Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why I have a desk job...

In order to clear up the half-tree left adorning my front lawn by that SOB Ike, I had to borrow a chainsaw. I have a long, painful history with chainsaws, and an equally sordid past with regards to power saws in general. Particularly borrowed power saws. Me and power saws: a match made in hell. Invariably, my first task with any borrowed power saw is to find a way to knock the blade off. The chainsaw followed that time honored pattern. But I'm getting a little bit ahead of the story.

The clean-up of the half-tree didn't go too poorly, other than the blade (chain) coming off of the saw almost immediately. After a few minutes of fiddling around with it, I was able to make the handful of quick and easy cuts that I needed to carve the Ike mess down to a manageable pile of pieces. But, as we all know, nothing fires those old Honey-Do synapses like a borrowed power tool. You know what I'm talking about: "As long as you have that saw..."

In this case, it was a not-quite-dead yet not-quite-healthy walnut tree in my backyard. Me? I was initially inclined to let it live or die, the final outcome dependent on fate and/or karma. But we had made a pretty big fuss about the dead trees that the next door neighbor was quite content to leave there until such time as they fell on our house, so the inherent hypocrisy in not dealing with my own dead-ish tree was nagging at me.

The morning weather has overcast and humid, and I awoke in the morning not feeling particularly, but the clock of opportunity was ticking. The saw has to be returned Monday. So, despite a level of I-don't-want-to on par with Brave Sir's daily ear canal cleaning, I grabbed the saw and headed for the tree. My chief concern on the felling of the tree was making sure that it fell in the direction that I wanted it to. Out of the 360 degree arc through which it could fall, a full 180 degrees were bad. Google, of course, offered good advice regarding the actions required to at least hint the tree in the direction you want it to go. Applying the appropriate wedge cut did the trick - Down With The Tree, Long Live The Stump.

Note two things: Brave Sir Hogarth monitoring the situation (you'll have to click on the picture for the larger version), and the inner circle of dark wood surrounded by a lighter color wood:

I don't know which color the wood would be in a healthy tree, but I am intuitively guessing that the tree should have been of a uniform color all the way through.

Now, as anyone that has watched The Sopranos already knows, the hard work is not in the whacking itself (with a couple of notable exceptions); the hard work is in the dismemberment and disposal of the corpse. The first step is to get the trunk up onto some kind of support to allow room for the saw to start cutting it into logs. That's a pretty heavy lift (for me), and I am suffering the muscle soreness in my back this morning that is the inevitable result of me lifting anything heavier than a wet Chihuahua. The saw made short work of that first cut, but then decided that progress cannot and should not be easy; it through its blade/chain.

Thus began an hour's worth of replacing the chain, only to have it fling off after each attempt to use it. It's a nice saw, mind you. A Poulin with an "EZ-access" blade tensioner. Which, in the light of my real world experience, I can definitively say also means "EZ-chain-fall-off." That latter part didn't pass muster in the Poulin Marketing Dept., of course. You get to learn that for yourself.

After an hour of diddling with it, though, I finally figured out that there is "tight," and there is "tighter." What was happening is that I would get it to where it felt tight, but not get the chain fully seated down into the slot of the blade. Once I'd run it for a few seconds, the chain would get seated down in the groove, but then it would have have sufficient slack to let it just pop right back out. Once I realized what was going on, I was able to get it properly set up. Being an essentially brand new saw, and me too stupid to have put on a pair of gloves before fiddling around with the still-sharp blade/chain, I ended up with dozens of little cuts on my hands by the time I figured out how to fix it.

With the chainsaw finally in order, it was still-hard-but-less-frustrating work to chop up the remainder of the tree. Which, at the end of the day, presented an entirely new problem. Even a modicum of foresight would have raised the question far earlier in the process: what to do with all of the resulting logs. We don't have a wood burning fireplace and I hate just piling logs up against the back fence of the yard, even though they do camouflage nicely with the neighbor's wood pile. Fortunately, we have a neighbor that likes to have fires in their back yard in a little fire pit that they built expressly for that purpose, so they agreed to take the logs off my hands. Delivered, of course.

I got the lawn tractor and trailer out of the shed and loaded what must have been 200 pounds of logs into it. Funny, that trailer is never used to carry stuff much heavier than twigs and leaves, so I never noticed that it had very little air in the tires. Dead flat, once they felt the weight of the cut-up tree. No big deal to air them up, though, so we were soon on our way to the neighbor's yard. Almost there... pulling the trailer up the hill of their front yard... and we hit a bump. A bump that was sufficient to trigger the dump latch on the trailer. At which point I, who had failed to do a proper weight & balance calculation, found that I was suffering from an extreme aft CG problem. Dumped the entire load of logs out, right on their front yard. Along with all of the leaves and twigs that maintain a perpetual state of presence in the bottom of the trailer. That was fun... an entire reload of the logs. Yes, nothing will help a sore back get sorer like redundant effort. Nothing.

The branches too small to be considered logs had to be bundled up with twine in groups small enough for the incredibly lazy and discerning garbage collectors to, you know, collect, another job fraught with danger for the gloveless. Finally done with the entire ordeal, I thought to sit down with a Gatorade and bag of potato chips to watch a full day of football. Remember those cuts on my hands? I didn't. At least not until I grabbed a handful of salty chips. Then I remembered. Oh, how I remembered!

And you know what else I remembered? I remembered why it is that I have a desk job.


  1. not sure of the hard work differential but free stuff on craig's list is know to get a response. don't know but you would have still had to haul them to the curb. maybe the wonder of craig has not reached your neck of the woods but often worth considering.

  2. Brandon -

    Yep, 350 Tweets and I still didn't really see the point of it.