More Hazards of Living in the Woods

Living in the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains is awesome: hiking trails, beautiful scenery, wildlife, quiet…

Sometimes not so quiet. The roar of chainsaws is pretty common. When you live in trees, sometimes, they have to come down. There were at least five saws in running in our neighborhood on Sunday, including ours.

One more hazard? Trying to get on the internet. On most days, we’re lucky to have one bar on our cell phones and we use satellite internet. It works, mostly, but we won’t be streaming movies anytime soon, and getting email is difficult when it rains. When we got an offer to upgrade our internet to a faster/newer satellite, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, because of all the trees, finding a place to mount the antenna isn’t easy. A clear line of sight from the dish to the satellite is necessary. The current and best location is on our garage, but to hit the new satellite, trees had to come down. Big trees, twisted like most Ponderosa pines, close to our house. Oh, and it was windy. Not a lot of wind, but enough that I wasn’t comfortable felling trees, and The Amazing Sleeping Man was at work.

Fortunately, I heard my neighbor’s chainsaw running. My neighbor has a beautiful log home he built himself—felled the trees, hand-hewed them, put them together, the whole nine yards. He also heats his home with a wood-burning furnace. He’s a chainsaw virtuoso. (Note: ‘virtuoso’ doesn’t mean ‘meets Team Rubicon safety standards.’) So, I asked him for help. No problem, he said. Brought his tractor and chainsaw over, and pow! Four trees down. Even he had one twist and fall thirty degrees off where he’d aimed. It missed the woodshed, so all’s good. But it made me even happier I’d asked for help.

Felling is the most stressful part, but it’s over quick. The real work starts when they’re on the ground. Delimbing, bucking, piling, slash piling—it’s a lot of work. We started Saturday afternoon. First, we found out our little McCullough chainsaw had a problem—the chain adjuster had worn away to nothing. How does that happen? The saw is only…hmm…23 years old. Can’t complain, it’s been an awesome workhorse, and the best Christmas/housewarming gift ever (thanks, Mom & Dad!)

So, out comes the big Stihl. It cuts like a champ, but it’s heavy and takes a lot more effort to use. Still, delimbing the four trees was a snap. It took longer to pile the slash than cut it. The next day, we started on the bucking. We wanted the Stihl for that anyway; one of the trees was 18” across at the base. Even with the bigger saw, we’ll need another half-day to finish the rest. We’ll have plenty of firewood for next year. And The ASM cut a new chopping block off the biggest tree—our old one is starting to split.

Every time we cut, my body reminds me of just how much work it is. I ache pretty much everywhere today, but especially my forearms, wrists, and shoulders. There’s a reason we buy firewood most years. I admire those who do this for a living, especially wildland firefighters, and my TRibe in Puerto Rico, clearing waterways post-Maria. You guys rock!

I am happy to report the internet really is faster, so it was worth it. But there are times when I miss living near a town.