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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Suspended Tree Quandary

In the spectacular Fall beauty of the woods in front of my house in rural Virginia, I have a real quandary on my hands, with no easy answers, and yet it can't be left to its own devices for long.

Two days ago I cut down -- to an extent -- a tall white oak that measured about 14 inches at the butt. One reason I did that is that it was leaning in an undesirable direction, and the lean seemed to be increasing.

Using a big come-along, I managed to swing things 90 degrees to a better direction of fall. But the tree's top section lodged in a crook of a projecting limb of another tall but smaller white oak.

At first I wasn't worried. I cut the main part of the trunk of the big felled oak in six-foot sections for about three-fifths of the tree's length. But by that time the large end of the remaining two-fifths -- which itself was still as large as a sizable tree, measuring 6 or 7 inches in diameter at the butt -- swung upward till the section reached an almost exactly horizontal position 15 feet up in the air. It had been pulled up by the weight of the still heavily leafed limbs on the other side of the crook. Balanced on the interfering oak limb in a position that put it exactly parallel to the ground, the huge, suspended section resembled the arm of some old-time balance scales.

And I can't see any good, absolutely safe way to get it down.

Before the lower part swung up so high I had managed to attach my come-along to its big end so as to try to pull it out, but that didn't work, as the section is lodged right where it had started to branch out, and those branches, too high up to be reached in one direction, prevent the section from being pulled out in the other direction.

The limb that's holding it, extended like an arm from a person pointing to the sky, is less than four inches thick but being oak and green, it's plenty tough. I thought of trying to weaken that offending limb by blasting it with my shotgun. But I hadn't fired the gun in at least 10 years, and I called my gun expert friend down the road, H., to see if firing it after so long a time was dangerous. He said the gun itself wasn't likely to explode or anything, but as I only have No. 6 quail shot -- the same ammo that the Republicans' sad excuse for a Vice-President, D. Cheney, presumably used to pepper his hunting companion not long ago -- it wouldn't say much to that limb. The problem is that as soon as the pellets left the gun they would start spreading, so that by the time they reached that limb, 15 or 20 feet away, I would be lucky if two or three of the tiny birdshot struck the wood, and then they would only penetrate for about half an inch. H. said that I could probably fire at the limb all day long without making even as much of an impression as Cheney did on his buddy.

Another tactic I could try is to cut down the tree in which the suspended section is balanced. But cutting down any tree in which another, fallen tree is lodged is a big no-no in wood-cutting lore, especially for an amateur, though I have been cutting my own firewood for over 25 years.

I've been thinking strongly of trying it anyway, because in this case I don't see where it's particularly dangerous. But the catch is that, ironically, that suspended section would interfere with the only desirable direction of fall, because of other trees standing close by.

For now the safest recourse is the third choice of reattaching my come-along to the section's big end, from which I still have a chain hanging, and pulling it from the other direction, behind the tree holding it, so as to try to pull that end down as close to the ground as possible, in the hope that I can get the section to stand almost upright, in the hope that, thus freed, it will fall by itself, or maybe then I can pull it down in the other direction. But nothing about that is guaranteed either.

Still, somehow, and quickly, as an oldtimer friend around here would have said, that section hanging so high up and threatening has got to go away from here!


Blogger andante said...

Good grief, Carl - be CAREFUL!!

This sounds exactly like some of the dilemmas my do-it-yourself father used to get into. With much toil, sweat, and "do-overs", he usually managed to avoid calling a professional. But the incidents make for some hilarious stories (hilarious well after the fact, of course).

9:51 PM  

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