Felling the trees, Caleb Turner, Arborist Extraordinaire

A slice of black locust
A slice of black locust

We had hoped there would be a fair amount of work we (well… more like Will) could do ourselves on the cottage. However, it would be hard to name a more dangerous DIY project than felling a big tree, and our trees weren’t just “big”. They towered 80-100 feet high over the house, growing right up through the phones lines. There’s the obvious risk of getting crushed by a falling tree. Trees can twist as they fall and make all kinds of other unexpected moves, especially if a random gust of wind appears. Add a chain saw to the mix, and—well, you get the idea. It’s not a job for the faint-of-heart. We were lucky Caleb Turner agreed to take on this project.

Local Wood Local Good
Local Wood
Local Good

Wisdom of Arborist

  • Never cut on a breezy day
  • It is easier to cut up a fallen tree if you do it when the leaves are missing
  • Grab the chain saw handle with an encircling thumb on your right hand and never release it during a cut.
  • Stay away from hollowed-out trees, especially if they’re big. They are extremely unpredictable and dangerous to fell.
  • Gas up the saw before beginning a cut. Never run out of gas halfway through a cut.
  • Once you start working, don’t stop until the tree is down. You don’t want the tree to fall while you’re taking a break.
What does an arborist wear??? Safety Gear!

Safety isn’t a throwaway word when it comes to felling trees and running chain saws.

You must take it seriously. There are a few absolutely essential safety gear items you need to wear for any chain saw work.

Loggers helmet: The helmet protects you from falling branches, a major cause of logging injuries. Earmuffs and a face screen protect your ears and eyes. Safety glasses keep the dust out—you don’t want something in your eye in the middle of dropping a 4-ft.-diameter cottonwood.

Kevlar chaps: Kevlar fibers will stop a chain instantly should you happen to drop the bar against your leg. It’s the best logging safety device developed in the past 30 years, and it’s a rare (and foolish) pro that doesn’t wear them.

Felling wedges: These wedges will prevent your saw from getting pinched during a cut.

Planning the cut or how to fell a tree

#1- Estimate the fell zone. Trees are taller than you think and reach farther on the ground than you’d expect (maybe all the way to your shed). You can estimate where a tree will fall by using the “ax handle trick.” Hold an ax handle at arm’s length, close one eye, and back away from or move toward the tree until the top of the ax is even with the treetop and the bottom even with the base. Your feet should be about where the treetop will rest after falling. It’s just an estimate, though, so allow extra room if there’s something it might fall on!

#2 Clear a cutting zone.

Even when you’re sure which way the tree is going to fall, you’re still not ready to fell it. Cut away any brush around the trunk and clear two escape routes on the “non-falling” side of the tree. They should be about 45 degrees away from each other in opposite directions. The last thing you want is to trip while walking away from a falling tree.

#3 Size up the tree

Start by studying the crown of the tree. Look for dead branches that are broken but attached, or actually broken off and supported by other branches. Don’t even think about cutting down the tree yourself if you see any danger upstairs. You’re bound to knock a branch loose and have it fall on you.

Next look at the lean and the branch loading. If it’s obviously leaning in one direction or heavily loaded with branches on one side, that’s the way it’s going to fall. Forget the myth that a pro can drop a tree on top of an empty beer can. If it’s perfectly straight and evenly loaded—maybe he’ll get close. But if it’s loaded or leaning, he won’t have a chance.

Are there any buildings, fences, power lines or other things you care about in the felling zone? If so, skip the felling and call a pro.

ENTER CALEB TURNER

arborist extraordinaire
arborist extraordinaire
Caleb Turner portrait of a tree guy
Caleb Turner portrait of a tree guy

 

Caleb Turner arrived with his crew on a very cold winter weekend to tackle the locust trees.

Caleb Turner- high up in the tree
Caleb Turner- high up in the tree
Caleb Turner with his trusty chainsaw- 80 feet high
Caleb Turner with his trusty chainsaw- 80 feet high
Caleb Turner in tree, communicating with the ground crew
Caleb Turner in tree, communicating with the ground crew
Caleb Turner on final stages of the cut before the tree falls
Caleb Turner on final stages of the cut before the tree falls
Caleb Turner, beginning the second cut
Caleb Turner, beginning the second cut


Tom Ingersoll’s
truck arrived to load up the felled trees.

