An unexpected gift

A couple of weeks ago we noticed a very tall thick-trunked walnut leaning over our hazelnut grove and another acacia leaning over our orchard.
After our recent tree lopping trauma, we now realize that these trees are beyond us. They are too tall for safety and too thick for our chainsaw, not to mention the fact that our skills at lopping trees and having them fall in the right direction leave a lot to be desired.

So we called in the tree loppers, who came, saw…and…well, quoted

Our neighbour had already warned us that tree loppers are expensive, so with little alternative, we chose the lowest of the two quotes.

Last week, the tree lopper (Luciano) arrived with two workmen.

They carried a long ladder and several ropes down to the walnut tree in the hazelnut grove. The workmen extended the ladder and rested it against the tree while Luciano rigged himself up with a tool belt (from which he hung a chainsaw) and a waist chain (from which he would hang himself!)

Then the workmen watched while Luciano climbed the ladder, then crossed onto one of the main branches of the tree. He looped the rope around a large branch above him and threw the rope end down to his workman with instructions on which way to pull it.

Then he started his chainsaw.

Directly under this huge branch was a fragile young hazelnut. Close by were many more hazelnuts that we had planted 5 metres apart.

We prepared to watch several of them being squashed under the weight of the branch when it crashed down.

Luciano sawed and the branch separated. But it didn’t fall as dramatically as we had expected because it was being held up by the workman with the rope. One workmen slowly lowered the branch while the other pushed it, spun it and positioned it so that by the time it was laid on the ground none of the hazelnuts had been touched.

Other large branches were brought down in this way and smaller branches fell safely without guidance.

Truly amazing.

But there was more skill to come…

Once all of the branches were gone and the tree was a naked stick, Luciano climbed down to fell the trunk, which also landed precisely and harmlessly.

Then he called me over and we both stood looking down at the trunk as it lay prostrate on the ground.

“You want to make furniture?”, he asked me in Italian.


Luciano explained that walnut wood is both beautiful and valuable and shouldn’t be used as firewood.

I told him that we didn’t know how to make furniture let alone how to prepare the wood for furniture-making but if he knew someone who would appreciate the trunk then he was most welcome to take it with him.

Something must have been lost in the translation because he seemed a bit frustrated, picked up his chainsaw and proceeded to make a deep cut right down the centre of the trunk.

I waited.

A few minutes later Luciano turned the chainsaw off and we both watched as the trunk gently bloomed open to reveal the most beautiful grain. The timber was mainly cream in colour but there was a dramatic strip of dark brown through the centre.

Luciano stood back and looked at me.

“Che bello!”, I oozed.

Luciano smiled and started his chainsaw again. This time he cut 4 stumps of equal length, then cut grooves into each of them, chopping away like the original chainsaw murderer.

I had no idea what he was doing.

After a few minutes, one of his workers stood the stumps up on their ends and I realised that Luciano had cut decorative “legs” into them. 

When the workers placed the 2 trunk pieces on top of the 4 legs, it finally dawned on me that two garden seats had been hewn.

While I was still drooling over our new furniture, Luciano and his team moved to the orchard where they felled the acacia.

It was sad to lose these trees. It’s always sad when healthy trees have to be cut down.

But the trees were leaning heavily and would have fallen under the weight of snow this winter anyway.

We will take comfort in knowing that the walnut tree has given us two things: an opportunity to watch a true timber craftsman at work…and some beautiful garden furniture which will remain with us for many years…


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