Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Own, Personal, Federal Forestry Worker

What a day I had! I worked my tail off and I have to say that I had the best time doing it. We had a "spring like" day, here in the Ozarks with a temperature of 72 degrees. A bit breezy with intermittent clouds, but a beautiful day, nonetheless.

I'll explain, There is a family in our church that we love and appreciate very deeply. The gentleman, I'll call him Mr H, happens to be a federal forestry worker for 26 years. He has spent most of his career fighting forest fires all over the country. However, the last few years he has spent behind a desk in an administrative position, so he doesn't get out much.

Mr. H, this past Wednesday, asked if I had anything going on this weekend. I told him that I had nothing special happening, just the typical "work like a dog" Saturday. He asked if I needed help cutting some firewood. I can always use some help with firewood, so I took him up on his offer.

Guys, let me tell you, I know nothing about trees and tree species, or tree disease and I thought I knew how to work a chainsaw pretty good. I found out that I could learn a lot from a man that has been involved with the forest most of his life.

I know that you will laugh at me for saying this, but it is true. Outside of Oak, Maple, and Cedar, my tree identification skills are severely limited. And since Maple's are very scarce around here, my identification skills are limited to Oak and Cedar. Now, however, I can identify Ash, two different kinds of Elm and the difference between black jack Oak and Red Oak. I also learned about a disease that many trees have that causes them to fall in even minor storms-root ball and all. I learned about bud scars and why many Oaks keep their leaves through the winter. The dead, brown leaves stay on to protect the bud scars and keep them from getting frosted or infected. When the tree buds in the spring, the old leaves fall off.

I even learned a bit about controlled forestry burning and how to get rid of unwanted limbs and Cedar remains from past cutting. I now know how I could have saved myself a lot of trouble a couple of years ago when I had a brush fire get away from me. I learned what time of year is best to do a burn and keep the trees from getting damaged from the fire. The colder the better. In cold weather, the trees are not drawing as much moisture from the ground and their "pipes" aren't as full. That, coupled with the insulating bark, will keep the tree from scarring and damage during a blaze. Warmer weather will do the opposite. Mr. H agreed to come back some day and help do a burn for us to get rid of all those Cedar tops I left when cutting for fence posts. I just feel better with a skilled fire fighter on hand.

The coolest thing I learned today was how to make a series of cuts on a limb that has tension on it. I have used a chainsaw for years and always get surprised with those limbs that are stuck or trapped by another limb and spring in the wrong direction, pinching the saw or smacking me in the head (thankfully, I wear a helmet). This is cool, so I attempted to make a rough drawing of this procedure.

The first sketch shows a possible log on top of a smaller tree, (this happens often to me with all the little Cedars around here), and I want to get the sapling out of the way to make room to work. ( I know this didn't show up very well, I hope you can see it good enough to get the point).
The second sketch shows a series of small cuts made in the location of the tension, in the direction of the "spring". It is important that you don't cut all the way through, just cut deep enough and close enough together, to relieve the tension. You will see the tree give a bit, that is OK. That means that you are letting the tension out.
The third sketch shows the saw cutting through the middle in the area in which the small cuts were made. Cut all the way through now, and the tree will cut, not snap or spring. This, I know, will save me a lot of headaches, literally. This principle can and should be used wherever there is tension on a limb. Guys, I used it several times today and this technique has been an epiphany to me.
I also learned a bit more on how to get a tree to fall where you want it. There is truly some science behind it. Thankfully, I had a fellow with me that knew his stuff. He felled a tree right where he said it would even with the lean going in the wrong direction. I don't know if I can explain it here, but it has to do with the cut opposite the notch. It involves leaving enough connecting wood on one side or the other to get the tree to "roll" a bit. It is hard to explain with words, you'd have to see it.
My thanks go to Mr. H and his son who helped us out and got us a LOT of wood cut today. Some can be used for heat now and some will go to next years supply. That reminds me, I also learned a little about forestry management and culling practices and what to look for. Perhaps I'll write about that another time. Right now, I'm pooped.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope this can help anyone out there who has to cut some wood in the near future.


Jeremy Myers said...

That was a wonderful day yesterday. I just found your site this morning before heading to church. It was linked to another blogger's web site.

I live in the ozarks also Oldfield Missouri actually.

Sounds like Mr H taught you a bunch. I have been using a chainsaw for as long as I can remember (my dad got me started around 12 or so) so I can understand about those surprise spring limbs.

Enjoyed you blog. Take care and God Bless

Scott or Pam said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jeremy. Come back often, my desire is that this blog can be of some small service to others.

I will have to look for Oldfield on a map, I can't picture where it is. Hope to hear from you again.