Caleb Turner directing traffic when Tom Ingersoll of Ingersoll Land Care, Sheffield MA arrives on the scene
Caleb Turner directing traffic when Tom Ingersoll of Ingersoll Land Care, Sheffield MA arrives on the scene
The claw being guided by Caleb Turner
The claw being guided by Caleb Turner
Will Conklin operating the crane, removing the severed limbs
Will Conklin operating the crane, removing the severed limbs
Tom Ingersoll loading cut trees onto truck with big claw
Tom Ingersoll loading cut trees onto truck with big claw
Loading Tom Ingersoll's truck
Loading Tom Ingersoll’s truck

 

The final bite…

THE CLAW!
THE CLAW!

Finding Caleb Turner, arborist extraordinare

In front of the cottage there was a cluster of trees known as Black Locusts, ranging in height from 90-100 feet. They had shot up, soaring right in between the electric wires that ran from the telephone pole at the end of the driveway up the street.

Black locust cluster in front of cottage
Black locust cluster in front of cottage

 

The black locusts, 90-100 feet high, shooting up through the wires
The black locusts, 90-100 feet high, shooting up through the wires

 

One mighty gust of wind and the results could have been catastrophic…..take your pick, a crushed house, a black out, fatal injuries??? No thanks.

We called a few arborists in the area to see who could fell these trees. Not a one was eager to tackle the job, most didn’t have the kind of heavy equipment needed, and all were afraid to tackle the challenge of extracting the limbs from the wires and felling such enormous trees.

The common black locust (Robiniapsedoacacia) is a firmly entrenched member of the Commonwealth’s flora. Many people believe that is was present in the original forests of the state, however is not native to Massachusetts. There is no mention of the New England black locust in the earliest colonial records. It finally appears in the botanical writings of the late 1700s and mid 1800s, and is described as naturalized, most likely from Appalachia.

Black locusts trees are known for their rapid growth, reaching as much as 100 feet in height, even in poor soil. Black locusts are considered invasive and are hard to eliminate. This tree can send up new sprouts from roots and yes, even stumps. The wood is extremely hard, resistant to rot and very durable- perfect for boat building, flooring, and fence posts. It is also highly valued as firewood, especially for wood burning stoves because it burns slowly and has high heat content. Black locusts are a hearty and can survive drought and harsh winters.

black locust bark
black locust bark

But they couldn’t stay in front of the cottage.

We contacted National Grid who agreed to come and take the trees down. Unfortunately the miserable weather this winter interfered and they didn’t make much headway. High winds, sub zero temperatures and then the mighty snow halted their progress after a few of the limbs had been pruned over the course of an afternoon or two.

And so we waited for the weather to improve, and for National Grid to return.

They never did.

And then we called Caleb Turner, arborist extraordinaire from Housatonic, MA.

photo-54

 

 

Say it isn’t so…..ASBESTOS?

Ha! Not so fast…..

Asbestos warning
Asbestos warning

 

It didn’t take long to hit our first obstacle. The cottage was built in the 1920s and Jason wasn’t certain what was in those plaster walls.

Jason requested that we take a small sample of the plaster to be tested for asbestos before he could get started.

 

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil. Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos had been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation. Asbestos fibers may be released into the air during demolition work or remodeling. Exposure may occur only when the asbestos containing material is damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air. Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. ICK

 

Will was eager to get started on some of the demolition himself and the delay waiting for the test results was frustrating him. The plaster tested positive for asbestos. An unanticipated expense already? Say it isn’t so…

The entire house was sealed off- each and every bit of wall, trim ripped down, stripped down to the studs.  Everything was contained and shipped off to someplace in  Ohio to live happily ever after…

 

The front porch of the cottage is  sealed off -its amazing how many doors there are in this tiny house- these are just a few of them
The front porch of the cottage is sealed off -its amazing how many doors there are in this tiny house- these are just a few of them
The cottage was completely sealed off to contain the asbestos fibers- this is the vent
The cottage was completely sealed off to contain the asbestos fibers- this is the vent
close up of asbestos vent
close up of asbestos vent
Asbestos abatement front porch
Asbestos abatement front porch

Deconstructing the cottage- part one, aka DIW

That six-month delay between purchasing the house and finalizing construction plans and contracts had been really frustrating. Once we signed all the contracts with Jason, he got all the paperwork in place to pull permits. When the permit finally arrived taped in the window, we knew we could get started on some of the demolition.

