Usually when you use the term, ladder to success, it refers to your chosen profession. You know, you start out in the mail room and soon you get to the warehouse or the office. You slowly work your way up to be manager and then towards the end of your career, if you’re lucky, you become one of the executives of the company. That is not what this blog is about.
For about a year now I’ve noticed several large dead red oak trees on my tree farm property. Most of the very large red oak trees, I’m guessing they were 100 years old, died last year. It was either a disease or the drought that cause their demise after so many years of growing. There was one of these very large red oak trees that had a very long limb protruding from it. This limb stretched out over a pathway that I use a lot. This concerned me greatly because I did not want the old dead limb to fall and hurt someone. Other limbs from this tree had fallen off and were on the ground. So I know it is just a matter time before this limb, which stretched over 30 feet long, would fall from the tree.
I’m sure that you have had this situation happened to you before, where you looked at something and you knew that it could be done. You believe that you could do it. But you have never done it before and it looked a little risky, so you thought about it for a long time. This limb concerned me so much that I pointed it out to my wife and told her of my concerns that someday it may fall. Her response, as she smiled, was “just do not walk over there”. But the limb just kept bothering me. And I also knew that I needed to take it down while my wife was off visiting her family in California. I just needed the right day and time to do it. Well yesterday was the right day and the right time. It was a sunny a day with little to no wind and the temperature had to be at least 72°. So I began the task of getting all the equipment that I would needed together and marched out to where the tree was. The limb is about 16 feet above the ground. Luckily I have an extension ladder that can reach that height. The girth of the trunk of the tree, or the width of the trunk of the tree, is over 3 feet wide. I will be anxious to count all the rings in the stump when I finally cut the whole tree down. I’m only guessing that it’s at least 100 years old. It is sad that a disease or the drought killed it. I put the ladder against the tree and extended it so that I could reach the limb. I then secure the ladder to the trunk of the tree with a tie down strap. Even when the wind is blowing the trunk of this tree does not move. So I secured the ladder to the trunk of the tree and extended the ladder a little over 16 feet in the air. Then I slowly climbed the ladder and secured the top of the ladder to another limb on the other side of the tree. In the past five years I’ve owned property that has had trees that needed to be removed. And most the time I called a professional tree company to cut down and remove the tree. Each time that I did that I would watch how the professionals did it. And so with that knowledge and a little courage I decided to take down the limb on the big red oak tree. I put on an old motorcycle helmet for safety and took up a couple of ropes to secure me to the ladder and tree. And then I tied a rope onto the chainsaw so that once I got to the top of the ladder I could pull up the chainsaw. I’ve seen this done many times by the professionals and felt confident that this would work. So I climbed to the top of the ladder, pulled up on the rope that held the chainsaw and pulled the chainsaw up to my position at the top of the ladder. One of the issues that I had not thought about was how heavy the big chainsaw was I was pulling up to my position. Before I climbed up the ladder I started the chainsaw on the ground to make sure that it was working. After pulling it up to the top of the ladder and at the fork in the tree, I tried to start the chainsaw. Even though I was tethered to the tree I must tell you, I was feeling a little nervous. So much so, that I was sweating profusely. I could even smell my own sweat at this point (body odor). So I started the chainsaw and after a couple pulls it started just fine. So I slowly went through several configurations of how to hold the chainsaw and cut the limb. The first cut was at the bottom of the limb and only went in a couple inches. The second cut was at the top of the limb and I got about a third of the way through the limb before the chain saw blade started to dull and my arms were got really tired. I turned off the chainsaw, slowly rotated it around so I could lower it down to the ground. I must’ve been very nervous during this time because my body odor was getting really bad. I then climbed down the ladder and decided to use the smaller chainsaw to cut a little further into the limb. Once again I climbed up the ladder pulled up the chainsaw and began to cut a little further into the limb. It was a little bit easier to manage as this chain saw as it was very small and very light. But the problem with this chainsaw was that the chain was very old and it kept coming off of the bar. This meant I had to climb back down the ladder to use some tools to loosen the bar, put the chain back on the bar and then climb back up the ladder again. Each time that I stopped cutting on the limb I would look at the cut gap to see if it was growing. This would mean that the weight of the limb was starting to pull the limb down. As a part of my safety procedures I would only cut so far and then climb down the ladder and put the chainsaw down. I decided to connect a long chain around the limb and connect it to a wench line that was connected to my tractor. The first time I did this I could only put the chain a short distance from where I was cutting, which meant it was only about a foot up from the cut line of the limb. So I would climb up and down the ladder to be able to safely put the chain around the limb and then connect the chain to the winch line. After several attempts of pulling on the limb with the tractor, I realized that I was making no progress. That means I needed to put the chain further out on the limb so I would have more leverage. In the meantime, I’m estimate I made 10 trips up and down the ladder with a small chainsaw. Each time I would cut a little more into the limb. The chain would come off of the chainsaw bar and I would climb down the ladder and repair the chainsaw. I did notice that the gap I first started with had grown some and that gave me encouragement that I was making progress. To get the chain further out on the limb meant I had a use a process of attaching a weight to a small line and throw it further out over the limb. I’d seen this done by the professionals with a weight attached to a small line that they would throw it over limb. Then they would lower that weight, which was attached to a small line. At the other end of the line was a large rope. The professionals would pull on the small line that was attached to the bigger rope until the bigger rope went over the limb. Then they would tie off the rope and attach it to a tractor and pull the tree or the limb in the direction that they wanted it to fall. That was the process that I was going to use. The only problem was it took about 40 attempts to get that weight over the right area of the limb. More times than not, when I release the rope with the weight on it, instead of going over the limb it would go straight up into the air. That meant that I better move very quickly so the weight didn’t come down and hit me in the head. That is what I did and I’m glad to say I wore my helmet and was never hit. But my arm was getting sore from trying to throw this weight over the limb. Finally it happened; the weight went over the limb. I lowered it down and was able to tie some large straps to the end of the line. After some more trips up and down the ladder and the use of another line, I was able to connect the large straps to the winch cable line. By this time I’m about four or five hours into the process and definitely did not want to have to climb up and down that ladder again. So I started the tractor and pulled on the new line. This time instead of the tractor just stopping when the line was tight, I could feel it give a little. So I use a technique that many people use when stuck in the snow or the mud, going forward and then backwards and then forwarded and backwards. I heard the limb snap and crash to the ground, hooray success. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when this happened. I grabbed all my tools, put them in a bucket, threw the bucket on the tractor and went back to the house. I went to the fridge and grab myself a cold beer and set out on my front porch and smiled.
I had climbed the ladder to success.
I just found out that in priors blogs I have been misspelling chicken coop, I used coup. I will get better at this