This past Monday I walked around the top acre of the property with a video camera. It was hard to imagine how different this was all going to look in just 24 hours, and I wanted to document the way it looked now. Husband and I were very excited at the changes that were about to come, and it has indeed been a truly thrilling last few days.
Tuesday morning the tree fallers arrived, and I spent most of that day with my neck craned back and my eyes looking upward. Within a few minutes of arriving the head guy had begun climbing a tree beside the house, working his way upwards with a rope around the trunk and big sharp climbing spikes on the sides of his boots. As he climbed up he sawed the branches off from the trunk with the chainsaw that hung from a rope around his waist. As he got higher, he would grasp a branch with one hand while sawing with the other, then catch the branch as it fell so he could guide it away from the house. For branches that were too heavy for him, he’d tie a rope around the branch before cutting it and the guys on the ground would guide it down. Meanwhile, another guy would feed the branches into the chipper. When the faller got within several feet of the crown, he cut it right off. When it fell, the trunk would sway back and forth and it was incredible to watch the guys perched up there as they swung to and fro.
The three trees that were close to the house were cut down to stumps in sections, from the top down. But the other trees were left pretty tall – only enough of the top was cut off to avoid hitting the power lines. Then they would attach a rope to the top, climb down, and saw at the base while another guy pulled on the rope to guide the tree in the direction they wanted it to fall. It was quite thrilling to watch these enormous trees come down; they’d start slowly and then gain momentum, hitting the ground with an earth-thumping crash. For several of these Husband and I would find a spot on the grass somewhere safely away, and just sit and watch the action. Then other guys would crawl over the fallen tree, limbing and slicing with ease (having wielded a chainsaw myself, I can now appreciate the skill and strength it takes to do that). It was a beehive of activity and all very exciting. The kids were happy to watch from inside; Son is sensitive to loud noises and Daughter, being the practical one, could see that it was not safe to be running around outside with all that was going on.
It rained on and off that day, but by afternoon the sun was coming out and we watched in amazement as light gradually flooded the area around the house, which was previously hidden in shade. About every 30 to 60 minutes, Husband and I would excitedly yank on our boots and head outside to walk around and gawk at their progress; it was different every time and we were like kids at Christmas. The vistas at various spots around the property were changing dramatically, and the lay of the land was becoming more apparent. It looked somewhat like a bomb had gone off, with limbs, trunks, and sawdust everywhere. But the wide open sky that was now apparent above us, as well as the views from all over, more than made up for it.
I walked the dog that evening in a silence that was felt deeply after a day of chainsaws and chippers, and I experienced conflicting emotions. To be honest, a part of me felt a bit guilty about killing all those trees. I looked around at the mess and it felt so destructive; I wondered for a brief moment if perhaps we were crazy. But if I closed my eyes just a bit I could imagine the battered landscape lush with green fields, with fencelines and animals grazing. I felt the setting sun on my face and reveled in the sunshine and open sky and knew we had done the right thing.
The fact is, we are here to farm and you can’t do that in a forest. Also, we have 160 acres of forest butting right up against the side of our property. That forest is older and more established than ours, which had been logged within the last quarter century then largely neglected so that it wasn’t anything all that special. We’ve also left loads of trees, including some big, beautiful maples and a grove of red elderberries that stand out like a giant floral arrangement in the field now that the surrounding brush has been cleared. Finally, we have a stack of logs big enough to fill a logging truck from which we will mill lumber to be used in building our barns, sheds, and fences. We also have enough firewood to heat our home for free for at least a couple of years. Knowing that we would be using the wood in this way made me feel better.
This was probably the most dramatic day of changes, but the next two days brought more excitement as the fallers left and the excavator arrived. I’ll talk about that in my next post.