Last October, a storm blew through here and took out six or seven big trees behind the house leaving a hole in our forest. I was working outside at the time and believe that a micro-burst of wind hit these trees. These are pictures that I took a couple of weeks after the storm.
Most of these trees fell across the New Moon Trail of which I am so proud. On Saturday, Josie and I geared up to start clearing the trail. The first trees to address were the trees in the last two pictures above. Both of these trees were attached to their root ball and lay across the old log out in the distance. Yep, both logs were suspended off of the ground. I had a theory, though, that if properly cut the root ball would settle back to the ground (with the often unstated corollary that nobody would die in the process).
Now, the larger log was 2+ feet at the base. That is larger than my chain saw blade and makes for some interesting cutting. I started cutting the large log out where it lay across the old log. This was, in retrospect, a tactical error but no harm, no foul, so I pressed on. I moved down the log near to the root ball and started the second cut. I was painfully aware of the various forces that could be at work on this log. On one hand, 25 feet of large log was suspended off of the ground and gravity was pulling down on the suspended portion. On the other hand (in theory) the root ball wanted to fall back to earth and was applying a *lifting* force at the base.
The very least of all the possible bad outcomes of cutting these logs would be that the forces in play would cause the cut to close down on the chain saw blade. If that happens slowly enough, the sawyer can yank the saw out before it is stuck. If not, the log grabs the saw blade in the tightest of vices.
I started the second cut with all of this (and many more dire consequences) in mind. The cut proceeded through the first few inches with no signs of the log moving. The cut proceeded through the one-quarter point and still no movement. As I approached the half-way point with no movement my brain started trying to recalculate what was happening. I changed sides of the log and continued cutting, but in brief cuts now. At the three-quarters point, I was making quick cuts and pulling the saw out in anticipation of the pinch; but still no movement. Now the saw was cutting through the last few inches of wood.
With no warning, the log did the one thing that I never expected: the entire log slowly *rolled away* from me to the ground AND it was still attached to the stump. The thin strip of wood that held the two pieces together was exposed at the top of the log where I could get at it with the ax. A few whacks with the ax and I found that my original theory was sound: the entire root ball and stump rotated nearly 90 degrees and settled back to earth!
Cutting the second log was nearly anti-climactic. A three-foot section fell earth quickly and we had regained 30 feet of the New Moon Trail.
Today, I am emotionally quick-cycle alternating between feeling like some gnarly lumberjack and the luckiest fool alive. We still have more trail to reclaim but my inclination is *not* to try any more lumberjack tricks. I think that I’ll just clear some new trail around the rest of the blow downs.