Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Good Weather? Time to Clear Brush!

Yesterday afternoon we had clear weather and my in basket was as clear as it was apt to get, so after lunch we went to work on trying to clear away the brush generated by the previous day's partial trimming of the old apple tree.

This is the apple tree on which we worked on Thursday. You can see how overgrown it is, and in the foreground you can see the results of the first afternoon's work. We really need to work over the rest of the tree the same way, before it goes into blossom. If we're lucky, we can keep it from producing any fruit at all this year.

This is one of the piles of apple-tree brush generated on Thursday. Behind it is a growth of brambles that we won't touch.

This is the other pile of apple-tree branches, some of which are on the edge of being salvageable as firewood. Behind the pile is the now-derelict "summer kitchen" of the old family homestead.

For good measure, here is some of the tree debris from our previous tree-clearing project, where we got the fallen tree off of the roof of the old house but didn't have time to haul the small stuff away before darkness and rain caught up with us.

We never have managed to get the large trailer repaired sufficiently to use it to move debris here:

This being the "coal seam" (old cut-off stream bed) into which we dump most organic debris. The small hand-cart isn't very efficient at moving this stuff, so I suggested that we try burning it. Burning yard debris is permitted here under certain circumstances, and it was a "burn day," so Lisa said we could give it a try.

However, we couldn't burn it where it sat. It was too close to the old house, to the bramble bushes, to the overhanging fir tree, and most importantly, to the pile of debris left over from demolition of an old shed on the property a few years ago. The idiots who tore down the shed ignored Lisa and piled not just old rotten wood (that would have been okay) but all sorts of non-burnable and noxious stuff in the pile. We can't burn that pile and have been slowly picking away at it over the years, trying to remove the burnable/organic materials with the hope that someday we'll get it down to only the stuff that we can haul to the dump, assuming we get the haulage trailer repaired.

So we got out the hand carts and cutters and started to cut the pieces down to sufficiently small size to put in the burn barrel. I suggested that we instead just pull it a few meters away and set it afire in a separate pile safely away from the other combustibles, but Lisa pointed out that this would be too far away from the nearest source of water (the old pump on the property froze last winter and we've not yet replaced it). Although things are pretty green and wet, it's a bad idea to set up a burn pile when you have no water hose handy to use if the fire gets too enthusiastic.

So Lisa got out the hoses and set to work kindling a fire in the burn barrel while I got a set of clippers from her father's tool shed and started trying to cut brush. Burning this green wood is slightly challenging, because you have to get the fire hot enough to dry the wood and burn it. We don't like those nasty smoky fires that our neighbors create. We want hot fires with little visible smoke, which are much more efficient.

After getting the fire going and starting to burn the first couple of cart-loads, we hit a snag. I don't know my own strength, and the cutters are cheap Chinese-made pot-metal, or so it seems. I broke the anvil on the cutters, rendering them useless. So much for saving money on less-expensive tools.

While we'd prefer to use the local hardware store, Lisa knew that they didn't have the higher-quality tools that she'd spotted in town a few days ago, and so she convinced her father to take her in to the Wilco Farm Store in Stayton while I soldiered on as best as I could, using smaller clippers and moving more slowly. (And not coincidentally, accidentally letting the burn barrel fire go out due to lack of attention on my part.

After a while, Lisa returned triumphantly with two new pieces of hardware, both made in Finland, where they know a little bit about cutting trees. Here I am holding heavy-duty cutters with a lifetime warranty. If I manage to break these, at least we'll be able to replace them. They are much heavier than anything else they had here, and they did an excellent job of cutting branches up to around 3 cm in diameter. (Anything larger and we'd use the also-Finnish-made bow saw.)

Here I am holding the other prize: what I called the "pole-axe" -- an extending pole with clippers on the end (good for trimming small branches at a distance) and a saw attachment. This is just the ticket for cutting larger branches like the ones you see scattered around me in this photo.

(Full disclosure: Lisa cut down all but one of these branches before letting me try one. She's a deft hand with a saw, and doesn't miss opportunities to remind me that she's a professional -- that is, in her youth, for a short period of time she was paid to cut trees and brush like this.)

Lisa's father balked a bit at the relatively high cost of these high-end tree tools, but Lisa contrasted the cost of the tools with how much it would cost to hire workmen to come out and do this work. Put that way, the tools paid for themselves in a single afternoon. Besides working on the apple-tree debris, we also took the opportunity to drop several of the more menacing-looking branches from the tree that partially collapsed during the Christmas 2008 storm. After trimming (and burning) the small bits from the branches, I stacked the larger pieces to one side. We'll use the electric chainsaw later to cut them down to future firewood.

Lisa re-kindled the burn barrel and I continued reducing brush to burnable size pieces. I could only barely keep up with her. By the time I filled one cart, she had emptied the other. I lost track of how many cart-loads of stuff we moved, but it must have been at least ten of them. And even then we didn't get all of the debris burned by the time it reached 4:30 -- burning is supposed to knock off by 5 PM -- and we started winding it down.

In retrospect, burning this stuff probably wasn't as efficient as hauling it to the "coal seam" would have been, because in both cases we still had to cut the pieces down small enough to fit into the cart and haul them 50-100 meters to the disposal site.

After around 5 or 6 hours of this yard work, we put away the tools and called it a day. I've been trying to watch how much I lift at one time, given my back injury last year, but I'm still pretty stiff and sore. But I also know that the exercise is good for me. I logged more than 11,000 steps yesterday, most of them moving around in the field carting brush. The weather is even better today than it was yesterday, so I expect we'll be breaking out the tools again today and tackling the trees once more.
Tags: lisa, mehama

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