When I found Miss Hague’s letters and checks I dropped into the research rabbit hole to find out what I could about her. I came across a considerable amount of information that will make a fun and interesting post one day, but now it is time to get back to writing about all the work we have done on the red house.
There is a lot to document as I catch up with this blog. The project is not a sprint, but more like a marathon and today I feel our renovation is at the 20 mile marker, so close and yet still so far to go. Kind of like this spring.
I have been scrolling through the hundreds of photographs I have taken and it is an astounding reminder of all the work we have poured into this renovation, and how much progress we have made.
I wonder how to condense it all, without driving everyone, including me, to boredom. Pictures help but…..In my writing workshops with Michelle Gillett I have been working on a new writing style-condensing a ten year period of time to only two pages using short, three word sentences. I think it is a really cool exercise and thought I would use it to try to capture the renovation progress of three months, October, November and December,into three word sentences, with photos of course.
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.
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
Caleb Turner arrived with his crew on a very cold winter weekend to tackle the locust trees.
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.
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.
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.