This tree, a zombie, that is to say dead, refused to come down for the longest time. As Will said, “It was a tree in denial.”
Many people don’t realize it but trees have lifespans. They age and eventually die. This is a sugar maple and they generally get to about seventy years or so. There are, of course, those who get much older like the wolf trees out in the field. But most decline and then fall down at some point within their first or second century. This tree had lived a long life and gotten well beyond the average span.
Normally I don’t worry about where a trees falls in the woods but in this case it was probably going to fall on a gate and fences, possibly pigs, people, tractors, etc. I would rather a controlled and graceful fall into the open ground where it doesn’t damage stuff.
To convince the dead tree to fall where I wanted it to go I cut a birds mouth with a hinge in the back to control the direction of the fall. This went perfectly and the tree came down exactly where planned, precisely between a high tensile cable holding a whey line, three fences and a gate.
Except… the tree did not come down. And did not come down. And did not come down. Normally things fall at the rate of acceleration of gravity. This helps you figure out which planet you’re on. But this tree was in deep denial, refusing release its potential energy. Instead it clung stubbornly to the sky. Clawing at clouds.
When I cut the release after doing the birds mouth, hinge and plunge the tree shifted… and balanced neatly on the hinge. We put in a few wedges and gave it some time. After all, a huff and a puff should take it. The wind was blowing north west just where I wanted it to go. How hard could this be. But no joy. No disaster, but no joy.
A red headed woodpecker came over and investigated. It hopped out along the branches at the top of the tree on the side I wanted the tree to drop as it considered our work. After numerous comments it flew off, without tipping the balance with its added weight. Ironic he was not.
More wedges and more pounding. We could hear the hinge back snapping fibers one at a time. Gradually, very, very slowly, the tree shifted its balance, hanging more and more to the north. A vertical crack developed behind the hinge. Still it did not fall. The tree was canted at an angle that looked impossible to support. The center of mass was way the heck north of the stump. Yet, there it stayed, noble, erect and refusing to join us down on the ground.
Finally, with wedges doubled up on top of each other and both all the way in to the release cut I started to see continuous ultra slow movement in the crown as the tree headed north and arced downward. About half way to the ground the hinge snapped and the butt jumped high into the air and chased the tree away from the stump. The tree began free accelerating at 9.80665 m/s2 proving that we were indeed on the planet Earth!
It was a majestic mass as it raced north through the air, completely free of all earthly binding. A tree in flight. With a ground shaking crash the tree hit the ground and shattered into hundreds of broken pieces for a colossal game of pickup sticks.
It was a most impressive impact. An impact that missed everyone and everything except the field, hitting precisely in the narrow space I had chosen. No fences were hurt in the downing of this dead tree. No whey lines. No animals. No gates. No people. All of these things had been worries should the tree come down in a wind storm, bit by bit or all at once.
Full Potential Achieved
The wood from this tree would be enough to heat our cottage for a year or two since we only burn about 0.75 cord a year. Except that I’m leaving it where it is. Insects will populate the wood feeding the chickens and pigs who will break the branches and trunk apart incorporating their organic matter into the soil. The stump we cut high as it will serve as a gate post for a decade or more.
This is winter preparation. The other dead trees we did that day all dropped perfectly without complaint or drama. A boring day of wood cutting – just the way I like it.
Outdoors: 67°F/37°F Partially Sunny, 1″ Rain
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/60°F
Daily Spark: I refuse to be limited by order or chaos.