Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Water Oak and the Heat.




The top of the water oak hanging up on another tree

The base of the water Oak. I had to make the cut 1.25 meters above ground level. 

Limbs and trees have been dropping but the temperatures keep rising. This is an unparalleled opportunity in exhaustion and I’ve taken full advantage of it. Basically, the idea comes down to this one; cut as much as I can with an axe until I get too tired or too hot or both, and not kill myself. I’ve always believed you have to dare your environment to kill you. You have to face the worst you can find where you live and find a way to prosper within it. You cannot allow where you live to dictate to you when you can do or what you can do. The only way to survive is to get out into the worst heat and do your best.

Live Oaks are the hardest wood I have ever tried to cut. The meat of the Live Oak is tough and dulls an axe quickly. The limb that fell out of the Live Oak tree took forever to break down and I took long water breaks. I also stayed outside with the heat and the stinging flies. Slowly, but surely, the limb was reduced to bonfire fodder. Not that it didn’t put up a fight, mind you, but anything can be eaten one bite at a time.

Recently, because I work all the time and because I really don’t have the time to cook the meals I should be eating, my jeans have been getting tighter. Using an axe every day for exercise has made my jeans expand and I think my arm muscles are getting bigger as well. In just over a week or do I feel better, I’m more active and I sleep better. I’m hitting the trees at least an hour a day and sometime much longer than that.

Better have a sharpener handy if you’re going to work out with an axe. The difference is as stark as driving a car with or without a windshield. If your axe isn’t sharp you’re basically trying to beat an Oak tree into submission which by anyone’s standards is a fool’s errand. While we are at it, Live Oak is easier alive than dead. The wood is softer when it still has life in it. Trying to cut this stuff when it is dead is like trying to cut iron.

The first limb down was some sort of Oak, Red Oak, I think, and it went without a fight. The next was Live Oak, and it was a bitch to get it bucked. The third limb was the biggest challenge. The top broke off a water oak and fell over into a neighboring tree. Water Oaks are very tall yet very skinny. There are usually no large branches and therefore there’s little to discern as far as a lean goes. This one was no different. The first thing that had to be done was taking out the main trunk and hoping the top fell anywhere but on top of me.

You either get it or you do not get it. If you are going to sit there at your computer and wonder what Demon possessed me to take down a tree with the top half broke of and hanging onto another tree then you don’t get it. What were my options? Wait until it fell on its own and perhaps killed me or one of the dogs? Rented the risk out to a professional? With temperatures topping out over triple digits I walked up to the main truck of the broken tree and began.

Water Oaks are an odd species of tree for they are thick at the base and then go thin and high. I’ve never seen one that lived as long as most tree do and I suspect this one had gotten as large as most. If things were not already as bad as they might be, just like the limb from the Live Oak, the water oak had fallen against a dead limb which meant that it might bring down more than itself when it fell, or if I left it to its own devices. The meat of a water oak is slight spongy and gets worse when the tree dies.  
It's easier to cut a water oak if the axe is used to cut in horizontal strips rather than going for the classic vee shaped cut. The meat of the tree comes out of the cut in chucks rather easily compared to the Live Oak yet because there is half a tree hanging over the South side of the cut I cannot cut around the tree. I have to cut the west side as much as I can, the north side as deep as I can, the east side very little, and the South side not at all.

And yes, I did try to pull the hanging part of the tree down with a rope, thanks for thinking of that for me.

The rope is important to me because I really have very little idea which way the pressure lies in this. If the main trunk falls north, where I am doing most of the cutting, the leaning part of the tree might well slide north too, or be dragged in that direction. There is little chance it will fall South but it could and who knows where the hanging part would go then? West seems best with the hanging part being dragged along and falling that way. I think it will fall north and the hanging part will simply fall to the east and stay hung up in the other tree. But I’m using a rope to pull it when it gets close.



When will it get close, I have to ask myself. The cuts on the west and north meet, the cut on the east, what little I dare, deepens, yet the tree does not relent. What manmade object could have ninety percent of its support cut away and still be immovable much less standing tall? The heat takes a toll on me as does swinging the axe, again and again and again. An hour passes, and then another, yet the tree remains. I get a ping from the woman watching me from a distance; it is time to stop tempting South Georgia to kill me. I have to admit fatigue is setting in deeply.

I go inside and I’m still panting. I drink a liter of cold water and sweat is still pouring off of me. I can feel the muscles in my back and in my arms. I can feel the strain on my knees and ankles. This is tremendous exercise but I wonder if I have over done it. My hands hurt from handling the axe. Yoga cures all of this, except for the part there is still a tree out there, of which half is hanging over the heads of my dogs when they walk near it.

After work the next day the tree is still standing but the cuts look a lot deeper. I think it will fall east or west, and after a half hour of cutting I take my first break and consider what is happening. The tree is beginning to shudder with each stroke of the axe and I know now the end is very near. I put a rope on it and it wiggles like a loose tooth when pulled to the east. I reorient myself west of the tree and pull. The tree’s last ten percent of life cracks with the strain and I can tell it’s over. Pull, pull, pull, and finally the tree falls towards me and I release the rope. The hanging part doesn’t fall down with its parent but now leans against the other tree. More axe work tomorrow. 


Take Care,
Mike

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