Among the tools that most people equate with farming like tractors and plows and hoes, none is probably as universal as a chainsaw. We owned a chainsaw before we owned land and a tractor because we knew it would be essential. Most farmers have one because inevitably trees fall down; on fence lines, across roadways, into fields. Many also heat something with wood like their house or greenhouse.
We have used ours for all those reasons but we have also personally cleared more than 3 acres of land here on the farm. When we bought this place we knew we needed more cleared land and so the cheapest way to do it was to cut the trees down ourselves. We have spent months behind hot chain saws, to the point where we had his and hers chain saws. A big one for Alex to drop and cut up the big trees and a small one for Betsy to drop the small trees and help limb up the big ones.
From 1981-1986 we almost always had a clearing project underway, first the blueberry field up on the hill and then the whole bottom field along the creek. Our process was to first have the pulp wood cutters come in and take the sweet gums, smaller poplars, and other junk wood. Some years this would actually result in money from the sales of the wood, usually not but it got the trees out of the way. We would then take out the large trees for either firewood or lumber. This would result in lots of brush that needed to be burned. During some winters it looked like the Dark Ages around here with fires burning constantly. Finally we would have nothing but stumps left that required a bulldozer to remove.
My brother Jon, who helped clear the bottom field, said the first chapter in the book will be titled “Buy Cleared Land!”
No matter what the reason we have a rule around here that chain saws will not be used when the leaves are on the trees (storm damage aside), hence chain saw season. Chain saw work is physically hard, loud, and dirty. If combined with warm weather it is debilitating and dangerous
Fortunately these days our needs are reduced to keeping the edges of the fields trimmed back and for firewood to heat the house. We try and cut firewood the winter before so it has an entire year to dry. So this past week we began cutting for next year. It always seems that we start with the hardest trees. This year it was a large dead oak leaning towards the house, well and heat pump. Betsy lobbied for hiring someone to take this one down as we have managed to drop trees on things by mistake but I was sure we could do it. After some careful rigging and the usual nervous last cuts, it fell beautifully in the correct direction. Only a few months left in chain saw season, thankfully.
This tree leaned directly on a line from the stump, over the little well house, the heat pump and on to the house!