Minnesota Farmer

The wind said no
October 5, 2013, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Farm, safety, Trees, wind, wood heat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve been cutting trees for over 40 years now.  Keeping the farm yard tidy means picking up the branches that the wind breaks in trees, and some times cutting down the whole tree.  When I moved to this farm site in the late 1970’s I decided to use wood as my main source of heat.  Since then I have cut a lot of trees.  I’ve also learned a lot about how trees fall when cut.  So far, no broken bones or falling out of trees for me.

Usually the trees I cut are dead or dying.  Some times they are in the way of future buildings or roads.  I’ve never had to really go out and looks for trees to cut down, there are always enough to keep the wood pile full.  The trees I wanted to cut today were in a place they should not be.  They were the only Cottonwood trees in a hedge row and definitely in the wrong place.

Cottonwood trees are not really that great of a tree.  In our prairie area they were some of the only trees that were growing when European settlers moved in.  They like to grow in damp areas and thus avoided many of the prairie fires that would sweep the area pre-settlement.  Although they do grow to great heights in the right conditions, They are a messy tree, dropping branches after every storm.  I happen to live in Cottonwood County, so cottonwood  trees have been here since before settlement.

About 15 years ago I cut down the original Cottonwood that was where I was cutting today.  Since I did not dig out the stump, five sprouts came out of the stump and were becoming fairly large trees.  But, as I said, these trees were in the wrong place.

Now cutting a tree is fairly straight forward.  You need to figure out which way the tree leans and hope that direction is a good direction for the tree to fall.  The first two went as planned falling to the north.  This tree was leaning east-south-east, a good direction.  I did not want it to go straight east since that would put it onto a hedge row.FH12OCT_FELING_08

A straight tree needs to be notched to direct its fall as shown above.  Since this tree was only about ten inches across, and was leaning the right way, I just gave it a back cut rather than the full notch.  As I got into my felling cut I realized that I had a problem, the wind was wrong.  Usually gravity is the deciding factor in where a tree falls, but if the wind can get a good grip on a tree, it will spin off in a whole new direction.  The wind wanted to take the tree north, gravity and my back cut were aiming the tree south-east, the tree was going to go somewhere in between.

I really did my best to get the tree to fall where it should, but each gust of wind was taking it off course.  I even stopped before the hinge was cut far enough through and tried to push the tree in the correct direction.  No dice, the tree was going to fall in the wrong direction.  I finally gave up, reassessed the situation, and went with the wind.  This also meant that the safe spot I was going to finish the hinge cut from was no longer safe.  I had to move.

When the hinge was cut the tree fell just north of east.  It missed the place that I was originally going to stand and my hedge row.  It is always a good job of felling a tree when no one get hurts and the tree does no damage.  The plan to cut the last two parts of the tree is on hold until the wind is right.  I do not like it when the wind says no to my plans, but I have to listen if I want to be safe.


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