Monday, December 13, 2010

My Big Lumberjack Adventure

As I have mentioned before, we live on a two-acre piece of country property that requires about 50 times the amount of a work as your normal suburban lot. A golf course greens keeper once owned the property, and he planted a lot of extra shrubbery that the golf course couldn’t use. I’d rather he’d have just built a couple of par 3’s.

Due to age, drought, and neglect, prior to us moving in, many shrubs and trees had perished. St. Pauli Girl has been anxious to clear the land of this dead stuff. I agree, but being green-minded, I’d rather do it naturally, via say lightning or wildfires or waiting for the trees to rot so that we can just kick them over. Sure, it may take longer, but the property will be as God and nature intended it. But St. Pauli Girl would like it to be as St. Pauli Girl intended it.

This past weekend St. Pauli Girl’s brother happened to be passing through. She decided to make him work for his food and lodging by having him bring his chainsaw. (We will now refer to him as Grizzly since he has a beard, a chainsaw, and built his own cabin in the mountains, although to be fair, he looks more like a fifty-ish James Brolin with a goatee than he does Grizzly Adams.)

Saturday morning, after a big farm breakfast, Grizzly and I headed over to a group of poplar trees where Grizzly fired up the chainsaw and made quick work of them. I mostly stood out of the way and as each tree came down, yelled, “Timber!”

“What are you doing?” Grizzly asked.

“Aren’t you supposed to do that? Warn everyone, like yelling ‘fore’ in golf?”

“Actually, you’re supposed to make sure the tree doesn’t fall on me.”

Understanding my role better, we buzzed through tree after tree. Then we went over to a different kind of tree, the biggest one yet, and after felling it, Grizzly created a birdbath stand from the stump. I got on my knees and looked at it from eye level. “It’s crooked,” I said helpfully.

“Think of it more as a bird water park with a giant slide,” he said.

After lunch it was time to attack the granddaddy, the old oak tree in the chicken yard. The tree had been dead for years, with large branches hanging over the fence to the neighbor’s yard. Grizzly walked around the tree looking for the best plan of attack. “How well do you know your neighbors?” he asked.

“Enough that they won’t mind if we drop some branches in their yard, but they’ll sure be mad if we crush the fence.”

At this point we brought in a new element of danger: a stepladder. Grizzly would have to scale the ladder and operate the chainsaw from above while I stood in the next county. The first branch bounced off the top of the wire fence and fell into the neighbor’s yard. We studied the fence.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I said.

“Yeah, I thought the fence was a goner for sure.”

I pulled up on the wire fence to make it look like it was still mostly standing. “We can blame it on this vine. There’s a lot of overgrowth here.”

“You can just drop a post right there. Piece of cake,” Grizzly said as if that would be easy for me.

“Yeah, I think I’m just going to blame the vine.”

Next came a large multi-limbed section. Grizzly mounted the ladder while I stood on the ground holding a piece of rope attached to a thick, 30-foot branch with many smaller branches shooting from it. Grizzly fired up the chainsaw. “Ready?” he asked.

(It’s important to note here that some wood is denser and heavier than others. So far, we had cut down nothing but poplar and fir trees which are so light that I carried them with one hand over my shoulder like a javelin. Oak is much heavier, I would soon find out. Much, much.)

The idea here was that as Grizzly cut the limb, I would pull on the rope to steer it away from the tree, the ladder, and most notably Grizzly. I could see the chainsaw going through the limb, and as it got about 3/4 through, I tugged hard on the rope. Well, it would have been a hard tug for a poplar tree. But this was oak. Suddenly the limb separated from the tree, huge branches crashing to the ground while the main limb swerved back, knocking the ladder which spun around on one leg with Grizzly clinging to the top and frantically grasping the vibrating, still-hungry chainsaw.

Luckily the limb fell to the ground, the ladder teetered back onto three legs, and Grizzly managed to avoid dismembering himself. I dropped the rope and called out to BooBoo, our dog. “BooBoo, run boy, run! Go tell the women-folk there’s been an accident.”

I ran to the ladder and secured it while Grizzly turned off the saw. He handed it down to me, then climbed down the ladder. He wiped his brow and breathed a sigh of relief while I studied the ladder.

“I think you bent the ladder,” I said.

Grizzly looked it over and knocked it back into shape. The incident didn’t seem to bother him much. All I could say was, “Hmph! Who’d a-thought oak was so heavy?”

An hour later, we stood in the yard holding a rope attached to the very top branch of the tree. We began to rock in unison, pulling the branch toward us. Grizzly said, “Let’s bounce it and count to three, then we’ll yank on it with everything we’ve got.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Oh yeah, and don’t forget to run.”


  1. Ax men! Put this on YouTube and you've funded MBM next year without any internet scams!