Friday, July 22, 2011

Timber! A Mighty Maple Comes Down

It was a warm and stormy night. 

At 9:30PM the doorbell rang.  "Who could be visiting at this hour?" I thought.  I was in my boudoir, wearing a peignoir, my hair in a chignon, sipping Pineau.  It was pouring rain and really windy.

Uncle Jim answered the door.  It was our next door neighbour, Eric.  He had bad news.  A huge limb from the 100 year old maple tree between our houses just landed on his roof with a big bang.  He wanted us to know about the limb in case it fell from his roof and on to our front porch or on us if we walked down our shared lane.  This was a definite possibility since there was so much wind and I think I saw pigs flying by.
Oops, that can't be right!

The next morning in the light of day we had a good look at the situation.  It was worse than we thought.   The fallen limb was hollow.  It had twisted in the strong wind and was now resting comfortably on Eric and Maya's roof.  That limb was wider than me!

Maya called the City and since the tree belonged to the City they took responsibility for it.  They would send someone on Monday to take a look at the tree and plan a strategy to remove the limb and see if the rest of the tree needed to be cut down.

Before Eric and Maya moved in a few years ago, the house belonged to the Devlins who had lived there since the 1960's.  Mr Devlin was always complaining to the city about the annoying tree and urged them to chop it down...
Sorry but you're evicted!

"That darn tree," he used to say every time we saw him.  It shaded his house, clogged his underground drain pipes with roots that were always searching for water and dropped maple keys and leaves all over the place. 

Over the years the tree had become rotten and the core was almost completely hollow except for a few inches of good wood around the outside.  It had become a flop house with a welcome mat for many of the the local varmints.  There was always something icky, furry, noisy or destructive living in it like carpenter ants, bats, squirrels, crows, racoons, grubs or bees.

After a thorough inspection, the city told us that the tree would have to be chopped down because it was hollow and dangerous.  The operation to remove it would last two days.  

On Monday morning, a team from the electric company arrived.  Over the years, the tree's branches had grown and meandered through electrical, telephone, and cable lines so the tree had to be cut carefully to avoid the potential risk to the lines and the workers.
Watch those wires Todd!
Enter Todd.  Part lumberjack, part acrobat, part neurosurgeon, and with chain saw in hand, he bravely and skillfully negotiated the wires and branches from high in the bucket of his Mobile Elevated Work Platform, or MEWP for short.  For hours he cut through leaves, branches and heavy limbs all the while avoiding the dangerous electrical lines. Watching him work was a real treat.  He knew just where to cut the tree, how to cut it and just how much to cut.
Meanwhile on the ground, the rest of his team held tightly onto ropes that he had wound around the big limb to tether it so when he finally cut it free it wouldn't swing back onto Eric and Maya's house and damage anything.  They waited patiently for Todd's signal that he had cut through the tree and that it was ready to be safely pulled away from the roof.  All the while the ground team was making sure that pedestrians didn't stray into the "drop zone" and the branches were cleared away from the street.

The Monday team beavered away at the tree for most of the day.  They noisily sawed away, raked up the branches and leaves and left a mountain of debris at the base of the tree.  At the end of the day, they threw their equipment into the back of their trucks, waved goodbye and off they went.  

When the saw dust had settled, I made my way through the piles of branches to the tree to take a closer look.  Curiosity seized me.  I pulled out my tape measure.  The tree's circumference was 91".  Wow.  That tree was not only the oldest resident on the street but the widest too!

Bright and early the next day, the second crew arrived and the noise continued.  This crew was responsible for removing the rest of the tree that after yesterday's work had become a manageable size. 

A few final cuts with a chain saw, a big lumber gripper pulled the logs away and loaded them onto the back of a big flatbed truck like a brontosaurus on the Flintstones.  The smaller branches were run through a noisy wood chipper.  In just under two hours, the tree was no more.

On Wednesday morning I ventured out to survey the stump.  The first thing I noticed was how bright it was in front of our house without the shade of the maple tree.  Squinting at the now lifeless stump, overflowing with years of accumulated squirrel and animal poop, a passerby stopped to take a look too. "I guess they have a shelf life, even a tree." he sagely offered and continued on his way to work.

Let's hope we all have the same shelf life.

Now you see it...

Now... you.....




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