Oh, sure it is. I can, in fact, come up with probably a half dozen (or more) survival situations where knowing how to drop a tree perfectly and precisely where you want it is nothing short of high art.
Need an emergency shelter with little effort? Fall a tree, limb slightly, tarp it and live large. Or, need to make sure that road you’re on isn’t too inviting for the roving gangs (of Zombies, of course!)? Fall a tree and it should slow them down.
If you’re a “slicker” the odds of you doing the job “just right” are fairly low. So today, a quick course is how to fall trees for fun, profit, survival, or in our case: more solar gain on the panels…
Our associate in this adventure is Jared – son of Oilman2. If you live in East Texas and have a land issue, he’s your go-to guy.
Since I am paranoid about having big things fall out of the sky, we did a quick video review of what’s probably the best single video out there on how to fall trees. It’s this one done by Husqvarna (as in chain saws).
If you have been a reader long enough to have followed “The Millennial’s Missing Manual” (which will be up on Amazon one of these days), the key thing to consider is what’s the PROCESS we planned to follow?
- Watch the video and look for refresher/fine points.
- Select which kinds of cuts we planned for this adventure.
- Survey the tree and remove limb(s) that could damage solar panels even with an indirect hit.
- Rig the tractor to the tree (to absolutely control the fall).
- Make the Hinge Cut.
- Make the Back Cut (and Timmbbbeeerrrr!)
Having watched the video, the Step was agreeing on the cut plan. Looked to be straightforward enough. We did opt for a sloped back cut because this kind of cut is safer in that the cut-off part of the tree tends to reduce the risk of the tree ‘kicking out’ and injuring someone.
The flat back-cut in the video is better if you’re logging and trying to get maximum board feet. But if you are falling with an eye toward safety, then the raised back cut seems to look safer.
In addition to the safety of the angled back cut, we also used a nylon rope (100-feet) and as Jared was finishing up the back cut, I’d be “loading” the nylon rope with energy.
A fine point from my sailing days here: Usual sailing lines (sheets, halyards, and such) are made of low-stretch line, mostly. If you set a sail, you don’t want its shape changing as wind loading changes.
There are certain kinds of rigging – like this tree set – where you want to be able to put some energy into the line – because tractors, for example, are not known for their nimble straight-line acceleration. The down-side of a loaded line (and this is important in construction rigging) is that the stored energy (in the form of stretch) can take an arm off if you have a thousand pounds of pull on and you happen to be where what amounts to a 100-foot ‘rubber band’ is when it breaks.
The older the nylon (and more UV it has been around) the less predictable breaking strength becomes…thus endeth the rope lecture section.
Step 3 (back on plan) was to remove one limb that could have been problematic:
A few minutes later this hanging limb was hauled off.
Which gets us to Step 4, cutting the notch – making sure it is an angle that will allow MORE than 90-degrees of tree movement when falling.
After this comes the final (back) cut and our tree begins a nice, orderly drop… (step 5 leading to step 6 in progress below…)
And magically, it’s down exactly where we wanted it.
All that remained was a stump – still thinking about what to do with that: Carve, grind, rot, etc. And a ton of branches which Jared disposed of in a burn-pile down on the west 12 acre side.
A couple of operating notes: The Poulan gas chainsaw wasn’t used. The starter rope had slipped out of the internal notch, so that’s on my fix-it list.
So Jared did the whole project (including the limbing up on the ground) with the Black and Decker 10″ battery powered electric. Fresh chain on one and two pockets stuffed with batteries and you can cut a fair bit of wood. Two days of charging all 8 batteries, though, lol.
A project like this is measured in several ways.
A. Any injuries? No.
B. Did anything go not exactly as planned? No, except for the Poulan starter handle issue.
C. If we had it to do over again, would anything be done differently? No, except own a Stihl saw with a fresh Oregon blade, maybe…
D. Did it accomplish the intended results?
And now we get to the real bottom line:
The north set of solar panels was putting out only one-third to one-quarter of what they should have been putting out. This tree was overhanging them most of the day providing at least some shade.
Once the tree was gone, the panels were up to full output until about 2-3 PM before another tree (which is in our sights for another project day) will be felled. That one, plus two more to the west of it, should result in another 6-7 kilowatt-hours per day.
To give you an idea on costs: It you’re in an area where power is 20-cents a kilowatt-hour, think of it as $1.40 per day or $43 dollars a month less on the power bill.
Roll out the annual savings (around $350 prolly) and consider the tree would eventually block the other panels, too, and you get to the case where even though it costs something in labor, in the end it was a “money saving improvement.”
Photo credits to Elaine.
Hope you never need to cut down a tree under adverse conditions, If you remember a 90-degree notch and a down-sloped backside cut, our prepping session for today is done.
Ready for more coffee?
Write when you get rich (or find a blue ox)