts.

I needed more fire power. So I ran the rope from the tree, through my side yard, and out to the street where I attached the other end to my truck. Since it wasn't a straight shot, I had to rig the rope through a couple of anchors fitted with carabiners to make a few slight turns. It's a good thing I used to climb mountains and had all this stuff.

The last time the rope was pressed into service...

The rest was easy. The rigging held and truck had no problem pulling down the tree. But it came down from the roots. The #*&@$ notch held!!

Now I am not physicist, but I thought I knew enough about gravity, torque, and the structural integrity of a tree with a huge a** gash in it to think that the tree would break at the cut. I was wrong. But that said, since it did come down from the roots (regardless of the notch), I was right to lose the tree because it was clearly in rough shape.

And I figure I saved $450. It would have cost me $500 to have it done. All I need to do is spend $50 to cover a few trips to the dump.

This is all that's left. I'll drive it over to the dump later...


1) I still don't know what I am doing when it comes to cutting down trees, but there are now 3 things I know not to do. That's progress.

2) That I did have 40 foot clear between the tree and the house. I didn't think I did, that's why I was trying to top the tree off. But when it came down at the roots, it never hit the house. So this could have been easier.

3) That Mary's 70 year old uncle still has it going on. He showed up to visit and when he found out about the tree he was in the garage looking for a pair of work gloves. Mad crazy props to Max Madrid.

I wonder if I should put this in my training log under "lumberjack activities".


Unknown said...

You are a much braver man then me to attempt the tree removal. When Hurricane Ike came through I was in the house watching 3 different 60 ft pines bending back in forth on 120mph winds over my house. We got lucky and not one of them came down. Most of my neighbors weren't as lucky as a couple trees did some significant damage to some homes. That next week I paid a guy a boatload of cash remove all the trees and stumps. The cost was worth the piece of mind. Take care of that ankle!

Barbie said...

You are so very lucky the chainsaw was off. It could have been a very serious injury if on.
I hope your ankle and bruised thigh get better. Loads of ice on the ankle.As Jeff said "yes you are much braver than me"


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