So a tree fell on your garden shed during a big windstorm… Yup. You had plans to have a stress-free relaxing weekend. Sleep in late, consume an opulent, leisurely breakfast, musically accompanied, discretely, by tuxedoed violin players, then maybe get a manicure and pedicure and sit around relaxing and eating lovely little dainty bon bons flown in from France that very morning, right? Perhaps later, after a nap, memorize some of the finer passages of Shakespeare for when you care to impress your coworkers at your next office meeting or corporate take over… For the record, I’ve never done ANY of these things.. Well, your plans just changed. You are now going to be a feral sweaty hog beast of a lumberjack, grunting, stinking and covered with leaves and dirt and filth that comes from dragging inconveniently heavy logs that smashed up your nice metal garden shed and left precious little undamaged. Ha. Jokes on you.
So, your plans have changed. But that’s ok, stuff happens, and this is how you handle an unplanned crisis like this. To begin, these 40 year old English walnut trees grow on our property, planted by my father, and thus are our responsibility.
Part of them fell onto our good neighbors property, and thankfully, did no damage. We decide to get this cleaned up before we start on our own property, because, after all, this is what it means to be a York County good neighbor.
We decided to do this clean up task ourselves, and yet still called in a professional tree trimming company- Heritage Lawns and Landscaping – to trim off the large “stubs” of branches still attached to the tree, because they know what they are doing and we want to save the trees. Also, we don’t want to fall and kill ourselves, because when we get up on a ladder, it becomes apparent that we clearly don’t know what we are doing when it comes to trimming very heavy, mature trees. Let this be a lesson to you, in the long run, it is always much, much cheaper to hire a professional to do a job like this, than to get injured, pay a whopping huge medical bill, or funeral expenses. For real. York County residents love to be the can-do county, but we also like to live a long healthy life time as well. Make wise choices. As it was, the falling branches and logs bashed around our arborvitae a good bit, killing none of them, and we will have to tie them up to bring them more upright again.
Now when it comes to cleaning up, assess the situation. First, it’s hot. Start early and avoid the worst heat of the day. Eat a big breakfast because you are going to need the energy. Take your vitamins. Wear a hat, the sun is blazing down and you’re going to be fried. Slather on gobs of sunscreen; hit the tips of your ears and the back of your neck, I always forget to cover those. Wear good strong boots. I don’t care if its 90 degrees out and hot, if you slip and drop big logs on your foot, those toes are not growing back. Have Gatorade on hand, or lots of something cool to drink. Most importantly, have patience, understanding and a sense of humor, because a large part of this is going to suck.
You will need handclippers to trim off the smaller branches, and a larger pruner, either hand powered or battery or electric, to cut the larger branches as they start to turn into logs. These will be HEAVY. You will be lifting things up and over. Don’t drop them onto your feet, or someone else’s feet. If using an electrically powered, cord- tethered cutting tool, pay attention to avoid getting the cord tangled in your feet. Leaves will be all over the place and will obscure your vision. Don’t cut through the cord. That would be bad. You especially don’t want to get tangled and fall over and fall onto or into a very sharp running tool designed to cut and maim and destroy. Being aware of potential danger is the first sign you are a responsible chore-master, and that your plans will end well. As I say with every project, if the job gets done and nobody lost an eye, it was a good day.
Start by dragging off the most easily reached branches, working your way into the worst tangled areas. This will be like untying a Gordian knot. It is going to require patience. Remember, Alexander the Great never untied that Gordian knot either, he sliced through it with his mighty sword. That’s what you are going to do now, slice through these fallen branches, bit by bit until it is all gone. Try to pay attention and make sure nothing else is mixed in with the tree -branches, wires or metal or anything else, that is not going to play nice with your saw, powered or not. Make piles of the wood immediately afterwards, one for smaller branches to be used as kindling, and a larger pile for logs. Also, don’t forget all those lovely leaves. They make marvelous compost.
As you work, be cautious not only of yourself and your own limbs as well as tree branches, but any local wildlife that may have decided to creep into and under the branches that are all over the place. We found this wonderful toad. Isn’t it a cutie! This is a sign of a very healthy natural environment, and we want to preserve its life. We picked Toady up and moved it aside into an area that has much less odds of being trampled by foot traffic or tossed logs.
Look over the types of wood now, and make some decisions. Could you use some of it for yourself? I Googled English Walnut trees, and discovered that the wood of this particular tree is good when used for traditional tools, as handles for tools, and also for gunstocks. So there! I see some dibbles in my future!
As we cut, we discover some of the wood is hollowed out, by termites, I suspect. We see evidence of the eggs that have been disturbed by the branches coming down. Birds hop around our work area and quickly eat as many of these as they can find.
As you cut and cut and cut, you will eventually get through all the wood. You will be sweaty and sore and have muscles. You will have three piles, one of larger logs of wood, one of branches, and one of leaves. The logs and branches has been stacked and set aside, ideally on a wooden skid, so that it dries out in time for winter use. This requires putting it in the back of a truck, and driving it on over to the good neighbor who can use it this winter. This will take several trips.
This is all hot work, so remember to drink plenty of fluids. This type of work also requires lots of constant, repeated bending and lifting and carrying. Be careful!
Do NOT overload your truck! Placing it on a skid also means it can be lifted and moved easily by whomever needs it. Final clean up means all the remaining leaves get thrown into the compost. Everything gets used, there is no waster of debris littering the area, and you get a workout. This is all good. Now go and have a long drink of something cool, you earned it.