Mariton: Don’t Try This At Home

February 8, 2013

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I have posted about our chainsaw work a lot recently.  In the past few months I have logged more time on the saws than I do in most years.  All of this work has just been clearing trails of trees that had fallen after Hurricane Sandy.  It was a shame to see so many trees knocked over, (although I know it is a natural process, and the forest will regrow).  While I may sound matter of fact about some of the work we have been doing, I don’t take this work lightly.

Lumberjacking and farming are in the top five of the most dangerous professions.  A tractor is my work horse and I am more at ease running a chainsaw than I am updating my computer, so I am pushing the odds a lot of days.  Fortunately, Natural Lands Trust is proactive about training and wearing protective gear (helmets, chaps, etc.).  I have had several days of intensive training, and just this year we held a refreasher chainsaw workshop in house.  Plus, Preserve Managers Tom Kershner and Darin Groff are our resident Chainsaw Ph.D.s and can be called upon when needed.  I am a much smarter and safer sawyer than I was when I first started this profession.  (And I have been lucky more than once.)  My point being, don’t try this stuff on your own unless you know what you are doing.

Thursday, I cut a big White Ash that has been bugging me for awhile.  It fell across the South Fox Trail in the storm, and was hung up between two trees.  You could walk under it, and it wasn’t going anywhere.  So, I left it.  I formed my cutting plan early on, but each time I walked by, I would study the situation and contemplate all the forces that were being exerted on the tree.

With Kevin there to call 911 if necessary, I tackled it on Thursday.  I am pleased to say that my original plan worked as envisioned, with one exception.  I knew the tree was going to swing sideways when it was released (and we were prepared for that), but I was surprised how far it traveled. The tree hanging horizontally in the photo below is the same tree in the photo above,  and the photos were taken from the same location.  You can see that it is now at a 70 degree angle from where it originally fell.  The tree was under a lot of tension!  (The tree on the ground is from a Red Oak  that was almost parallel to the White Ash for another perspective.)  (Oh, I used a 24″ chainsaw bar to give you a better perspective of the tree’s size.)

I counted 123  rings on the remaining stump.  That puts the tree’s start time around 1889.  That is somewhat surprising, because I am sure the property was cut over at least once during the intervening period, but perhaps they passed over Ash trees.  It is located in a rough patch of the property, and while it is nice wood, I won’t be going in there with the tractor to remove it for lumber or firewood.  Unfortunately, with the threat looming from Emeral Ash Borer, I am not sure it would have lived another century if the storm hadn’t changed its fate.