Novemeber 27, 2015


Zoe standing next to the tree for scale.

This past spring we starting work on completing an earth Cheltered greenhouse on our main hillside, just downhill of the main dining hall.

A large ponderosa pine had been slowly sucumbing to a beetle infestation for a few years, and was now totally dead.

A full view of the tree in with the chains set up. You can see the greenhouse roof construction behind the tree.

The large pine is leaning toward the northern roof of the greenhouse, while also standing up-wind. If we did not do something about it, the tree would definitely fall on the greenhouse at some point in the next few years. So, we decided to take it down.

Felling a tree against it's prevailing lean, amongst elements that you don't want to get crushed (in our case, our community's zone-1 gardens and fruit trees) takes a few extra steps.

We had a 10-15 degree window to fell the tree so it would not crush something important.

We first rigged some chains from the large pine to another tree that is in the desired direction of the tree to fall. We put a come-along in line with the chains to be able to tension the line when we are ready to fell.

After we preliminarily set the chains and come-along, Zoe and I began removing the lower bark to investigate if there were any remnant pieces of metal in the tree that would interfere with cutting.

Removing the bark, and cutting out remnants of fencing

Since the tree had died about a year ago, the bark was easy to peel with a hammer and felling wedge.

We discovered a few fencing staples and pieces of fencing still in the tree. We were able to pull most of it out, however we had to cut out a particularly embedded piece.

You can see the hole were the metal was cut out in the image above.

Walt and I talking over the plan, and then sharing safety concerns with the spectators.

Since the prevailing wind would tend blow the tree into the greenhouse, we waited for a calm afternoon to take down the tree.

Many members of the community were present to see how the events would unfold.

The wedge cut was made in the direction of the chains and come-along.

Then the come-along we tensioned until the the slack was taken up and the tree was standing upright (away from it's natural lean).

Opalyn tensioning the come along.

Then the back cut was started.

As the saw got deep enough, wedges were driven behind the bar to prevent the tree from falling back on the cut.

Starting back cut, and following with wedges.

And then...

...physics was allowed to take it's course.

Thanks to the set up we did, the tree fell well within the window we had allotted.

It struck with enough force to shatter the crown into several pieces.

The shattered crown fell just short of these boulders.

Even in death, the tree has many things to look forward to.

We were able to get two 12ft sections to take to the sawmill and converted into lumber for various projects.

The rest of the bole was cut into seating for around a nearby fire pit, as well as for other fire pits in the campground.

The branches will be partially burned to make biochar for a new garden bed, with the larger branch pieces cut into fire wood.

The stump was cut to a good height for sitting, to provide a place for contemplation and making phone calls :)