Big Trees Must Go
Because many of the large oaks were damaged and others would shade the PV, they have to be cut before the house is built
The neighbors must think I hate trees. I cut about 15 large oaks around the lot, and each one had to go. The largest, some 34 in. dia., were along the street. While many people would consider them “old growth” trees, many were around my age. Most were in bad shape. Some were the result of suckers that grew out of stumps cut more than 50 years ago, so several trunks emanated from a single root system. Many were leaning either over the power lines and street or over the house location. Several had rotted heartwood and insect damage. And a couple were too close to the septic-system location, so their roots would have been damaged when we excavated. Basically, all the trees along the street had to go except for one healthy one.
I started clearing the lot in February, first cutting the black birch saplings. Most were less than 6 in. dia., and because they grew in so close together, there were few limbs in their crowns. This meant little brush to drag or chip. I cut even the small-diameter trunks into firewood and piled it along the street. While a professional crew would have chipped the small stuff, I figured someone could cut it up for firewood. A few neighbors burn wood for heat in the winter, so it won’t take long for the piles to be hauled away.
I dropped most of the large trees myself. Those that had a natural lean could easily be dropped into the center of the empty lot. When I wasn’t sure where the tree was leaning, I hung a cable around the trunk about 30 ft. off the ground and anchored the other end to a hand winch chained to a nearby rock or another tree. Tensioning the cable intermittently while cutting the tree directed the crown to drop safely. Still, I get nervous when trees are close to the street and power lines. One time I got carried away tensioning a cable, and it snapped. The recoil left the tree swaying for a minute—a very long minute. All the time, I imagined the tree snapping and falling across the street and taking out the power lines.
I left the last four trees along the street for a professional crew. These trees were leaning toward the street, and the crew used a bucket truck to trim back the branches before cutting the trunks and letting them fall. In addition to cutting the trees, the crew chipped the limbs from all the trees I cut, leaving a relatively clear site.
I cut all the large trunks into 17-ft. to 20-ft. lengths and piled them at the house I own across the street. The excavator will likely take several to have milled into beams for a new shop, and the rest will end up being firewood for neighbors and friends.