Hooray- permits pulled..now the fun can begin
Hooray- permits pulled..now the fun can begin

DIY would help us reduce some of the expenses, made sense, right? Except honestly it was more DIW, Do it Will.

Will had several project in mind and couldn’t wait to get started. Here was his list of projects…
1) Strip trim and moldings of the walls through out the cottage

Cottage windows, sans trim- measuring for replacements in 6 x 6 configuration to match red house.
Cottage windows, sans trim- measuring for replacements in 6 x 6 configuration to match red house.

2) Tear down existing wall between kitchen and bath and remove all the appliances

This is the view form the bedroom, through the kitchen to the neighbors scorched barn next door
This is the view form the bedroom, through the kitchen to the neighbors scorched barn next door
Love the door knobs- thinking how to re-purpose
Love the door knobs- thinking how to re-purpose

3) Remove all the bathroom fixtures and strip walls down to the studs

and the walls come crumbling down
and the walls come crumbling down
Will extricated the tub from the bathroom..all by himself. Wondering how to re-purpose
Will extricated the tub from the bathroom..all by himself. Wondering how to re-purpose
bathroom stripped...crumbled walls in boxes to be carted away once the dumpster arrives, fixtures on their sides in the living room awaiting their next chapter
bathroom stripped…crumbled walls in boxes to be carted away once the dumpster arrives, fixtures on their sides in the living room awaiting their next chapter

4) Clean out debris in basement

Basement find - galvanized metal treasure- pretty sure it will end up as a prop in a photo shoot one of these days
Basement find – galvanized metal treasure- pretty sure it will end up as a prop in a photo shoot one of these days

5) Remove existing siding from the shed which contained the bathroom, back door entrance and basement entrance

Don't mess with Will and his crowbar.  He couldn't wait to start to tear off the shed siding.
Don’t mess with Will and his crowbar. He couldn’t wait to start to tear off the shed siding.

4) Remove the oil tank, and furnace in the basement

I am so not a fan of the basement in this house
I am so not a fan of the basement in this house
Will in the basement- ready to attack the furnace and oil tank- notice how little head room these is. Doesn't that look like a fun way to spend your Saturday?
Will in the basement- ready to attack the furnace and oil tank- notice how little head room these is. Doesn’t that look like a fun way to spend your Saturday?
Lots of ledge in the basement. You can see the spindly supports which were not doing their best to hold up the floors
Lots of ledge in the basement. You can see the spindly supports which were not doing their best to hold up the floors
SO much mold and decay
SO much mold and decay
Here is our oil tank. Not only did Will have to begin the extrication, he had to drain more than 50 gallons of oil from it before he could take it apart
Here is our oil tank. Not only did Will have to begin the extrication, he had to drain more than 50 gallons of oil from it before he could take it apart

Oil tank removal

Will's next project- remove the furnace which means cutting into small pieces
Will’s next project- remove the furnace which means cutting into small pieces
Bathroom waste pipe removed- you can see the underside of the tub on wheels to the left
Bathroom waste pipe removed- you can see the underside of the tub on wheels to the left
Victim of basement attack. Shattered i pad screen when it slipped during demolition of the furnace. Repaired and restored the next day
Victim of basement attack. Shattered i pad screen when it slipped during demolition of the furnace. Repaired and restored the next day

 

To add insult to injury, remember the frigid temperatures this winter?

We, thanks to DIW,  were off to a good start, and then Jason mentioned we might want to check the interior wall plaster for asbestos…..