Saturday, August 20, 2016

Treetop daredevil

We had some big dead trees that needed to come down

Don is pretty handy at taking down dead trees, even large ones, but these were worrisome because they loomed right over our barn. Monsters this size would absolutely crush it if they came down wrong. Felling them would require a delicate touch.

So after inquiring around who might be qualified to tackle these giants, we got hold of a highly recommended tree faller who went by the interesting nickname of "Screech." Everyone we talked to said, "Screech. Get hold of Screech, he's the best man for the job." So we did.

He was whip-thin and cheerful.

Screech wasn't just going to chop down the trees. He was going to top them, to make sure nothing fell on the barn roof. This meant climbing waaaaay up. He started by attiring himself in climbing gear...

...which included these vicious-looking blades strapped to his boots, for giving him leverage on the tree trunk.

Screech told us he and his brother used to have a tree service in California, taking down palm trees, and said palms are surprisingly nasty to climb, hence the blades.

Then, without further ado (and without, I might add, a hardhat or head protection of any kind), he climbed up the tallest tree.

It was amazing (and a little bit terrifying) to watch this treetop daredevil in action. With utter confidence, he climbed and climbed, taking down limbs as he went.

His chainsaw was surprisingly small -- Don said it had a 16-inch bar -- and since some of the trees were close together, he would frequently lean over and trim off branches from other trees one-handedly.

Then, leaning over from the tallest tree, he topped the adjacent tree.

Then he squared up the tree he was in, which was indisputably the tallest of the bunch.

And up he went.

In short order, he cut off the tree's top 40 or 50 feet.

As the top came crashing to the ground 200 feet below, Screech let out loud, well, screech of exhilaration along the lines of "Yeeee-haaaaaaaa!" "He certainly enjoys his work," I said to Don, and we grinned. It was clear Screech was having a blast.

I'd never seen such daredevil confidence with a chainsaw. He was fast, clean, and sharp.

When not in use, the saw dangled from a rope.

When the first part of the aerial acrobatics was complete, Screech descended to the ground. Leaning a ladder against another tree (already limbed and topped), he tied a rope and had Don hold it well out of range of the tree's height. The tree needed juuuuust a bit of persuasion to fall in the correct direction (away from the barn), and Don provided that tiny bit of leverage while Screech cut and hammered in wedges.

Down it came, exactly where planned.

A couple other trees also needed guidance, since they were leaning dangerously into the barn, but this time they needed more than a helping hand; they needed a helping tractor. Screech climbed up, limbing as he went, then tied a rope around 30 feet up...

...tied at the other end to the tractor. Don's job was to keep the tree taunt and steady while Screech hammered in the wedges, then to back up slowly as the tree started to topple to encourage it to fall where it needed to fall.

The tree fell exactly on target.

This brought down about half the trees.

Screech paused for lunch and to sharpen his sawblade, then spent a little time cleaning up.

I went for a walk in the afternoon, and on the way home I spotted Screech way up another tree. You can see the barn corner below him.

He limbed the branches as he climbed up.

Once he got the tree top off, he lopped off sections on his way down.

The very last tree he took down was the very first one he climbed up: the tallest. He had already topped it, but now he needed to take down the trunk.

To do this, he shinnied up the trunk, ripping off the dry bark as he did (so his boot spikes could grip the wood better).

When he got to the top, he started lopping off sections, working his way down.

At the end of the day, we asked him to keep the trio of trunks closest to the barn awning high. We may use these to support an additional awning some time in the future.

To watch a master virtuoso of the chain saw was unbelievable. Not a single limb hit the roof of the barn. No wonder Screech has the excellent reputation he has!

The view behind the barn is now quite different.

Now came the task of cleaning up.

Don spent several days at this: yarding the trunks and logs into one location, piling the branches and other burnables into an enormous pile for burning later in the season.

He then built a proper fence across the feedlot (before this we had a temporary fence made of cattle panels), with a slidable gate.

Now we can move the cattle off the eaten-down pasture side of the property back into the woods, another seasonal milestone.


  1. Unless the wood was doty, you should have some decent lumber from tress that size.

  2. Reminds me of my first house in 1986. We had a tract house with a 100' cedar in the backyard with only about 36' length between the house and the fence of the neighbors above us. We had about 15' of level ground before the 70 degree upward incline to the neighbors fence above us with a 100' cedar in the middle of the incline up.

    I was on shift for the removal so I wasn't there but the tree removal company was able to drop the tree, as massive as it was, in the 21' space between the house and the fence without any damage what so ever. I didn't give it a second thought at the time but after all these years, I'm amazed they didn't damage the fence nor the house.

    Total cost" $300 lol

    I'm sure you paid 5 times that much.

  3. I used to do the same thing in CA. Those spikes are called tree spurs. When your in a tree you have a great view and when you fell a big section, get ready for the wildest rollercoaster you have ever been on

  4. Actually found myself holding my breath while reading this post - don't think I could have watched in person. Thank goodness there is such a skilled woodsman, correct term?, in your area. He did a superb job.

  5. You were blessed with a true craftsman that evidently loves his job. Nice job Screech!!!

  6. With a large burn pile like that, you might consider making biochar for your gardens. There are lots of ways to make char, but the quickest that I've found is the pit method. But I do mine in an old 500 gallon fuel tank. Cut a hole about 2' by the length of the tank so you can throw larger branches in without cutting them into tiny pieces. It's work, but it's worth it.

  7. Wow.... you found just the guy for the job. What a man! Screech is awesome. Thank you for sharing.
    Montana Guy

  8. Love to watch these high climbers work. Enjoy community loggers celebrations. When younger worked in the woods (about 75 miles north of you), but gave it up for a safer occupation, law enforcement. Still enjoy dropping a few big trees each year for fire wood.
    You should have a nice warm fire to gather around, on a cool fall evening, as you burn the limbs.
    Take care this week and stay out of the heat.

  9. I watched with awe and a slightly queasy stomach as a guy climbed and cut down a hickory with a three foot diameter trunk from my back yard. It was in a corner where one room jutted out. Plus, the house next door was in the way.

    He just walked out on the limbs more easily than I can walk across the yard. He never once acted like it was any big deal. Of course, the professionalism made a difficult task look so simple which it surely was not.

    I've never seen anyone climb a tree as tall as yours!