A dangerous job
During winter, a tall thin-trunked acacia tree laden with snow tilted ominously over our well.
Our well is our only source of water so we barely took our eyes off the tree as it tilted ever more ominously over the next few hours.
Eventually it fell on another tree and not on our well.
But the experience taught us that we need to be ever vigilant of trees growing around the house, near critical equipment or over our fruit orchard and nut groves.
In Spring we tend to get a lot of rain and wind so a lot can happen to the stability of roots and angle of trees in these months after winter.
So, we’ve been watching trees again…
This week we noticed 2 tall thin-trunked acacias starting to lean over our hazelnut grove.
We could deal with these trees. Their position meant that we could bring them down easily and safely with our chainsaw and our limited tree-lopping knowledge.
Yesterday we made lopping them our mission.
We were out early, Stu with the chainsaw ready to do the deed, me with the wheelbarrow ready to mop up.
The first tree was almost vertical. It was easy. Stu cut the tree. The tree fell, exactly where we expected it to fall.
The second tree was on a greater angle so we decided it might need a little encouragement to fall the right way.
First, Stu slung a rope around the trunk. The plan was that I would pull it towards me if it seemed like the tree might try to fall the other way. I held the rope, careful not to entangle myself in it and ready with a planned escape route if the tree started falling towards me.
Next, Stu made an initial cut. The tree didn’t budge. Stu cut deeper into the trunk until there was only a thin slice of wood remaining.
Slowly I felt the pull on the rope increasing.
“It’s going!” I panicked, “I can’t hold it! It’s going to fall on the hazelnuts!”.
Stu dropped the chainsaw, ran to me and grabbed the rope.
“I can feel it pulling…it’s getting increasingly heavy…it’s teetering…but it’s not ready to fall yet”, he said.
It was too dangerous for Stu to go back to the trunk and make another cut and we couldn’t leave the tree the way it was.
Some fast creative thinking was required.
“What if we tie the rope to the car and use the car to pull it down?”, I suggested, aware that this idea seemed slightly irresponsible.
We spent a few minutes deciding that my idea was not entirely insane and that the car would not be squashed by the falling tree, then we set about attaching the rope to the towbar.
Stu stood away from both the tree and the car (lest the rope snap) while I jumped into the car ready to take his instructions.
I knew that I needed to maintain the tension between the tree and the car so I rode the clutch and the accelerator until the car edged slowly forward. I could feel the strain on the car.
After a few tugs, Stu yelled “It’s going!” and I looked in the rear vision mirror to see the tree falling…away from me…
It damaged nothing but a small cherry tree on its way down.
However, later that evening we contemplated the enormity of the task and the very real danger that we might have found ourselves in.
In future we will not attempt such trees…
Above: Before the trees were felled