We have 2.6 acres of land at the house up in Maine, with a LOT of trees, so I acquired a refurbished Homelite ZR10568 42cc 16-Inch Gas Chain Saw a few years ago for use up north to keep the trees in check. I’ve used it to clear out whole trees to expose a pair of nicely-shaped spruce Christmas Trees on the edge of the lawn in back, and I’m forever trimming the fast-growing white pines that are all over the meadow that used to be a grazing field for sheep many years ago.
But last February at the TreeHouse in Woburn, a mini-blizzard dropped a good-sized tree of the “willow” variety (not a weeping willow, a regular willow with buds that look like pussy willow buds). The tree itself was on the very edge of our neighbor’s land, growing right by the brook in our back yard. It fell across the brook and square into our yard, thankfully missing our pergola that sits in the raised flowerbeds and supports the Concord grape vine that sprawls over it and provides shade in the summer and fruit in the fall. However, the fallen tree did clip a few branches off the birch tree we’ve been encouraging for the past fifteen years or so and deposited the broken top of the willow in our giant arborvitae bushes/trees, remnants of the privacy bushes that used to hide the above-ground swimming pool that was where the pergola and raised beds are now.
Massachusetts (and most state) property law says that a neighbor’s tree that falls in my yard becomes MY tree – and my responsibility – so it was up to me to get rid of the now-horizontal trespasser. Ordinarily that would be a straightforward task, but this tree was also engulfed in Celastrus scandens – invasive bittersweet vines, so I had to remove the knurled twisted tangle of sinews that covered the entire tree before being able to get the chainsaw anywhere near the trunk.
I spent three non-consecutive weekends cutting the knotted tangled bittersweet vines away from the fallen tree, packing my multi-bushel-sized bicycle-wheeled garden cart head-high with the pieces – so high I needed to cinch a strap around them to keep the pile from toppling out of the cart. After more than twenty runs to the community compost pile in the woods, I was ready to attack the tree itself. The top of the tree had broken off and was still hung up in the arborvitae, and it wasn’t going to be extricated by a single person, so I ignored that and attacked what I could with the 16″ chainsaw.
Serendipitously, newly-engaged daughter Audrey is beginning to pull together her plans for the wedding and reception (to be held in October 2017). She is planning a rustic wedding theme (outdoor wedding, reception in a barn, etc.) so she saw the felled tree as an opportunity to make, rather than buy, table centerpiece bases and a cake platform out of round thin-ish slices of the tree trunk. Running a chain saw is fun, so I sliced up 14-15 1″ thick slices of the tree – bark and all – for her to sand a bit and polyurethane. We also did a 3″ thick slice as a potential cake platform. It may not work out, but it will look way cool if it does, and costs next-to-nothing to try!
Once I had de-brushed the trunk and cut up as much of it as I could with my “light-duty” saw, I called on a friend to bring his industrial-strength 20″ chain saw and assorted equipment (ropes, come-along, peavey hook, etc.) to help me get the tree top out of the arborvitae and slice up the remaining main trunk. We threaded a long rope through the branches of the hung-up treetop, splayed out the ends of the rope about 40-50 feet out away from the treetop, and PULLED! Down it came out of the arborvitae, and we pulled it away from the work area to attack later. Then he fired up his bigger chain saw and attacked what was left of the trunk. He was able to cut up manageable pieces back to the middle of the brook (still enough water in the brook to impede a complete removal) which I stacked under a tarp to dry. Should have close to a half-cord of firewood once split. Willow is a light wood that burns quickly so it’s not much good for heating with, but would make great outdoor fire-pit fuel.
The final work involves clearing out the rest of the bittersweet vine and cutting up the smaller but long logs into shorter chunks suitable for stacking and/or burning. To assist with that I built a sawbuck that has been on my to-do list since I bought the chainsaw – five 8-ft PT 2x4s, three 5″ long 1/2″ bolts, six 1/2″ nuts, six 1/2″ washers, 24 3-1/2″ wood screws, and a couple of hours last Saturday with my miter saw and a drill. $45 in materials… almost as much as what the chainsaw cost me!
EPILOG – 17 April
And finally done! Cutting up the remaining bittersweet vines and remaining tree parts took longer than I’d like, but I finished up today. It looks a lot better than it did that first day I started hacking away at the mess. I even vacuumed up the little chainsaw chips left from cutting up the tree parts. The neighbors must’ve thought I was off my rocker!
As usual, I take pictures as I attack new projects like this, so the whole set (including some of the linked-to photos in this blog post) are in a Flickr “Album” titled 20160227-Downed Tree Removal.