5 Chainsaws, 4 Guys, a Bobcat, & a Bucket Lift

While most people were out shopping on Black Friday we were cutting down trees. While we were clearing brush for our new fenced in dog yard (which I have yet to post about whoops!) it came to our attention that a large black walnut tree in our backyard was structurally unsound. Structurally unsound…can you tell I’m an engineer? Anyway, at some point the tree had cracked across the trunk and was leaning on the small oak tree next to it. The crack had been there for a long time because it was grown over but we were worried that it would still fall if it was loaded with snow and ice. If it fell it would definitely hit our house destroying the new roof and gutters along with our big living room windows. At first I was really upset that we’d lose this beautiful +50 year old tree but then I looked on the bright side that my yard would no longer be littered with large black walnuts every fall.

It’s location made it very difficult to cut down. It was 6 feet from the new fence we put up, putting weight on the small oak next to it, and leaning toward our house. There wasn’t any way to drop it in one piece unless we cut down the oak too and even that was tricky since it would probably hit some of the other trees in our yard and would fall on our septic pipe and my beloved forsythia bush. Plus I really wanted to have at least one tree there. I looked into getting another decent sized tree and it was $950 for a 10 year old tree. Considering the small oak is somewhere between 20-30 years old I really wanted to keep it and not deal with two stumps in my yard. So we decided to try to cut it down just the black walnut tree and being the DIYers that we are we didn’t want to hire someone.

We quickly recruited both of our fathers to help and since there isn’t much time before snow begins to fall we picked the day after Thanksgiving to cut it down. Though we probably could have just used tall ladders to cut the tree down piece by piece I really wanted everyone to be safe so I went on the hunt for a bucket lift. Enter in my father who thinks a long time family friend might still own one. A few calls later and bingo! Our family friend owns a farm only a few minutes from our property and though he had a trailer heavy duty enough to carry the bucket lift he didn’t have a truck big enough to pull both. He was able to coordinate one of his farm helpers who has a big enough truck to work the day after Thanksgiving so we could transport everything. On top of that he also had a pole chainsaw (or whatever they are called). And the best part he only wanted $100 and one future favor (Flannel Man is a machinist)!

Flannel Man also identified a cherry tree he wanted to cut down. It was a decent sized tree but only had two tiny branches. Plus it was very curvy and leaning way over the fence so when it fell it would be right on the fence.

Our backyard 10am Friday morning:

The bucket was only supposed to be extended on a level surface so we had to put it on the patio. Problem was the lift was only two wheel drive and couldn’t make it up even the slightest incline. So we had to get the bobcat out to pull it up onto the patio. I couldn’t help but cringe when the lift was on top of my peony bushes (under those leaves) spinning it’s wheels!

But we eventually got it up on the patio. It was soooo close to the house!

Sophie was jealous supervising.

Flannel Man and my Dad were up in the bucket. One would cut while the other one caught/directed the piece’s fall.

On a few of the bigger branches we used the bobcat to help direct their fall.

I was going for an artsy sawdust sunburst here:

After a few hours they were down to the trunk.


Afterward I went up into the lift with my Dad for some pictures of our newly finished fence. I haven’t blogged about it yet because I wanted to wait until it was completely finished. We started clearing the area in July and we put up the last picket in November. It was very long process. Keep this in mind as you scroll down…

We cut the trunk into 8′ long sections and plan to have it cut into lumber along with some of the other trees we cut down. Papa Flannel & Brother Flannel took everything else to burn in their wood furnace. So we’re using as much of it as we can!

On to the cherry tree…

I went inside to put a load of laundry when suddenly I heard the tree fall along with a loud crash. I ran outside only to find this:

Another casualty, the ladder was leaning up against the fence and was pinned under the tree.

Everyone stood around in shock for a few minutes. Originally we were going to use the bucket lift on this tree too but seeing how it got stuck on the slightest incline there was no way it would make it up and down the step slope to get to this tree. So Papa Flannel pulled the tree with the bobcat in our front yard and my Dad notched and cut down the tree. Everyone did everything right but the tree didn’t fall where expected.

As we had expected the tree was dying. Parts of the trunk we were able to kick in half. It was hollow in major sections and was littered with woodpecker holes.

Papa Flannel dragging out the pieces with his bobcat. Notice the slippery gray lubricant from the geothermal drilling.

After spending almost every weekend for 5 months working on clearing and building the fenced in yard we couldn’t just leave it broken for long. So Saturday Flannel Man collected all the materials needed to repair the fence and on Sunday my Dad came to help Flannel Man repair the fence. They worked all day but finished the repair.

So what do you think? Have you ever had to remove a tree close to your house for preventative maintenance?




6 Responses to “5 Chainsaws, 4 Guys, a Bobcat, & a Bucket Lift”

  1. 1 Kate December 2, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I actually silently screamed “NOOOOOOOOO!” when I saw what that tree did to the fence. RIP Ladder. I’m so impressed that you got a bobcat and lift to DIY the whole project though!

    When my husband and I moved into our house we had to fence in our backyard. While we didn’t have to remove any trees, we did have to do in the middle of winter when snow was in the air – not fun!

    Has Sophie had a chance to try out her new yard yet?

  2. 2 Kate December 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I hate to hijack your comment thread but I wanted to respond your comment on my blog!

    We put in a 4′ picket fence around our backyard. It was fairly straight forward as fences go though – 3 sides and two gates and we were done. We’re lucky that our yard is relatively flat too. Digging out those 2′ post holes in winter though wasn’t easy!

    It sounds like not putting the fence right up the house was the right decision though – and a 10′ walk to it isn’t bad at all.

    Sophie is adorable. I used to have a hound mix too so I know how easily distracted they get when they smell something new!

  3. 3 jen December 4, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Whoa! I am super-impressed that you guys removed such huge trees yourself!! I’m sure you saved a ton of cash, even if you had to redo the fence… which is beautiful, by the way! I bet Sophie loves it out there!

    We’re in the midst of getting the trees here removed – the ones by the house are down as well as some in the woods, but you’re right – it made a huge mess of the lawn. We’re hoping that our remover guys will take care of it, but it will have to wait until spring now that it’s all snowy here!

  4. 4 Kate December 4, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    I just replied to your comment over on the pets board ;P

  1. 1 From Logs to Lumber « 3 acres & 3000 square feet Trackback on November 3, 2010 at 8:40 am
  2. 2 DIY Savings: Tree Removal « 3 acres & 3000 square feet Trackback on January 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm

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This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings

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