After the rhombus (original garage structure) was demolished, I turned my attention to removing a large tree that had grown from under the slab. Although I was saddened by the thought of losing a wonderful tree, it was, unfortunately, too close to the new garage to be able to avoid doing mortal damage to its root system during excavation. It had also entwined itself into the power lines feeding my house, threatening the lines with each powerful windstorm.
Cutting down a tree is really no problem, from a technical point of view. Getting it to fall where one intends, and extricating from a web of power lines proved to be the real bear of a task. The key is to be methodical about it, plan each cut, and always cut away from the live lines.
First problem: cut around the power lines. When a cut was too close to the lines, I would use the straps from my kayak rack on my car to pull the electrical lines away from the cut. Nylon webbing was not a conductor – even if there had been an exposed conductor (due to a hungry squirrel), I would not be providing a direct path to the ground. This was a slow, Clark W. Griswold-like process.
Second problem: avoid crushing my neighbor’s garage with the falling tree. If the falling tree snapped the power feed to my house, it would be an inconvenience. If I destroyed my neighbor’s garage, that would be a much bigger issue. To make the problem a bit more dynamic, the tree was already leaning towards my neighbor’s garage – not by much – and the wind was not cooperating.
In order to compensate for the lean, I trimmed all of the major limbs overhanging my neighbor’s property to cause an imbalance in weight distribution. All else being equal, I thought, it would at least have a tendency to fall on my property. Next, I created a back cut normal to the direction that I wanted the tree to fall. This, I figured, would prevent compression of the trunk and possible twisting as it fell. I then secured my kayak straps and additional webbing high up the trunk so I could pull from below. Finally, I began the final cuts. I got the cut through 75% of the trunk and then started hammering my wrecking bars into the cut, to offer the tree some persuasion and to keep it from falling back on itself. When I got to the point when there was a very tenuous connection left, I ran underneath the tree, grabbed the straps and started pulling. It took a few minutes, but down it came (and away I ran). It landed to within two feet of where I needed it to land.