Felling the Rest of the Elm – By Hand and Not Alone

Earlier this year I wrote about felling a dead elm at the bottom of the garden and I managed to get the first two trunks done by hand. I’d never felled a tree before and was surprised at how natural it felt. Using a handsaw I could sense as I went the direction I needed to go in and the trunks fell just in the right place.

But the final trunk was slightly thicker and taller than the others, not much, but enough. I went out one day to try and fell it but the strangest thing happened. As I put the saw to the tree I felt the energy in my body weaken and I couldn’t saw the trunk. I went inside and made a cup of tea. Then went to try again. Same thing happened. I decided not to go ahead.

That’s when Nick offered to come over from Bungay with his chainsaw and we’d do the felling together. Nick sometimes works with our mutual friend Paul, a tree surgeon, but had not yet felled a tree himself.

The first time he came it rained and we didn’t want to risk electric shock so we sawed up some of the wood I’d already cut down. And we arranged another date which was yesterday.

It rained again. So we decided to go ahead using a handsaw for the first wedge cut and a two-person saw for the straight one. It was really good fun. And Nick brought over a sawing horse he’d half finished, made from two pallets nailed together. So sawing the wood will be a lot easier now.

Many things strike me about this apparently simple event. First I hadn’t really noticed just how little rain there’s been here over the past months, despite the fact we’ve all been talking about it and the frequent mention of droughts in the South and East of England. I’d forgotten what a day of real rain was like! And just how dry it has been…

Secondly I was struck again by just how much being involved with transition has changed my life. I would never have considered felling a tree before, not even a dead one. I would not have taken much notice of the fact that these elms shoot up from a network of roots underground and regenerate themselves from the bottom up. Or bothered to discover that if you keep them as a hedge they don’t succumb to Dutch Elm disease, which is what ‘killed’ this tall one.

I would not have known Nick or anyone else I’ve met through Transition existed nor they I. And I wouldn’t have known what building community resilience was, nor that it would be made up of all the small and large meetings, projects, shared lunches, produce swaps and helping each other to do things like fell dead elms for firewood.

Here are some more photos from yesterday:

Nick grins through successful wedge cut

 considering positions

going to meet the wedge cut

felled dead elm, helped down at the last minute by looping a VERY LONG washing line on a lower branch stump and tugging (making sure I was well out of the way)

photos: Charlotte Du Cann (creative commons with attribution)


3 responses to this post.

  1. It was fun Mark. Thanks for dinner, tea and fireside chat afterwards. Still raining now, 30 hours later!


  2. Oops – should have said “lunch”


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