When we first moved up here to the North country, we didn't want to cut down a single tree. We had come from a development that had been built on an abandoned dairy farm, and up in these parts anyway, there are not a lot of trees in a pasture. The developer had planted one or two spindly, sad looking specimens in everyone's front yards and called it a day. As a result, we left way more trees standing than we should have when we built this house, and over the years they grew wider and taller until this past winter I realized that it never gets sunny here. It was like living in a cave all winter since the sun never clears the tree line from the moment it comes up to the moment it sets.
At least now that it's officially Sprummer,* we manage to get some sun between 11am and two pm, but even that isn't enough to plant any sort of sun-loving flowers and expect them to grow straight. Instead, they try to get to the sun and so they either lean out at a 45 degree angle (lilies, I'm talking to you) or they fall over, and grow horizontally, and when they're finally in the sun they take a right angle turn and point up again. (Gladiolus, I apologize.) It makes for a very tilty-looking garden.
Long story short, I decided that I wanted 23 trees gone. My wife, however, was not really down with that. She has a personal connection to every single tree on our lot, and was not happy with me for wasting money on something like tree removal when that same money could be spent on other necessary upkeep, like Caribbean vacations and garden potting sheds. I, on the other hand, didn't want to get crushed in my sleep by a bastard white pine with a death-wish. In typical woman-logic, she was more than willing to let the trees fall on the house, collect the insurance, and then finally paint the bedroom the color she wanted to, and maybe add a walk-in closet and a dormer. Apparently, a tree crashing through the top of the house could be a good thing.
In the end, I convinced her that it made sense to at least remove the three humongous white pines with long, heavy, dangerous branches that were overhanging our back deck, and a 70-foot tall, five-trunked maple tree that stored a swampy, evil-looking gallon of brown water in the rotting crotch where all the trunks met. I also chose a stand of mixed hardwoods and pines out in front, along with an assortment of smaller damaged or dead trees that were nothing more than an all-you-can-eat woodpecker buffet. That, my friends, is a lot of wood.**
In addition to creating a canopy over the driveway, all of these trees in front were blocking the sun from reaching the garden on the side of the house, and I figured that taking them down would give us a little more light in the front yard and also prevent her flowers from just uprooting themselves in disgust and walking somewhere else where they would be more appreciated.
I called around and got some estimates, and ended up going with a company I had used in the past. They aren't climbers -- they have a crane and the way they take a tree down is something to behold. They haul a guy holding a chainsaw up to the top of the tree with the crane and then when he's situated, he unhooks the crane cable from himself and ties it around the tree. Then he climbs about half way down and makes a cut. Then the crane lifts a 50 foot section of a giant tree directly over your house and lays it down next to the chipper, where a couple other guys with chainsaws tear into it. Then the crane goes back for another hunk. It's a little nerve-wracking to watch. While most of this tree went directly over the house so I couldn't see it, I did manage to catch this quick video through my office window:
In this fashion, they took all the trees I wanted gone in the space of about five hours, and left me with two straight 12-foot sections of oak and maple, which I will turn into chair parts or firewood, depending upon how much ambition I have between now and the time the wood dries too much to steam-bend.
At first, everything was going according to plan. Before they started, the owner/foreman asked me if I wanted any of the chips for the garden and I said no, take them all away. As my wife was leaving the house because she had to be somewhere else while this was happening, she overheard this, and mentioned to him that I was wrong, and that she might, in fact, want some. I went in the house because I was working from home that day and I needed to get some food before my lunch hour was over, leaving that bit of negotiation to her. That way, she would determine where they'd leave the chips and I'd avoid responsibility.
Fast forward to about 2:45 pm. I had been in a couple of back-to-back meetings, and so I hadn't had a chance to check on their progress. When my 2 pm ended 15 minutes early, I decided to go outside and see how things were going.
I walked out my front door and the first thing I saw was a pile of wood chips the size of a school bus lining the side of my driveway. And not a short bus either. I'm talking a full-sized, take-the-football-team-to-an-away-game, diesel-powered, yellow-ass school bus. In other words, a pile that was approximately 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide, and 40 feet long. A few of the guys were standing in the driveway, waiting for the next section of tree to come swinging over the house, and I ran up to them. "HOLY SHIT!" I said, followed closely by, "What the FUCK?" There was arm waving involved.
One of them looked at me and said, "What? Oh, the chips? Your wife said she wanted those."
"Yeah, she wanted a yard or two, tops. Nothing like THAT," I said. "What the hell am I going to do with that giant pile? It's completely ridiculous!"
"Well," he said, thoughtfully, looking at the pile. "We can't put them back in the truck. We don't have the equipment for that."
The owner must have seen me gesturing wildly or something, because he left his guy in the tree and shut off the crane and came over.
"What's up?" he asked. "Isn't that where you wanted them?"
"The problem isn't where, it's how much," I said. "What the fuck am I going to do with that much mulch?"***
"Well, I asked your wife if she wanted the full load, and she said yes."
I didn't say anything, because that sentence was all sorts of wrong and I was still processing it. He took my silence for stupidity, and continued.
That's a full load right there," he added, pointing to the pile like I was some sort of idiot.
"My wife has no concept of what a... covered dump truck can hold," I said, careful to avoid saying "My wife" and "full load" in the same sentence. Plus, I didn't want to insult myself. "This is wayyy too much. You need to make it go away or she's going to flip out. She didn't want me to do this to begin with."
I was probably sounding like a big pussy, but I didn't care. I wasn't the first guy in the world to think about the raft of shit he was in for if a mess didn't get cleaned up by the time his wife got home.
He echoed the other guy on his team and said, "Well, I can't pick it up again, I don't have a bucket loader." He paused for a second, then said, "Do you want me to spread it out?"
In retrospect, I should have said no, but I had visions of that giant pile of wood chips being the first thing my wife saw when she pulled in the driveway, and I panicked.
"Yes," I said. "Christ, yes. Spread it out. A lot. That'll make it better."
It did not, in fact, make it better. Now the entire side of my yard looked like the bottom of a hamster cage. Instead of being one manageable pile, the chips were now distributed in a foot-thick layer, spread over about 500 square feet. Walking on it was like being in a bouncy house that had been rinsed out with Pine-Sol because some over-heated kid had puked.
At that point, I admitted defeat and just told him to knock on the door when they were done and I'd write him a check. I should have threatened to hold his money until he came back and cleaned up the chips, but in all fairness, my wife did tell him exactly how much to leave behind. So my homework this week is to find someone who can pick up these chips and move them next door to the empty lot. A neighbor took about six loads with her John Deere bucket and it didn't even make a dent.
After I find someone to clear that out of there, the plan is to have that same person move a couple of boulders into the clearing and then make me a big-ass hole. (Note: Hyphens are important. I'm talking about a big hole in the ground, and besides, too late.) I need this hole because...wait for it...we are going to go buy a blue spruce to put in the spot where they other five trees used to be. And yes, the irony, it burns. But she always wanted a tree outside that she could decorate every year for Christmas, so there's that.
So all in all, it was not an experience I would recommend. But it's over now. Although I am thinking of welding up a giant hamster wheel and putting it on the side of the driveway like some kind of red-neck modern art installation. Maybe I can charge admission if I can find a big-ass hamster. (Again, note the hyphen.)
* I created this word because we don't have Spring here any more. It goes right from freezing one day to 80 degrees the next.
*** He called it mulch. He convinced my wife it was going to be mulch. FYI, this shit is nothing like mulch. If you ever have trees taken down, and they offer to leave some for you, just say no. Trust me.)