Friday, August 27, 2010

Mulch Piles and Chain Saws

If you ever really need some sort of microcosm for the way life works you should start a mulch pile. All the stuff you throw away every day winds up somewhere. In my home, all the organic matter; paper, veggie scraps, cardboard containers, and the occasional pair of jeans all end up in a pile in woods in my backyard. I also throw leaves in there, pieces of dead trees at times, and anything else the earth may reclaim as Her own. All the stuff that most of you toss into a trash container can be toss onto a mulch pile, and the results are fairly remarkable.
I’ve been doing this for about two years now and the pile has reached a critical mass. It grows no bigger unless I feed it leaves and stuff, but it also grows no smaller. All the stuff I throw with a pitch fork two or three times a week and paper towels turn to mush pretty quickly. Jeans take forever to decompose. Those paper milk cartons from the organic soy milk places? They’re covered with a plastic bag. When the paper is all gone the plastic remains. They are not as nearly as green as they seem.
Cardboard boxes disappear fairly fast as do most containers that food comes in that there not made of plastic. This time of year, in the Summer, with the heat and the everyday rain, the pile has devoured quickly all that I have tossed to it. Honestly, it isn’t the size of a kiddies’ wading pool, and  maybe a couple of feet high. There ought to be a law that everyone who owns a house or has a yard ought to compost their yard debris.  There is no sense in paper making its way to a landfill where it is buried so deep it will never decompose.
That happens here, if I don’t turn the pile two or three times a week. There was a cardboard box at the bottom of the pile that got some odd looking fungus but it didn’t decompose for a very long time. Imagine in those giant landfills how much stuff never rots at all because it’s buried beneath tons and tons and tons of trash.  I put the better part of entire tree in this pile and it’s turned to rich black earth.

I wonder how much yard debris we bury in landfills, and at the same time, how many people spend money trying to fertilize their lawns. It’s like a never ending cycle of waste, with grass being harvested merely to bury in a landfill.

I turned the mulch pile, and then I realized one of the minor Oaks was dead. I have no idea what species of Oak this might be, and honestly it might not be an Oak at all, but it was dead Jim, and the bottom of the trunk was rotting away. It was already late in the morning, about four in the afternoon, and yes, I know how that sounds. Work nightshift long enough and you’ll be weird, too.

Chainsaws are inheritably dangerous. They are the most dangerous object you can buy legally in America that doesn’t involve a bullet or a bra. I’ve known men who grew up using chainsaws but made that one mistake and suddenly one leg is short then the other, or there are horrific scars. My neighbor cut a gash in his leg with a chainsaw just last year, and the wound was so big it couldn’t be sewn shut.
Rotten trees are easy to cut but they are difficult to cut down. The wood is eaten by the saw easily, but at the same time, there is the danger of the tree breaking apart up top and rushing down to where my head is. Worse, because the tree might be hollow, I have no idea where to stop my notch cuts, and have to guess.
You want to make three cuts when bringing a tree down. Decide where want the tree to fall, and where you would rather it not fall. Cut about half way through the tree on the side you want the tree to fall. Cone in on top of that cut at a 46 degree angle, and use and axe if you have to knock the notch out. Then saw on the opposite side of the tree, directly about where the notch is and the tree will fall that way. In theory.
I’ve seen trees break apart while being they will fall all over the damn place. I’ve seen trees drop not sideways, but straight down off the cut, and then they will fall where they want. I’ve seen trees twist out of the notch and fall in a direction the person with the chainsaw really didn’t want the tree to fall. There is a You Tube video of a man putting a very large tree on his house while his wife films the disaster.
I helped a friend bring down a dead tree that had to fall in one direction and that direction only.  There was a barn on one side, a shed on the other, and power lines boxing it in. The only way to be really sure, because of the way the tree was leaning, was me to stand directly in front of where the tree was going to fall, and pull with a rope. The plan was for me to step behind a massive Pecan tree once the tree started falling. It was an odd feeling to be that close to a falling tree that size, but the plan worked.
That’s why I thought this would work. That’s why I thought I didn’t need to call anyone to help me, three cuts, and it would fall. Plenty of mulch pile fodder the wood is so rotten.  If I had laid a string line out the tree could have fallen on top of it, and as I put the saw away I realized how causal I had been about using the saw, because the tree was soft, and the tree was small.

Sometimes even if things go right, you still made a mistake.

Take Care,
Mike

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