Chainsaw Cognoscenti: The Arborist

You will never meet a dull arborist. With their peculiar blend of strength, agility, endurance, and problem solving skills Cirque du Soleil has nothing on these guys. They’re also a bargain compared to what can happen if you try to do the job yourself.

Arborist Norman Hall of Family Tree Service at the office

On a fine clear morning after a wild night of 60-70 mph winds, I bumped into my neighbor Dave (not his real name) , who said a giant tree leaning against the back of his place was slamming the house all night, making it resonate like a drum. It was terrifying. His son had talked about limbing the tree and asked me about borrowing some tools. We went to look at it. The tree was a man-killer.  I convinced him to bring in an expert.

A back yard wood cutter is to a professional tree faller, what a sport diver is to a commercial diver.  A sport diver is fully capable of going under your boat to look for something you dropped overboard but for raising a sunken boat you want someone who has the gear and knows what they’re doing. The difference between divers and wood cutters is, sport divers tend to understand their limits while the internet is saturated with videos of wood cutters who imagined they had the goods to take down big, dangerous trees.

The tree behind Dave’s house is a text book example:  It was a non-indigenous willow. Full of water  in spring it weighed tons.  The branches were bigger than a man’s waist but structurally weak. Tree branches grow towards light and this one had grown not only over Dave’s roof but extended over the properties on all three sides of him. The trunk was growing out of hill that fell away behind Dave’s at about 50 degrees.

So, the dangers were: a branch might break with someone standing on it sending an unwary wood cutter fifty feet to the ground then down the hill with a running chainsaw. Or the branch could smash a neighbor’s fence. Or a section of trunk could take a bad hop and go through the neighbor’s house on the down hill side. Or part of the tree could go through the picture window into Dave’s house.

Another advantage calling in an expert is, they can look at the surrounding trees and limb the ones that will cause trouble in the near future.

Note the picture windows

Getting a Bid

Getting a bid to cut dangerous trees, people tend to fall into one of two camps. Those who know nothing about chainsaws say, “Wow.  That’s really expensive.” Those who’ve done a lot of chainsaw work say, “Wow.  That’s a great deal.” Same bid.

Often the arborist will do an estimate for free. Especially if they’re working in the neighborhood. Cost of the job will depend on how difficult it is to access the tree(s), whether you want the wood and slash hauled away or if you’re going to take care of it yourself, how big of a crew the job needs–as in, if you want a couple tons of tree dragged up a slope it’s going to cost you more than if they just drop the tree.

If some of your neighbors also want tree work done, and you can organize with them so that the arborist can do multiple jobs in the vicinity, they might give you a deal. Also, the neighbors can rent a commercial wood chipper and use the chips for fill or in gardens. Note* if you’re using the chips to bulk up your vegetable beds you want to fertilize heavy as the wood will suck nutrients out of the soil for a couple years as it breaks down.

Dave’s tree: epilogue

A few years prior another neighbor had tree work done and recommended the cutter,  Norman Hall, unreservedly.  Norman advised taking down a couple small trees in bad shape that were hanging over a neighbor’s house. That would give him access to the willow. He said he’d limb some big conifers that had branches resting on Dave’s roof, and even clean off the roof, which had accumulated a couple inches of moss and spruce needles on top with bushes growing up there, at no extra charge. A great deal.

If you look at picture two above–the darkish one–you see the big willow is leaning into the eaves. Norman was able to limb it in such a way that the tree stood up straighter and actually moved six inches away from the house to a point where he could remove the rest without damaging anything. Wow.

Below are the before and after photos Norman took with a drone.

Courtesy of Normal Hall
Courtesy of Norman Hall