DO NOT COPY ANYTHING I DID IN THIS POST. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
I am at this moment writing this with Tales from the Wild Wood (BBC 4) on in the background (yes that’s right; I schedule posts), and Rob is chopping down one of the largest trees in the forest (#3). I feel a little sympathy for Rob as I too have just finished chopping down the largest tree in my little patch of the world, mostly with hand tools. This is the reason that October was so quiet on the blogging front – I was too busy using all my free time to work on the tree.
We had until recently a 12m tall evergreen tree in our garden. I say in our garden, however all but the very base of the tree sat outside out property boundary, overhanging a neighbouring factory unit. Now I love trees and I have spent the last 7 years looking after this one; when we moved in it dominated the garden (it’s “canopy” came all the way down to the ground at one point, totally swamping a smaller evergreen) but I cut it back and made the garden a much nicer place whilst keeping the tree. I spent a long time trimming its branches back so that it would be free of the creeping vines that used to cover the factory and wound their way up into its branches, and 3 years ago I even set out our new fence in such a way that it had a perfect tree sized hole in it.
However this year I noticed that the tree had started to lean toward the factory more than ever; the fence I had set to run a few inches below and away from the trunk was being pushed down – 6″ up from the ground showing that the whole tree was leaning. The wall which holds up the whole back of the garden was also starting to show gaps, I realised that soon something bad was going to happen and I had to cut the tree down.
Originally I set out to do the whole job with bushcraft/ hand tools, both learning how to bring a tree down and showing off (in this blog) my awesome manliness!
Sadly this was not to be, but I had a really good go at it (the whole process below is also shown in the gallery at the bottom of this page). Please note this has to date taken me 4 weeks, and I have still not finished.
I started in the evenings and weekend afternoons (the only time available as Kelly was at the time appearing in Titanic the Musical at the Theatre Royal Windsor and rehearshing all the time) with a pole saw and pruner to remove the lower branches from the tree, doing an under-cut for the larger limbs followed by a top cut to bring the limb down (this prevented them stripping bark from the tree or getting stuck, mostly…).
Once that was done I had to get higher in the tree, I worked with my small 5m ladder, followed by an 8m ladder belonging to my inlaws. On the 8m ladder, when working at the top, I was wearing a harness and helmet and was secured to the tree with a sling, the ladder was also secured to the tree with slings.
On the last day I was up the ladder the wind picked up, and the top rung of the ladder “ratcheted” (best description I can thing of) down the trunk, running over about 18″ of the short stumps of branches left on the trunk and then locking in place, trapping the ladder, trapping me and bending the whole tree toward the factory. As I was releasing myself I felt the tree shift a little and heard some very ominous snapping sounds, but luckily with some swearing and frantic yanking I got both myself and the tree free.
Needless to say that was as far up as I worked in that fashion.
Next I had to bring down the top of the tree, a friend gave me a hand and I climbed back up as high as I could and secured a rope, then further down with a Silky Fox folding saw he leant me (my cheapy Wilkinson Sword having since had a snapped blade tip and then a bent blade) I cut into the tree from the back (the side over the factory). Every so often he and I would, from my deck, pull on the rope and see if the top of the tree was ready to go, and after the third time I was certain it was going to go it actually did – and became stuck on the top of the ladder.
The images below don’t really do the whole process justice; it involved cutting branches from the now collapsed tree top so that I could climb the ladder, which I had to tie back on one bottom corner because it was being twisted through 90°, and then use the hand saw to cut through the bit of trunk still holding the top in place, which of course went suddenly and flung the tree about.
At this point I decided that I had been very lucky not to damage myself, others or their property and called in a professional.
In a short time he did one cut with a chainsaw, and as the tree was leaning tweaked it with a foresters breaker bar and made it fall perfectly to the left (as seen in the pictures) whilst neatly hopping off the newly made stump and missing the factory entirely.
It was incredible to watch and I was to say the least a little envious! He cut the tree into short lengths and left it in a heap for me to take care of (as you can see from the photo’s he does not want to be associated with my work).
So, rightly humbled I set to cleaning up, first was a repair to the close-board fence which I did that afternoon finishing at about 7.30pm (the colour difference is due to the timber being sopping wet, as it has dried it has started to look like the surrounding fence).
Over the next week (I was working nights) I went down to the end of the garden and used my axe to strip smaller twigs etc. from the larger branches, this was very easy with my Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe and I even managed to make some bean-poles which I will use to support the peas and potatoes next year. The branches I bagged up ready to be taken to the green-waste dump at some point in the future.
The branches were now in a heap along with the bigger bits of trunk, I used an electric circular saw with a green-wood suitable blade, plus a folding hand saw at times (after all I was trying to learn some bushcraft skills), to cut them all down into fire wood, and then shifted them into my garden and on to the very bottom of our wood pile. They will be ready to burn next year.
Next I attacked the main trunk, in the gap between my garden and the factory wall I improvised a chopping block and used the Wood Grenade and my axe to split the larger pieces into manageable sections, which I then carried over the fence and piled in the garden.
I have of course now got far too much wood; our wood pile (which is the only storage space we have) is now higher than my head (not bad considering it’s size last year). So I have to next chop the wood up into much smaller pieces, bag it all up, and give it away to various friends who can store it for the year until it is ready. This of course will be a great opportunity to practice my axe technique, and I will of course write about it.