Tree Monkey, 2011 Tree Removal

As a consequence of global warming, the biomass is changing with the more evolved species dying first. This includes hardwood trees. In 2003, my property had ten hardwood trees, half were removed at a cost of about $7500 in recent years--see ??. One removal was crisis emergency as my wife was bed-ridden from bungled heart surgery in 2003 when Hurricane Isabella came ripping through leaving one tree leaning precariously at a 20% list toward our bedroom.

After 2011 Hurricane Irene, I counted a dozen trees with two blocks that had fallen, big oak trees. Noticeable were the small root balls which indicated how the severe drought/deluge cycles of recent years had come home to roost in the roots: The trees are dying from the bottom up at faster rates. While my 2006 conclusion of most oak trees being dead by 2012 may be off by a few years, the oak trees are dying along with other hardwood and hardgrain species.

Besides fallen trees, I noticed the two tallest trees, an 80-foot oak and an 80-foot pine were leaning. The oak was leaning toward my northerly neighbor while the pine was leaning toward the south. While insurance would take care of the damage, the insurance would not prevent loss of life and limb. In the case of my northerly neighbor, this would be the second oak removed to prevent harm to her house and the kids in her daycare.

I was shocked but not surprised at the bids for removing the trees: $5000 for the oak. Surprise? No, with a corresponding increase in tree crews to the increase in falling trees, it is a sellers' market wherein the tree cutters keep raising their prices when their backlog is longer than two weeks.

Well, for many reasons, this old fart in his seventh decade and BMI of over 35 decided on a new hobby, that is, become a tree monkey to both save money and to evaluate how tree management could be a community service whereby citizens could earn lifehours for community-based healthcare. As many starry-eyed social work college graduates learn about working with their subjects, it is easier learning about tree management than it is to do tree management.

After several approaches, I concluded the best, simplest and cheapest way was to buy tree climbing equipment on eBay. The cost was about $400 for belt, harness, spikes, rope graps, ropes and ancillary items. Nice thing about buying the items is that most can be re-sold on eBay--or kept to help one's neighbors. I think my new hobby is tree climbing and cutting.

As you read the following, two things will stand out:

  1. I probably should not have become a tree monkey at my age and weight.
  2. I don't quit until I solved the problem if it is humanly possible to so do.

Neighbors probably laughed at me as I went developed an alphabet of failed solutions. When A did not work, I went to plan B ... and so on.

By the time the trees were down, I had spent more time and money than I expected. However, I had added to my acupuncture morality. I saved money from paying the $5000 for the oak and the estimated $3000 for the pine.

Timeline: Remember, I am a person who is afraid of heights. This slowed down the process as I had, at times, so many safety lines that I was more at risk of strangling myself rather than falling to my death.

  1. Rented a 70ft manlift at $450 a day. Too expensive to use. Would be great if several neighbors chipped in. Could be the basis for a community based annual routine like basement/garage cleaning with public pickup.
  2. Tried using spikes to climb the oak. Either was too old or too fat to climb up the oak with its four-foot diameter.
  3. Cut 18" 2x4's to climb to the crown using three 3.5 inch deck screws to secure to the tree. This was too slow and required twisting my feet to conform to the board angles which cause excruciating lower backpain that forces a three-hiatus.
  4. Combined my wooden 20-foot and 20-extension ladder to more easily--but still scary--get to the crown. At all times, I never feared falling to the ground based on the logic of my safety. My fear--evident in my slow, cringing, clinging upward crawl--was that I might be a victim of faulty logic. I did make it a point to look down at every step to become less scared of the height. It did work but not to the point where I thought I would test the reliability of my final safety feature, my angel wings.
  5. Once in the V and ready to lop off the western arm, I realized the space was too tight with insufficient squirm room to get out of the way (behind the other arm) when the western arm started falling. So, I built a platform like deer hunters often make upon which to cut the arm with room and rope to swing behind the other, larger arm of the tree.


  1. Google "Tree Climbing"
  2. Learn angle cuts with "hinges" so the limb falls at a vector of straight down so roofs, buildings and homes can be avoided
  3. Be sure to use "back stumps" when falling a trunk which is a back horizontal cut a few inches higher than the front cut. This keeps the trunk from jumping back as it falls with the weight going from a downward direction to a rearward direction. On an earlier tree, I almost was crushed as the ten-ton trunk suddenly jumped backwards. Simple laws of gravity and motion dictate the rotating trunk will try to keep its center of gravity which requires the lower part of the tree to go the opposite direction as the top. Duh! Another example of acupuncture morality which luck kept from proving my mortality.

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