Salvaging a Downed Tree
October 30th, 2013 · 2 Comments · Posted in farming
Last spring we got a call from the previous owners of our farm property informing us a tree had fallen over the wire fence around the orchard. They were still living here as tenants, and they wanted us to know that part of the fence was down because deer were getting into the orchard and eating the buds off the fruit trees.
While grateful for the call, I soon forgot about the downed tree. There were so many other things to do to get the farm up and running that one hole in the orchard fence didn’t seem like much of an emergency. The deer could help themselves to the apple buds for a while.
The tree lay there, half in the orchard, half in our upper pasture, until I erected some portable electric fencing around the area for our goats to graze. A full week went by without incident, the goats happily browsing the hedgerow along the fence, until one day while tending the sheep in the upper pasture I looked behind me and noticed the two goats following me up the hill. How had they gotten out of their enclosure in the orchard?
It didn’t take long to find the opening the fallen tree had made in the fence. The only wonder was why the goats hadn’t located it much sooner. And how considerate of them to flag it for me instead of running away, like some other goats we know.
A quick survey of the tree was all I needed to know there was no way I would be able to get it off the fence myself. I called our friend David–the guy who sold us our hay–who, besides growing some of the best hay and straw in the area, also happens to be an expert forester. He soon arrived with his tractor and chain saw and within a couple of hours had cut the entire tree into 16-inch pieces.
Bright and early yesterday, with the sign at the bank reading 19 degrees Fahrenheit, I drove into town and rented a log splitter at the hardware store. Powered by a gas engine, it uses hydraulics to drive a wedge through pieces of tree trunk up to 25 inches in diameter. I guess fossil fuels are good for something: Imagine splitting an entire tree by hand.
Of course, that’s exactly how it used to be done, back in the pioneer days. I’m guessing it would have taken a couple of farm hands all day to turn a tree this size into firewood. Instead, my wife and I managed in less than three hours.
Ash makes beautiful firewood, as you can see here, and provides about the same BTUs burning in a wood stove as oak–more than the birch and maple in our wood pile. We hauled two loads from the field in our pickup. In all, we stacked more than half a cord. Not bad for a morning’s work. All we need to do now is fix that broken fence.