Sunday, April 20, 2014
Two winters ago, a 50 ft ash tree in our sugar bush lost one of its two major branches. The branch split from the main trunk and fell south, to rest 30 ft up on half a dozen small maples. The branch was still attached to the tree by a wood and bark hinge. Dave couldn't figure out the best way to get either the branch or the tree down. They call those kinds of branches "widow makers" because they can break from whatever is holding them up and crash to the ground at any time.
Last winter the second main branch ripped away from the trunk at the same point. It fell to the north with the tips of it's smaller branches resting on the ground, and there it hung, still connected at the top by a hinge of wood and bark.
The tree was dead - no viable branches, just two widowmakers. We had to get it down before it fell on someone. Normally, to fell a tree, Dave cuts a small notch about 2 feet off the ground on the side of the tree to which he wants it to fall. Next he cuts through the tree on the opposite side, leaving a small hinge of wood. Then, if the winds are right, and his eye is good, the tree falls, missing all the trees in the way and comes to rest on the ground where we want it.
With a widow maker on both sides of the tree, Dave was uninterested in cutting a small notch in the trunk and then cutting almost all the way through to the notch. There were just too many things that could fall from the sky, too many unpredictable branches.
Sometimes, when the stars or the planets are not aligned, or the woods are too dense, a falling tree hangs up on other trees, or leans, but doesn't fall. Then we get out the come-along and 100 feet of rope and encourage the tree to fall all the way to the ground with brute force.
The come-along usually does the trick.
On our double widow maker, Dave carefully trimmed the small branches off the main branch until it hung vertically beside the trunk. This didn't rip the hinge at the top and allow the branch to fall. Next he tied the rope to the hanging branch and connected it to the come along that was anchored on a big tree 50 feet to the south, twisting the hanging branch around the trunk. Dave and Chris tightened up the come-along, The branch rose almost to horizontal, but didn't release from the top of the tree. They took it all apart and pulled the branch to the north, twisting it the other way around the main trunk. They put tension on the branch and tightened the com-
along over and over. Next they added their weight to the situation, three grown men swinging like monkeys from the rope, trying to rip the branch away from the main trunk. It seemed like such a little hinge of wood, just a light wind should have ripped it free.
The rest of us watched from a safe distance, adding our suggestions and watching the hinge at the top of the tree for progress. The last suggestion of the day came from Edgar. "Why don't I bring my 10 guage shotgun and shoot that hinge."
Sunday, Edgar brought "Boomer" and from 50 feet away, Dave shot twice. After the first shot the branch dropped a few inches. After the second the hinge shattered and the branch crashed to the ground. We all cheered. The second act will be the really tricky one, to fell the tree with one widowmaker still tangled in the tree tops. This may take more than a well aimed shotgun blast from a vegetarian hunter.