It was one of those moments when you wonder, “Is this really a good idea?” But you proceed anyway, having already overthought it and needing to get the job done.
My dad sat on the tractor, grinning his nervous confident grin. Sam and Stella perched by the barn with my mom, well beyond danger. I stood far off with the camera, using the zoom to document the action. Andrew hoisted his chainsaw and stepped up to the base of the tree.
Without a doubt, the Eastern white cedar needed to go. It was eating the house. Someone had planted it too close to the front door about 75 years ago—a date we confirmed when Andrew counted its rings. Across those decades, no one invited it to leave, allowing it to thicken and loiter by the front stoop. Now its trunk was wider than I could embrace.
I always feel a sentimental hesitation about cutting down trees. The tree falls so fast and irreversibly, while growing a replacement seems so slow. Any tree we plant will not attain 75 rings in my lifetime. And big trees are so lovely, I sigh, and provide shade and windbreak. Never mind the branches on the roof and the roots threatening the cellar.
By the big day, I had resolved my tree-romantic doubts, and my qualms were more logistical. We’d roughly estimated the tree height, then borrowed our neighbor’s longer-than-the-tree-height rope, thick as my wrist. With the rope tied about thirty feet up the tree, then connected to our tractor Eloise, to provide a steady tug away from our roof, we were ready.
A farm provides constant opportunities to tackle physical challenges like this one. It’s like a never-ending, wacky field day. In addition to lumberjack-type events, we get to try our hands at rock heaving, burdock yanking, brush hogging, fence material grappling, and deer thwarting. With much practice, we’ve improved our times for the nail pry, turning old boards from porcupines into useful lumber. My dad and Andrew performed well in the 72-hour combination event—mortar slinging and stone stacking—that repaired our foundation.
While extending my stamina for the long bendover, I pulled weeds and perfected my slug toss. (Pro tip: Balling the slug with a bit of mud yields the best trajectories from the garden into the duck pen.). Since it’s been rainy, many events involve mud, including the naked garden run, which has, so far, been an event for the five and under crowd. Mud runs seem to be gaining national popularity, however, so we’re glad to be at the cutting edge.
Most of our efforts take place without an audience, but while Andrew set chainsaw to cedar for our tree felling event, the five of us watching didn’t blink. He sliced a clean wedge, strategically angled away from the house. He reached into the wedge, brushing it clear, then revved the chainsaw into the trunk again. As I watched the tree top wiggle, I cheered like any finish line spectator: “Timberrrrr!”