Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Log Blogging

The Before:
A new adventure: one of the tall firs must come down. I noticed it first a few days ago, in the wind… it was lashing around like a shoelace, and I saw how very tilted it was from the base. It had the same shape as the scoliosed spine in my chiropractor’s office. It was about fifty feet tall, and well beyond my capabilities, so I called the tree guy in the local classified ads. If he’d been advertising around this small town for years and no one was so irate at his performance as to take out a complaining ad next to his, I figured he’d do fine. I knew it was much better do this before I dug the garden than after, since the only path to fell it was directly across the yard. The guy came over yesterday, paced out the ground and studied the tree, averred how he could take it down easily across the yard, tho it might knock down the little shed -- I told him that would be a bonus. This is the “shed” made of 2x4s and plastic with a truck topper roof. To call it ugly is to insult the word “ugly”. And it’s not even very useful, since the door hangs catty-whompus and the rain gets in.

Anyway, he named a price -- very low, from what I’d heard in other areas (cash, of course!) and said he’d be over the next day. Today. About forty minutes ago, if I’d heard what he’d said correctly, but I have to remember this is country time… they don’t run by the minute hand… nevertheless, if he’s not here by 10am, I’ll call. I had to make a special trip to the bank to get all this cash, and I’ve put aside everything else I’d planned to do today, so at least within an hour of the arrangement? I got extra batteries for the camera, and have taken the “before” shots already -- I’m hoping he doesn’t think I’m checking on him; I just want to record the event… with the memory I have been exhibiting lately, I’ll be saying, “How did that stump get here?” by next month.

I have not witnessed a tree removal from start to finish, though I often see the results lying on the ground… I have asked him to cut it up for firewood as part of the process, and that will give me some of next year’s wood - another bonus. This is not a huge tree, tho it’s tall… don’t know if he’ll try to cut limbs off first, or just take it down and then work on it… an oak that I’m already fond of is partly in the way, and that concerns me, and depending on how tall the thing is, the apple tree could get hit, too. As I said, if the shed comes down, it’s a bonus, since I’d decided that it had to be replaced by some cold frames anyway…

The After:

When an hour had passed, I did all the things you do to “call” a handyman: put on a pot of soup, start a really good mystery, pick up the phone to call long distance. Finally, taking down curtains and turning on the iron did it… and I made sure to forget to turn it off, so that the guy didn’t need to “go back for tools” for a couple hours… the risk of fire was worth it…

Now that the process is done, I can recollect the events and put them in order -- they seemed to be happening all at once on different dimensions, either very quantum or my middle-age mind can’t follow as fast as it used to. First, he came in, apologizing for being later because he’d not gotten much sleep the night before. That should have given me pause. But I assured him it was fine, and I surreptitiously turned on the camera as he gassed up the chain saw and started yanking its chain. Sounding like a recalcitrant lawn mower, it almost ended the day before we began it. But he got it started, took a wedge out of the tree, set the saw down and walked back to double-check something, then went back to the tree, and in about three minutes, the fir comes roaring down into the backyard! Whomping full across the yard, it narrowly missed the fence and the shed -- but I quickly noticed that part of the oak is also down, and there are a couple apple limbs missing… at least most of the trees are still standing. The guy didn’t miss a beat - he walked over, started trimming the branches away the same way a fisherman filets a fish - huge curved green boughs lined like ribs on both sides of the long trunk. Then he sliced into the trunk like it was a carrot, cutting sections about 12 inches, and within 30 minutes of walking on to the property, he shut off the saw, and that was that! I had photo’d some of the proceedings, just for the album of events. I thanked him, gave him the wad of cash, and stared at the giant “carrot” that covered my yard.

Now, I had told him I’d take care of the tree if he’d just chop it -- I plan to use all the pieces I can… but this idea of Nature’s abundance didn’t really hit home until now. I had a vast abundance of moss-covered, wrist-thick limbs to dry for kindling, and over a dozen slices of log about a foot or so in diameter to split and stack for next year’s winter fires. It was at this point that my back decided to tell me it was 52, even if I wasn’t…

Not quite sure where to begin, I decided to get the logs under a tarp near the other firewood, and started rolling the slices to that spot… only the first third were roll-able; after that, I discovered that most of them had “hidden limbs” that were now six inches or more into the soil. Wrestling with one of them, I wondered if splitting them where they were might save me a hernia. Or, heck, even hiring some high school kid who’d split firewood all his life to do it… tho with the cost of Ipods these days, I’d bet his price wouldn’t be low. In the end, I grabbed the handsaw and lopped off the bits that put the brakes on, and got a few more to the tarp area. Of course, when I went for the tarp, it wasn’t in the garage, and that was when I remembered it was on the roof of the shed, keeping off the rain. Right. Another trip to the hardware store… but I had to go anyway, because I didn’t have the goop they use to dress the tree wounds sustained by the oak and apple. More later.

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