But you all know my real passions are to be found in the natural environment, so I was particularly delighted when my buddy J informed me that he wanted my help taking down two dead and dangerous trees on some private land out on Kitsap peninsula. It turned out to be a bit more than either of us had bargained for.
Please step gingerly over the Laetiporus conifericola, and be sure to cook thoroughly if you decide to pick a bracket for later…
Now, I grew up in a family that cut and split their own firewood for home heating. We had oil as well, but the house was built in the 1730's and wood made up the difference in the leaky old structure. All of our lots and woods were managed by the family, yeilding upwards of 10 cord a year depending on how much remained from the previous season and how long the season lasted. I have done every job on the ladder from kindling to felling the tree and have seen, or heard tell of, my share of accidents and close calls.
As kids, my brother and I were often reminded of the dangers in the wood lot. From the time my dad was cutting alone (don't do this) and dropped a tree across his legs, barely freeing himself with the saw from an almost impossible position, to the time the chain broke and left a one inch gouge through the thick mid-ridge of his hard hat (which Dad still keeps), the potential hazards of this work were never far removed. It engendered respect and a healthy dose of caution in us kids. We knew the work was as risky as it was necessary, and those lessons I have not forgotten.
My buddy J is a professional arborist and has a long career in tree work. He is an expert climber, works often in storm conditions, and is used to the large growth one finds in the Northwest woods. I have known J since middle school, he is my brother as much as anything else, and I trust his instincts and his ability in the woods. He had been putting this work off for over a year, as it was a volunteer job and he hadn't been able to get out there with anyone else. You just don't do this kind of thing alone if you have a choice, so my trip to Seattle was the perfect opportunity to both take care of this and for a great hike. The timing could not have been better.
J had warned me the job was hairy. This is a recreation area and the trees were threatening two camp sites and a main trail. Part of this job would be dropping them in the proper place since we weren't cutting them up, just laying them down. An arborist has the right tools for that work, the key part being the ropes.
Laying it down was tricky, as the canopy is thick and the last thing we wanted for this beast was to get hung up on top, thus creating a whole new set of dangers and problems. This is where the ropes come in. Basically, you create a vector between the falling tree and other trees by running ropes like a bowstring. Attaching a pull line to the draw rope you create a mechanical device that compounds the force of your pull. This leverage guides the tree in the direction you want it to land even when naturally disinclined to that direction. Of course, plenty can go wrong, but with skill and luck it will drop when you intend to set it. In our case we were off by a couple of feet. J considered this to be a minor failure.
To run these lines, you have to get the lead rope up into the canopy as high as possible. This is done with a lead line, which is a tough, thin nylon cord sporting a weight made of ball bearings wrapped in tape. The thrower stands legs apart and creates a pendulum with the weight in-between, then tosses it has hard and as accurately as possible to achieve target height placement in the crotch of a branch. I think it took 7 or 8 throws before he was happy with the set.
My job was to leverage my weight against this line at just the moment the tree begins to drop and the window of opportunity is quite narrow. Keep pulling past that window and you can actually spring it back the wrong way in a rebound. All of this timing is crucial, and even in the proper conditions (no strong wind, etc.) error happens. I was stationed a tree hight and a half away, about 225 feet. Not sure the distance shows in this picture, but it's a lot of rope.
After long discussion we arrived at the least worst option. I would get far the fuck away and have 911 on speed dial and J would hope for the best as he executed it by cutting out the FRONT (see the deep low notch) of the hanger (meaning toward the lay of the tree). I had my eye on that dead zone up top. That was my biggest concern once branches started to fall off. Hairy addition to our worries…
At the end we hopped on the "Kitsap" back to Seattle.
See you in comments. It's great to be back in the KTK saddle.
Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate. Readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.