One of the interesting cultural things we’ve discovered about Oregon, especially the coast, is that it has a rich timber history. It’s evident everywhere: old buildings with wood beams three feet deep, huge expanses of forest at every turn, old logging equipment rusting along the roadside. It even changes the way I do architecture- I’ve had to brush up on doing load calculations for wood structures (instead of so much steel), they have a whole course on wood design at U of O, and there are even wood building elements available here that you can’t get in the midwest. This also means that all the long-time locals have at least one friend or relative who is a logger. Laura told me that back 100 years ago, people were farmers, dairymen, merchants… but EVERYONE was a logger. You had to be. There were trees everywhere, and if you didn’t cut at least some of them down, there was no place to farm.
This really worked to our advantage yesterday. We have a “tree problem.” The thing is, we LOVE trees, which is good, since we just bought 32 acres of them. But the problem is, we have some growing where we don’t want them. Some hang over the driveway, some are in the field shading the crops, and some are directly south of our house, blocking the sun from the solar panels. At first I felt bad about the idea of cutting down an acre of trees, but then I remembered that I have 31 other acres that I’m not. 🙂 But the big problem is that I don’t know the first thing about cutting down trees, and quite frankly, it’s dangerous. I’d never even used a chainsaw before two months ago.
This is where my neighbr comes in. Sandy and his son Tom come from a long line of professional loggers. We’ve been talking about this for months, and a few days ago we were chatting in my yard. He said that things had finally slowed down enough that he could come help me cut down those trees, if I still wanted to do that.
Now you gotta imagine this guy: an older fellow, in good physical shape, slow and methodical when talking but blunt and honest. “I have to get my son to help” he said. Turns out, not only were Sandy’s wedges and axe gone from his truck because his son had borrowed them, but Tom’s the expert feller in the family and has taken on the reins of the family business for the most part.
We agreed that they’d come back some time this weekend. I went back to replacing water-damaged plywood panels on the roof, and he drove off. But about an hour later, I heard gravel crunching in the drive, and Sandy was back, with another truck behind him. Turns out, Tom was going to be busy all weekend, but they had an hour available right now.
An hour? You’re going to cut down all these trees in an HOUR? Thus began my brief education on how professional loggers do it. I’ve seen other folks cut down a few trees since I’ve been here, but this was far more impressive. They put on their tin hats, strapped on their spiked boots, and fired up their well-tuned chainsaws with 36″ bars. “I figure we’ll fell them right here”, he said, gesturing towards our yard, making waving motions up and down with his hands.
“You can drop them wherever you want, so long as it’s not on the house,” I replied, joking. He looked at me sideways, almost offended that I would think he’d do that. “Err.. could you try not to crush my apple tree?” I added.
He shrugged. “Sure. But sometimes, they go where they want to. It’s nature, you can’t control everything.” True, that.
But when the trees started falling, that was the really impressive part. Tom worked his chainsaw back and forth, looking up at the tree, watching it move, adjusting the cut here and there so it would fall the right direction. Sandy moved in and out with the wedges and axe, hammering to aply pressure in critical areas, until the slow tilting began. From there, it was a matter of stepping back and watching the tree come down. Here is a video I shot of them working, I highly recommend watching it. And when the tree hits the ground, it is like an earthquake. I never realized it made the ground shake so much! Here’s another video of one falling.