Notes from Windward: #69

Felling a Big Tree

time to bring in the pro's


     Windward is set in a forest that's right on the boundary between the wet and dry lands, with the result that the wetter years favor our Douglas firs while the drier years favor our Ponderosa pines. Each year some of the trees don't make it, and those are the trees that we harvest for lumber and wood chips. The sooner it's cut down and processed the better, but there's no problem with leaving it standing for a year or two.

     Over the years we've gotten good at getting a tree to fall where we want it to by using a pull-rope to tug the tree in the desired direction as the chain saw cuts through the last bit of the base. And even if we're off a little, then that's still way better than waiting for the wind to blow it down in some random direction. Of the last twenty trees we've brought down, all but one have fallen within ten degrees either way of where we wanted them--all except a recent tree that we took down in preparation for building the Chick-plex, a set of eight 4'x8' runs that we'll use to isolate breeding pairs.

     There were two dead trees that needed to come down before we started construction. As the first tree started to fall, it rotated on its stump and fell some 90°s away from where we were intending for it to go. That was disconcerting, but no damage was done to anything other than our confidence in our skill as tree-fellers.

     The second tree was even larger and more difficult to access, but what weighed heaviest was its proximity to the seven thousand volt power lines that run along Windward's eastern side. If the second tree did a 90° roll like the first tree, it would not only take out power for miles around, it would also take out the main phone cable. Not good.

     Given the risks involved, we made the decision to ask our Public Utitility District crew for help. They arrived around 7 AM in order to take advantage of the early morning calm before the heat of the day gets the wind blowing. The first thing they did was to scope out the tree and check for any complications.

checking out the tree

     One complication was that the tree was right up against one of the shipping containers--that limited the sawyer's access to the tree.

planning the cut

     The next step was to climb the tree so that the pull rope could be attached--the higher the better.

starting up the tree

     It was slow climbing since some branches had to be cut by handsaw so that the climber could work his way up the tree. When he was more than half the way up, he secured a strong rope around the tree tying it with a bowline.

tying the knot

     The next step was to use a lifting strap to secure a special type of come-a-long to a tree in the general direct that they wanted to fell the tree. Whereas ordinary come-a-longs use wire cable to pull with, this unit had a special drum that gripped the rope itself. Rather slick.

rigging up the come-a-long

     With the come-a-long in place and the pull cable taunt, it was time to crank up the chainsaw.

pulling the cable taunt

     The first step in actually cutting down the tree is to take out a triangular key on the falling side.

cutting the key

     With the key cut and removed, the next step was to cut through the back of the tree, and away she feel.

in mid fall

     With the tree right where they wanted it, the only task remaining was to trim off the limbs before the crew packed up their gear to head off to their next assignment. We were very impressed with their skill and professionalism, and very glad to have that tree down safely and without damage.

trimming off the limbs

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69