There's a bark-beetle infestation raging through these parts, and the majestic red firs are being badly impacted. We've lost about ten trees so far.
As one of our major autumn chores, we had the sad necessity of removing six of the dead trees before moving the cattle into the wooded side of our property for the winter.
So Don suited up and fired up the chain saw.
Besides the chainsaw, his tools included a five-pound sledge and some wedges.
There are a number of factors to consider when felling a tree, especially huge ones like these firs. The lay of the land, the proposed path of the treefall, fences or other items that might get crushed, and the size and slant of the trunk.
Don starts by making a wedge-shaped cut facing the direction he wants the tree to fall. Bottom cut is parallel to the ground, top cut is slanted into the wedge. (These photos are amalgamated over two days of cutting, hence Don's change of clothes.)
The wedge should be less than half-way through the diameter of the trunk.
The resulting wedge is called a cookie.
Then comes the dicey part -- cutting the other side to release the tree to fall. He starts by slicing...
...then he hammers in the wedges to control the weakened tree and keep it from "sitting back" on the chain saw blade.
It's impossible to underestimate the importance of these wedges, as will be illustrated with the last tree Don cut (more on this later).
Tree down, exactly where he wanted it.
He repeated this procedure six times over two days.
The sight and sound of a giant coming down is awe-inspiring. And a bit sad.
Don cut four trees the first day, two more trees the second day.
The second-to-last tree he cut was the most worrisome because it was growing at an angle, and the angle wasn't convenient to where he wanted it to come down. He examined this tree from every direction for quite a long time, trying to assess how to bring it down with the least damage. However there was nothing for it -- the only path it could come down would take out a fence between us and our neighbors. Rapid repairs would be in order.
Once this was determined, he got to work.
It's no joke taking down one of these giants, and Don was very very careful.
Once the cuts were made, he stood well back and watched it crash.
Rather miraculously it did NOT take out the fence, but it did shear off some branches from this younger tree. Hopefully it will recover.
The last tree Don felled seemed straightforward enough. Straight trunk, open path for it to fall. What could possibly go wrong?
He made his cuts, and hammered in the wedges...
...then completed the cut that would bring the tree down.
Then suddenly he jumped well clear as the tree came down ninety degrees from the direction it was supposed to fall.
What alerted him to this fact -- with enough time to get away -- was that the nearer wedge suddenly became loose as the weight of the tree shifted. Don knew this meant the tree was falling in the wrong direction. "Watch the wedges," he advised, referred to their importance when taking down a tree.
From talks with logging friends, it's estimated that about one in ten trees doesn't fall where it's supposed to. That's why logging is such dangerous work, and why loggers have to be so vigilant and careful. I was glad when all the trees were down.
But the work wasn't done, not by a long shot. Don limbed the trees, and then started cutting the trunks into sections.
How old was this tree?
We stopped to rough-count the rings.
It's easy to tell the wet years from the dry years.
We guesstimated this tree was about ninety years old.
It also had some bird holes in it.
The girls piled branches...
...into what will become a burn pile.
Then we borrowed a neighbor's tractor and started dragging logs. I was the choker (putting on chains).
One by one Don hauled out the log sections. Some were almost too heavy for the little tractor to drag.
We yarded the logs by the barn. The trees have been dead for so long that the wood is perfectly dry and suitable for firewood.
Because the larger sections were almost too much for the tractor to pull, we cut the trunks into segments small enough to fit in the tractor bucket, and I used a peevee to lever them into place (no photos, sorry, I was busy).
But it gave us a nice start on our winter's firewood!
Despite the loss of the trees, our wooded area actually looks healthier without them, sorta like trimming split ends from long hair. We have a few more smaller dead trees to take down, but we're hoping we won't lose any more of our large red firs.