Saturday, November 21, 2020

I Came, I Saw, I Conquered

Veni, Vidi, Vici. Julius knew what he was talking about. This will not be the first time I have recounted the tale of a ladder, a tree and a chainsaw. However, it is the first time I have done so in a very long time. And it is the first time I have done so with regard to our home in Nova Scotia.

Once upon a time, I was a little younger and a lot more agile. Now I am older and supposed to be wiser. However, it seems I am not any less foolish. Perhaps, if truth be told, I should say, “we” are not any less foolish, because John plays a role here, just as I do.

Our rear deck sits high off the ground as the land slopes away steeply under our home. The view is magical. But there is a certain maple tree that has caused us concern. It is old and in perilous shape. And it rises just to the side of our deck. It sits on the property line.

Indeed, it is really two large trees intertwined. One has long since rotted and been taken down at about ten feet – or rather more likely, it has fallen at some point in the past. The other has been topped at about the same height. Where a mighty trunk once towered, a mighty limb has grown and looped its way to the side and up into a new double tower.

There are several other lesser limbs – branches one might better say – that are only several inches in diameter. These too are intertwined. One is dead. The others, very much alive and awkwardly placed.

The concern has been that these branches would weigh a toppling tree in our direction and cause insurmountable damage to a magnificently curved deck masterfully constructed by craftsmen to look like the prow of a sailing vessel. These craftsmen no longer exist, or, if they do, are no longer affordable.

One option was to take out these ballasts and hope that, when the rot increases as it no doubt will, the remnants of this once great tree will topple more or less harmlessly in the opposite direction.

To make a long story a little less long, I went to rent an extension pole chainsaw. The thought was that by leaning over the railing of our deck, I could easily slice through most of these branches.

Sometimes the eye does not accurately gauge distance. Yes, I was able to barely reach the first of these branches. Quickly and with ease the branch crashed to the ground below. But the next two branches were out of reach. So, John, who is taller, took the pole saw from me and leaned over the railing; but alas, even his graceful reach was not enough.

I had only rented the saw for four hours; so we had to think swiftly. This is not always the best idea!

We descended from the deck to the ground under it and stood by the  base of the tree looking upward. With the pole saw, I made a cut upward from the underside of the large limb. The wood was hard – hard like a stone. Then I took the saw, reaching as high as I could, and started to cut down from the top of the limb. This was tiring. John took over and the blade cut to within a few inches of the lower incision. Then the limb cracked. The saw jammed. It would not be freed.

Panic raced through my body. So as not to damage the trapped saw blade by letting go of the pole, John bravely held the motor above his head, while I fretted about what to do next. And he held the saw ably well!

Then I took over while John ran to get a pole of some sort so that we might try to heave the limb upward. It would not budge. Then I returned the mantle to John whilst I rushed to get an extension ladder. I propped it up against the tree. The ground was uneven. The ladder wobbled, but I secured it between the remnants of a branch that poked out from the trunk near the foundation of the problem limb. It continued to wobble; but it would not fall.

I returned to our basement to get our other handy chainsaw, the one that has featured in other lumbering tales from our past. John is still holding the pole saw above his head. I start the other chainsaw and proceed to climb the ladder. The saw stalls. I descend. I restart the saw and mount the ladder again cautiously. The saw stalled once again just before I reached the top. This scenario was repeated about five times.  I finally managed to carry the weighty beast successfully to the top, secure my positions as best I could and reach through a timber “V” to take out another branch.

I could tell the saw blade needed to be sharpened. From smoke that appeared I thought it likely needed some oil too. John faithfully stood with the pole saw now perched on top of his head to permit his arms to rest a little. I went back to the basement to sharpen the blade and to top up the oil.

The idea of taking off these other branches was to reduce the weight on the antagonistic limb; so that we might lift it enough to free the imprisoned blade of the rented pole saw. Another branch was cut off but it got caught in the tangle of branches. Lifting was not to be. Try as we might, taking turns, lift we could not. Then a rope was tossed over the limb to see if pulling it might prove beneficial. It would not budge.

I mounted the ladder again with the other now-sharpened chainsaw. I was almost becoming adept at the climb. I manipulated the saw through that awkward “V” once again. I had cut through five or six inches of another branch when I sensed this saw too might soon become trapped. I pulled it out just in time. But there was still several inches to go. I descended and retrieved a hand saw – a dull rusty one that had served us well for over thirty years of pruning at our former home.

John is still holding up the saw above his head, saying little. He was wise. I climbed the ladder once again with the handsaw. Reaching through the annoying “V”, I cut from the bottom up, from the side in and from the top down taking rests every few swipes as my arm ached and wearied. I finally got that branch free. But the limb would still not budge.

Then, I took the handsaw to the massive limb that was the source of our tribulation. Sweating, aching, grunting was I, but finally John uttered incredulously: “It’s coming free!” The pole saw was liberated.

The limb, however, was still in place. A little bit of a rest was had, a lot of relief. Then I went at it again with the handsaw, and after several minutes at what seemed futile, a great cracking sound was heard and the massive limb fell to the ground far below with a loud thud … far below because the land dropped off rapidly into the neighbour’s yard.

I think we wanted to cry. But lumberjacks don’t do such an unmanly thing. We took a short break and then dragged these weighty limbs, branches and debris onto our property; where, at the time of writing they remain.

It will be another day when these get cut up for firewood and the brush for a bonfire. The rented saw was returned in good condition and not a word of this traumatic tale passed my lips.

Will these two 70-something old men learn. Hmm. Maybe. One can always hope.

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