A Tree Change

Having just lost Jenna, I wasn’t in the best of moods in the following weeks and was hoping that the bad news year was over. But that wasn’t to be the case as just as we were adjusting to the loss of Jenna, a huge tree fell down at the back of our property crushing the roof of our neighbour’s garage, certainly making it a write-off. Fortunately no one was hurt and the only damage was to the shed as it was empty at the time. After more than a week of constant rain the ground around the base of the tree must have given way and the tree came down. It had been a fairly still night, so it didn’t fall because of the wind. It happened around 8:00pm when I heard the almighty crash, went out to see where it had happened, but couldn’t find any evidence anywhere. I’d surmised that it was next door to us, but seeing nothing, thought it must have been further away. My wife thought is was just thunder as the weather was turning ominous.

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

I had my doubts about thunder, as I’ve heard trees crashing down before and the noise is quite distinctive, but can carry some distance. Sound can especially carry as we live in a bit of a valley, so I thought it could well have been further away as big trees make a very loud noise. However, next morning my wife called out and the tree had been discovered, one of the very large ones at the bottom of our yard. So we went around to our neighbour’s house to see if everything was OK and that no one was injured. There were no injuries, but situation certainly wasn’t good. Our neighbour had called the SES that night, but they said they didn’t have the capacity to remove the tree and declared the garage a hazardous area. Our neighbour had contacted their insurance company and started the process of getting the tree removed and garage replaced. I took a few photos and then contacted my insurance company to see what needed to be done.

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

This was a big tree and while it’s always appeared fine (I’m certainly no arborist), you can never really tell how any tree might fare. There are some trees on our other neighbour’s property that look incredibly precarious. One thing that always amazes me is how shallow the root system is of a typical gum tree. I was always taught, or it was implied, that whatever you see of a tree above ground that’s what lies underground in the root system. I quickly learned that when it comes to gum trees that tale was as far and away from the truth as you could get. The many years that I’ve been going bush has shown plenty of evidence that Australia’s gum tree are often standing up on seemingly the flimsiest of root systems, just about always waiting for an opportunity to fall. Obviously the type of ground plays an important part in holding up a tree and where the roots can dig into hard ground they seem to be less prone to falling over and can grow to enormous size. This one was around 600mm diameter near the base.

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

What also helps gum trees stay upright is shelter from wind. This is one reason why I’m loathe to even consider removing gums from our yard, for as soon as you start to thin them out, the remainder become exposed to strong winds and susceptible to falling over. Our gum trees aren’t the type to drop massive branches, as they are tall with a top level canopy (almost like asparagus spears). That’s not to say they can’t drop dangerous branches, as we’ve often found long branches speared into the ground like javelins from the gods. Something like that hitting you on the head is likely to more than just hurt a bit. But it’s not the only time that trees have fallen in our neighbourhood. Not many years ago our other next-door neighbour had a very large tree fall, taking two others with it, and doing some sizeable damage to his garage. Also, quite some years ago, the previous owner of the property that got hit by our tree had an even bigger tree fall onto the house just before they moved in. I hope that’s not an omen for them.

The Elm Tree

The Elm Tree

Thankfully I was able to do a deal with the tree guys that removed the tree from the neighbour’s garage, as my insurance company said the part that was in my yard was my responsibility and not covered as it had done no property damage on my side. That kind of sucked, especially as that part was the biggest section of the tree and I wasn’t looking forward to having to cut that into manageable parts. The neighbour also got a fair amount of wood, so that may have assuaged the inconvenience that the fallen tree had caused. In any case, they will get a new garage out of this incident. It meant a lot of work hauling the logs out of the gully and more work later to cut them up. And it would all have to be done with an axe, as I don’t have a powered log splitter. I’ve thought of getting one, but I do less wood collecting nowadays than in the past, preferring to buy decent Red gum by weight.

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

The wood that was on our side of the fence was an effort in itself to move from the gully to our shed and at the start I was really feeling it until I got a second wind. There remained three very large pieces in the gully as well as what was still on the stump. This was something for later and I’d have to use my chainsaw to cut these in half before carrying them to the shed, as they were cut so long. The logs were also full of water so they were doubly heavy and the next day after hauling the logs to the shed, I was feeling a tad sore.  So decided to do a bit of log splitting, as I’ve always found that doing some extra work tends to relieve some of the aches and pains and I like to do a bit of axe work. The first couple of smaller pieces split OK, but the next two larger ones were much more difficult. But after some encouragement, they also decided to yield and split. The pile I split doesn’t look that much, but that’s two smaller pieces and two larger ones cut up. The long, large, ones are going to be much harder to split and may need to dry out first.

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

If we get the Summer heat that’s predicted, it won’t take long for all of this to dry out and I also have the logs from a dead tree that was brought down to cut up and split as well. I’m just waiting for the bark to dry off enough so that it can be removed, as I’d rather remove the bark before attacking it with a chainsaw. The bark collects plenty of grit and the like which quickly dulls a chain and can be a pain when cutting in any case. One thing is certain, I’ll be cutting the logs somewhat smaller so that they’re easier to split. As it turned out, the bark is already coming off fairly easily, so I decided to do some removing and cutting while we had good weather. Those bigger logs are between 400-500mm in diameter, so not all that shabby either. As they say, ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ and so the pile just gets bigger, as does the pile of bark.

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

Fallen Messmate

So come the New Year, I think I’ll be getting plenty of exercise to make up for the somewhat sedentary life that I lead. At the time of writing, I’ve managed to get all of the cut pieces out from the gully and I did have to cut them in half to get them up. All that’s left down there is the stump with about another two or three logs to be cut off once it dries. As for the other tree, I cut three of the long pieces into manageable sizes and still have 12 logs to go. By the time everything is dry and properly split, we should be OK for the coming Winter. Famous last words.

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