Sunday, August 21, 2011

An afternoon in the woods

I have run out of lumber to mill. Time to go out in the woods. I am looking for trees that are dead, because I hate to cut down a live tree. All I need is that it must mill down to either 10x10 or 8x8 cm. For a woodshed it hardly matters. So armed with my little chainsaw and my Stihl one-piece Helmet plus ear protectors plus face shield, I went to the woods. As the crow flies it was 200 meters, and on the road. As Alaska bush goes, as the crow flies is an impassable tangle of brush in a straight line. Well, I have felled a couple of small trees, and this one was (a) terminal and (b) the right size. So down it went. Easy, you think. Just cut it down. One pass with the chainsaw! Were I an experienced feller (I mean tree feller, not a "fellow") this is child's play. But note: I work alone. I am very cautious. The chain saw is not your enemy. The forest is. (That is metaphorical. Forests are not enemies. But they are not friends, either). The forest is completely neutral. It's all up to you.

You can find descriptions of felling all over the web. Anyway, there I am. This is not a big tree. Some would call it a "sapling" and it is. But the way you learn to do things these days is to start small and work your way up. The first tree I had to fell was maybe 20 cm across at the base. It fell about ninety degrees away from where I wanted it. What did I do wrong? Earnest thought. My problem was simple. I didn't cut the bottom of the notch parallel to the ground. If you don't do that, why the tree won't fall where it should. My notch was cockeyed. Not parallel to the ground. Lesson number one. This session had several other useful lessons.

So I wear my Filson hat in the woods. I always wear my hat. It is an extremely expensive hat given to me by my children as a present. It costs a fortune, but is worth every penny of it. It will outlive me. But I recently acquired a Stihl combo hard hat, earmuff, and face shield protector. Cheap at a yard sale. Cost you a hundred devalued bucks new. Cost me much less than that. I always wore safety glasses and earmuffs. My eyes are lousy but my hearing is way above average and I'd hate to lose it. The Stihl helmet protects all three. Doubtless there are alternatives. I did not take the camera. Too bad. I have other things to concentrate upon when I'm going to take down a tree. Even a tiny tree like this one. This tree turned out to be a useful lesson.

So you cut your notches parallel to the ground. This is true whether you are using a chain saw or a handsaw. I could have used a handsaw for this, but I wanted some chainsaw practice, because felling trees is no joke, and the problems are exactly the same regardless of scale. OK. put on your high-tech helmet, and cut your notch. This time we have mastered the secret of the notch, so we cut parallel to the ground. I can just hear professional loggers laugh at me, he is cutting a maybe12cm dia spruce, what's your problem? But I start small and work up. Cut the counter-cut or back-cut. . . and the tree did not budge. Of course not, it was hung up. That means that other trees are holding it up. Now let's look at the time involved in all this. Chainsaw cutting: maybe 3 minutes. That is a generous estimate. At that point, of course, I had donned my Helmet. The capital letter is intentional. The reason you need a hard hat in the wood is not because what you are doing is dangerous It is, in fact. The danger is not the tree you are cutting. It is the other forest denizens that are lurking there and are all too ready to fall on your head. That is why you wear a hard hat. It is not because your chain will break, because modern tech has wiped out that possibility, unless you are incredibly careless, and have not a clue as to what you are doing.

So my little forest spruce sapling (moribund, I may add, not quite dead but very, very, close to the end) came down. No it didn't. It just sat there. At this point you look upwards. Of course, the tree is hung up. In a real forest, trees grow up in random patterns. So some get really big and crowd their less fortunate neighbors. At this point all trees are alike. But, you see, they compete with their neighbors and may get hung up in the branches of another tree. OK, the tree did not come down. Hung up, you see. So at this point what I decided to do it the "easy" way. Let me pull it out with the car, which was right next to the road. At this point I spent about ten minutes searching for my hat. So far I am into this about 3 minutes of actual cutting. Since I cut of off low branches by hand perhaps I am into it 5 minutes So we are 9 minutes into the business. At this point I mislaid my hat. You might think this is trivial, but it is not. My hat blends in with the forest. I like that. But once the tree us down, the hard hat is a waste of time. However, the Helmet is nice -- all-in-one protection. Spend the next ten minutes searching for my hat. OK, tie a rope to the tree, pull it out to the car, oops, what is this? Rope not long enough. Back to the car. Get out extra chain. At this point once again I lost my hat. Spend another 20 minutes searching for hat. Then tie rope to tree, attach to car. Pull. Tree down. Minor triumph. Go limb it, total time perhaps 3 min. At this point I mislaid my hat. Well, I bucked to the length I am using, 3 minutes. Now get rid of the limbs. Total time perhaps 10 minutes of sawing, most of it limbing, and half an hour looking for my hat. At the end I hauled the little spruce tree to the road. And then I couldn't find my hat. Total time in sawing: Ten minutes max. Time searching for hat: about 45 minutes. Moral: Leave your hat in the car. Professional loggers, welcome to laugh. And yes, I know all about felling wedges. But I am looking for lessons. This is called learning. They don't teach you how to learn in any school, these days. Dogma all the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment