Tales from the Cabin
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Cabinitis: Trees R Us

Logging is not a learn-as-you-go skill

By Lars F
Published: August 1, 2005
webchainsaw-tree
Photo by Shannon Matteson, dreamstime.com
I have been living a very dangerous life! Since we purchased our cabin in 1992, I have had to cut down a hundred or so trees. And that is very risky business.  
   
Now before anyone rushes out to have me pilloried as a destroyer of greenery, let me explain.
   
My cabin sits in a heavily wooded area, truly buried in the forest. If there were a company called Trees R Us, it would be located where my cabin is.
   
If you were to visit me at my cabin, you would never guess the number of trees that have been removed. The cabin still sits nestled deeply in the woods amidst thousands of trees. But now we have a little bit of sunlight. And a garage. And a fire-safe perimeter around the cabin.
   
Certainly, there are valid reasons for cutting down a tree: Removing diseased or storm-damaged trees, taking down a leaner that threatens property, reducing wildfire danger, clearing space for a project. And I’ve done them all. Let me tell you about a couple of them.
   
How the odyssey started. The first thing I needed after I bought my cabin was a garage, and there was a good flat surface right next to the cabin. The only problem was that there were a lot of scraggly looking 20- to 30-foot-tall trees there, with very little space between them.
   
As I cut them off at the base, I was left with a lot of “leaners.” In the logging business, leaners are called “widow makers,” because having to cut such a tree into pieces starting at the base is not a safe thing to do. Professional loggers do it from the top down.
   
But that was part of my learning curve. It probably was not wise to engage in this type of on-the-job training. At the least, I should have found skilled help to assist me. But with some close calls I got the land cleared and the garage built. As I’ve been known to say, no man can live without a garage!
    
The greatest challenge. Right in front of the deck stood a giant of a pine tree, at least 50 feet tall and about 4 feet in circumference at the base. This monster towered over the cabin on the windward side and it had developed a serious lean toward the cabin. I knew that some day it could come crashing down in a strong wind storm. (Events later proved me clearly clairvoyant.)
   
This time, I knew I needed help. One mistake on my part would mean, at the least, the destruction of part of the cabin.
   
A contracting crew was up at the cabin doing some other work, and the contractor himself was brave enough to place a ladder on the deck, shimmy up the tree and attach a stout rope as far up the tree as he could get it. This, of course, gave us leverage to pull the tree away from the cabin.
   
We then used come-alongs to tighten the rope and get the tree tensed in the direction we wanted it to fall. While two people carried out this part of the project, I was elected to saw the tree at the base.
   
Was I just a little bit afraid? Oh yes! Every time the tree started moving as a result of my sawing, I would leap about 20 feet away as fast as I could. It seemed like I sawed for half an hour to get through the base of that tree. When I finally did get all the way through and it tottered and fell in the right direction, I was already 50 feet away in the opposite direction!

One last hurrah. Eventually I thought I was done with my chain-sawing days and I got rid of one of the chain saws. I’d gained a much-deserved retirement from Logging 101.
   
Wrong! Along came a severe wind storm on the Fourth of July l999, which blew down thousands of acres of trees in our area. None fell on any of my buildings, but the road into our cabin was so covered with downed trees that it took us three days to chainsaw our way out to the highway.
   
And after that my tree-cutting career came pretty much to an end.
   
Now that I’m officially retired from the amateur tree-cutting business, maybe I should form my own consulting business.
   
My card could read: Lars F., Tree Felling Consultant, Trees R Us.

Lars F. has refused the 12-step plan to control his cabinitis. Only his first name is used to protect his identity.

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