Monday 19 March 2012

Felling the Maple Tree

The maple tree next to the driveway is down.
It is down on the ground where it was supposed to go.
Not on the hydro line.
Not on the grapes and currants.
Not on the apple trees.
Not on me.

When it comes to tree felling, I'm all white-knuckled.
After managing our woodlot for seven years, I still have problems felling trees.
That hasn't stopped the trees from coming down though.
There haven't been any injuries.
But, that's not to say that there hasn't been any property damage.
We used to have a fiberglass boat.......well, that sums it up nicely.  I prefer a canoe anyways.

In truth, the felling has mostly gone well, but I am still pumped full of adrenaline whenever I set to felling trees.
If I do several in a row, my confidence grows with each tree.
The confidence withers over time however.
Each season feels like I am starting from the beginning.

Today was no different.
The stakes are especially high when the trees that I need down are around the house and the power lines.
Because we have been clearing around the house, that situation comes up frequently.
Many of the trees are mature and towering large-toothed aspen with dead branches and a distinct lean towards the high voltage wires.

In the woodlot, I rarely use ropes to guide trees down.
Around the house I rarely fell trees without using ropes.
Using ropes can be dangerous, but the risk of a tree falling the wrong way outweighs the dangers.
44000 volts is quite a danger.
I have had the power cut off in the past when the chances of hitting the lines were high.
I figured I could manage without a disconnect today.

The maple was tied off with two ropes.
One to help keep it off the new apple trees.
The other to swing the weight over the trail where I wanted it to land.
The main rope was tied to the tractor winch.
The winch has a remote control that allows me to apply pressure to the rope from a distance.
With the winch, I am able to pull the tree over rather than simply letting it fall.

It is really amazing how a tree can be controlled by the configuration of the cut.
What I find even more amazing is my inability at cutting a straight notch and back-cut.
Sometimes, I cut a stump off to hide the evidence of the brutal notch and hinge.
I would show you but I'm too embarrassed.

Generally speaking, the trees go down alright.
I hang the odd one up, but I'm pretty good at getting those ones down to the ground.
I feel like a driver who has never been in an accident but who shouldn't be driving.

Today, I actually took three trees down.
The maple first.
Then a massive aspen that would fall onto the middle of the hill in a summer storm.
Better to take it now before we get more plants in.
There was a smaller elm that was sick and in the way of felling the aspen.
Both trees went down perfectly without ropes.

I am always very tense before I start taking trees down.
After the job is done, I feel spent from being gripped with adrenaline for a few hour stretch.
It's very rewarding to bring a large tree down where you want it to land.
Although, I know what it feels like to have a tree tip back onto the saw blade because I misjudged the weight of the branches on one side, or the wind picks up at the wrong time.
Last year, there was a maple with very few branches and no lean.  It was very tall.
As I cut the back-cut to fell the tree, the breeze picked up ever so slightly, but enough to push the tree onto the saw blade.
Once that happens, all you can do is get out of there and watch to see if anything happens.
It was just a little gust in the other direction that pushed the tree over where I wanted it to go.
I definitely had some help with that one.

This Spring will see the fall of many trees.
There are aspens and balsam-firs to come down for lumber.
Perhaps this year I'll be able to hone my tree-felling skills.
For now, the maple beside the driveway is on the ground.
I can relax for a bit.

This is what I had to cool me down afterwards!
It's mango juice with cranberry juice poured in to make it swirl.
I loved it just as much as the kids did!

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