Our efforts to clear the graded areas had begun over a year ago, working on reducing underbrush. But actual felling of trees and serious clearing began this past spring, after the meeting at Haven where Matt Pihl helped us to set aside places to pile felled trees, brush, etc. As noted in a previous post, Scott and Shannon were eager to help (and so work out some frustrations and stress) and loaned their chainsaws to the task. Scott and Lee did the chainsaw duty back then. Lee, strained beyond enduring by the long wait, went straight to work on the Barn area where his tools will live, so that is where the clearing began. Beware eager men bearing chainsaws!
I'm not sure, but I think the person dwarfed behind the tangle of jack-strawed tree trunks and limbs is Scott. ...or maybe it's Lee. Yeah, I think it is Lee... Anyway, this pile of felled trees is in the area where the barn building pad will be.
Learning to clear land efficiently involves a learning curve. It took a few iterations to realize that one can fell a helluva lot of trees fast, but clearing the resulting tangle can be much more difficult than felling one at a time, limbing, processing and stacking it, and then moving on to the next.
Some of those piles of jack-strawed trees were there for weeks, it seemed. The work was heavy, and there always seemed to be more trees. I'd been told to leave about a foot of the stump above ground, for the excavators to pull, and gradually the areas of stump stubble grew. Lee and I became worried about the time the clearing would take, and when we ran into unexpected loan difficulties, and thought we couldn't do the grading until we had money in hand, we became discouraged. More than discouraged...
But then suddenly the grading was not only a go, but we hafta do it quick, before the ground is too hard!!! Clearing work had to get into high gear, but we knew we couldn't do it with just the four of us (Scott and Shannon and Lee and I), so we called for help. Bless Scott and Shannon and our other friends! They came, and they busted ass.
The first to come was Bo, with his BIG chainsaw, on a Saturday after he and Lee had just put in some overtime together. Here's some of his handiwork:
That was a three-trunked monster that was bigger than we were going to attempt to take out ourselves, and it fell toward the railroad tracks behind the smaller trees and brush in the background. Fortunately, it did not fall ON the tracks! This shows the southwest corner of what will become the dwelling pad.
Bo did a huge amount of good and much-needed work clearing, for which we are very grateful. He left with a pick-up load of firewood, which was a mere pittance of the amount of felled wood available.
For about two weeks, we settled into a near-daily routine of heavy labor clearing Haven. We would bring Galadriel with us, despite her rapidly growing cancer and the work involved keeping her away from chainsaws and falling trees, for we knew she loved Haven, and needed to be with us. Her days were growing short as the cancer grew, and that emotional pain weighed heavily on Lee and I.
More friends came and helped: Kristin and her daughter Kat, Julie and Nevada, Ron, Liss and Alex, Isidora, Christian and Alice and their two small children David and Abigail, and of course Kelly and his axe. Unfortunately, I was too busy directing our friends (cum work crews), tending Glad, taking machete and chainsaw to trees, and applying sealer to cut wood to take pictures, so I have no images of the many folks besides Scott and Shannon who helped. Nor, alas! do I have any shots of some of the exceptional moments, like when Scott felled a tree precisely onto my chair in our picnic area (managing to miss the bottle of mead, thank goodness!) Or when Christian dragged a large log that we hadn't attempted for days, for surely it would require four strong men! He dragged it alone, with only his small son David "helping" by sitting on the other end! When Lee and Scott heard that, they resolved never to piss off Christian!
Here's one of the stacks of long wood. The huge log Christian dragged is buried in the middle somewhere. This stack lies in a low area with a grove of trees that will remain between the dwelling and the barn area.
Below is much of the area of our dwelling pad, a field of stump stubble where trees used to be:
We were tired group of more-hardened-than-we-used-to-be would-be lumberjacks, at the end of yet another day of clearing:
Finally there came the Sunday before the grading was to start, when we declared our efforts "done enough". A few days into the heavy clearing work, Lee and I had purchased a chainsaw of our own, and by the time we were done, all three chainsaws had to go to the shop. In fact, they quit about three days before the deadline, and the last trees were felled using handsaws -- except for one cherry tree. Kelly, channeling his inner George Washington, felled it with an axe -- and panted for quite a while afterwards. I think we all now have a new-found respect for those who cleared land for their homes using only hand tools.
We were now ready to turn Haven over to the BIG machines -- and take a rest.