My first realization, as I marched into the woods with my saw, tools and safety gear, was that all my skiing over the winter didn't keep me in shape for this. My second realization was that my aim is rusty.
Two weeks ago, we turned our attention to cutting trees from 3.5 acres in the north end of our property. It's been several years since a crew thinned this stand from below, cutting everything under 7 inches dbh and pruning the marked leave trees up 12 feet.
This summer we need to remove about half the remaining trees, predominantly Douglas Fir, mostly from 8 to 20 inches dbh. Our final density will be about 110 trees per acre. At the end of the summer a crew will prune the leave trees up to 16 feet. This is all part of our NRCS EQIP contract.
So last week I donned boots and hardhat, fueled up my Stihl 440 chainsaw, strapped on my tool belt, and climbed through thick brush up a draw. Once I caught my breath, I felled the first couple of trees with no problem. Then they started falling a few degrees off where I wanted them to fall. This led to trees hung in the branches of other trees, which gets complicated. I can't work under that hung tree, lest it suddenly falls of its own accord. We could cut the tree it's hung in, but often there's a blue mark indicating it's a carefully selected leave tree.
The safest way to drop the hung tree is to winch the butt out from under it. We did this with 2 trees the first day. Only 10 trees made it to the ground that day.
This week, with a freshly sharpened chain, I was able to hang more trees more efficiently in less time. Getting frustrated and creative led to another problem: a tee-pee of trees. When I hung the first tree of the day, I saw that I could fell another tree that would hit the hung tree, bringing both to the ground like dominoes. Instead, it hung, too. In my brilliance I added a third tree to the structure. Now it was unsafe to approach within 1/2 mile of this mess.
The only solution was to stop work and get the tractor to winch the trees down. The first two came down easily. As we stood in the woods discussing our strategy for winching the third tree, it came crashing down. It was a close-up reminder that it can happen any time, without warning.