Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little labor now for next winters heat

Mom doesn't chop down perfectly good trees to heat her home. Instead, after a good storm she spends hours driving mountain roads looking for fallen trees. After she finds a tree that has fallen near or over the road, she calls the Forest Service who in turn sends someone up to inspect and approve it. After approval and acquiring a wood permit ($10 per cord), it's time to cut and haul away as quickly as possible. You never know when some unscrupulous person may go steal your legally claimed wood before you can get to it.

Mom was lucky enough to find a huge fir tree that fell across the road and up the mountain side. I noticed the tree trunk had sustained a significant bit of damage some time in the past decade and its death was inevitable. The tree trunk was located at least 25 feet down a steep canyon below the road and was so tall that it broke into at least four pieces across the road and mountain above the road.

You can see here where the tree split down the middle and broke off. There's no way we could get to it unless we have some logging equipment. Fortunately it will not go to waste as this 30 foot tall broken tree trunk (snag) will eventually dry up and provide food and shelter for insects, birds and small animals.

Apollo and Critter (yes, that's what they call him) watch carefully as Steve saws away at part of the tree up on the hill above us. Chunks of falling wood hit the log below until it was eventually dislodged and rolled down into the ditch.

Poor Steve told us he can feel the vibration of the chainsaw in his hands for days after working with it. We ended up leaving a significant portion of the tree behind him since the labor needed to get to it was too great and not worth any risks.

Critter climbs part way up the hill to take the chainsaw from Steve so he can descend safely.

After working on the tree above, Steve started on the log that was left in the road. At this point we had already hauled away one truck and trailer full of rounds.

The first day we went up to get the wood, we noticed it was very wet. I broke a splinter off and bit it, then sucked the water out of it. It tasted like fir all right! I just thought it was interesting how much water was in this tree. I suppose the added weight of the water combined with its weakened trunk may have had something to do with the tree falling as well.

My cousin Elaine used her small chainsaw to cut up some wood. Everyone else thought it was a waste of time but she thought it was more wasteful to let it sit there and rot. I agreed with her and helped load it into the truck.

Apollo and Critter break apart rounds that were not quite sawed all the way through. We left quite a bit of this log behind since it was teetering on the edge of the canyon. I'm guessing there were about six more rounds left on it. But it was too dangerous.

Apollo worked his muscles cutting through this green wood. It was amazing how the water forced our axes to bounce right off the wood! That's my Mom catching her breath after stacking partially cut rounds in the trailer.

Just as we had finished, we heard a screaming sound, then a crack, the sound of branches rubbing on other branches and then heard and felt a loud boom of a tree falling in the canyon below us. Honestly, it sounded like the tree was screaming in pain before it busted open and fell. And to answer the often posed question, I would say that if no one was around, a tree does make a sound when it falls in the forest. That loud boom and all the trees that still surrounded us were all we needed to let us know it was time for us to leave.

I found out later Apollo thought "going to get wood" meant driving to a barn somewhere, buying it from some guy and loading it into a truck. He was in for quite a surprise as we drove past a dead cow, up a steep mountain road and through five miles of pot holes on a deserted logging road.

We later discovered the plug which connected the trailer electrical system to our truck a mile down the road, broken off. That was a nerve wracking ride down the mountain.

The fog rolling in through an area that had been logged, burned and replanted. Mom's house is a couple mountains away, somewhere down under that fog.

It's amazing how fast the sun moves. It wasn't long after the last photo that I was able to catch the beginning of a sunset. It's always a good idea to follow up a day of hard work by stopping and taking in the beauty around you.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Rayleen, this is a very fine photo-essay. I bet you all were sore the next day after all that heavy lifting.

The landscape where you are reminds me a lot of my in-laws' place outside Lebanon (ex-in-laws now, it was a long time ago). They had a 20 ft high fence around their garden which I thought was a little excessive, until I saw how high the deer could jump. Beautiful country, for critters.