Over the last week there has been a dramatic change on the farm. This is not something that you will see from the road, but for anyone who has made the journey from the front gate to the house, then once you emerge from the 6 acres of pine forest the difference is phenomenal. Where once there was a tiny, moldy cabin nestled amongst the shadows of eight large and gnarly cypress trees, there is now a prominent house sat in an open glade. There is light, there is space, there is peace of mind and a feeling that one can breathe.
In total we have had 28 trees removed from around the house. These were various Cypress and Pines and in addition one or two dead or severely deformed fruit trees. We now have a spacious glade with the house sitting in the center and for the first time in goodness knows how many years the sunlight can reach the old fruit trees and the house itself. Even the ambient temperature inside has risen by a few degrees and it has been much quieter.
At least four of the eight large cypress trees were shading the cottage and blocked out much of light making it somewhat dark and gloomy. Some heavy limbs had grown over the house and reduced the rainfall captured in our storage tank. Other limbs were visible dead or you could see rot in them and it just felt like a disaster waiting to happen. The winds here can be ferocious, especially being on top of a hill and having the surrounding valleys act like funnels. More than once I have removed fallen pine trees from the driveway and had sleepless nights worrying about cypress limbs falling on the house.
We engaged a local contractor to come and provide an opinion on trimming or removing the Cypress trees. It turned out that all were 40-50 years old and rapidly approaching the end of their life span. It would be a good decision to remove them as before too long they would likely start dropping limbs. A few further trees had to be removed to allow room for felling. The rest James and I decided to cull in order to let more light into the fruit trees and hopefully get them to regenerate and start fruiting again.
Calling in the Professionals
We contracted Trevor from Thomas Tree Trimming along with Shane Tieman with his earth moving equipment and Phil to drive the 25 tonne excavator. These gentlemen made the perfect team and worked tirelessly for over three days to help us achieve our goal. Not only have they felled and trimmed trees, but have gone as far as tidying up our scrap metal and ensuring the burn off is stacked correctly.
I continue to be amazed by the delicacy of which such a large machine can be operated and how easy Shane and Phil made it look! We had a small workshop (which I am convinced was built for hobbits as it stood about 5ft high) that was dismantled and the excavator managed to leave the work bench and boxes full of electrical insulators in tact.
As with most things the easiest jobs were done first. A small group of Pines was taken down opposite the house to allow easier access and room for felling the larger Cypress. I was astonished to see these not cut down with a chainsaw, but pushed over by an excavator in about 30 seconds.
The larger trees required a more systematic approach. Large limbs and specific weight bearing branches were stripped off to aid the fall direction. Sometimes the head of the tree was removed if the felling space was too small, otherwise a scarf was cut in the main trunk in the direction of fall and a back cut made to induce the fall.
The largest and most complicated tree was left until last. This Cypress was a monster and had grown in close proximity to the house as well as our power pole. To add to complications the trunk had bifurcated into around 5 branches with at least two leaning toward the house. This was slowly stripped back over the course of a day and in the end only the tallest head remained. There appeared to be a high level of nervousness felling this, but our guys were pros and I had complete faith. In reality they made it look easy and the head practically jumped off landing right where intended. The most stubborn part proved to be the root. This took two hours to rip out of the ground and a further hour for the excavator to break into manageable pieces.
What was left of the trees was then stacked and burned off. It wasn’t worth anything with the rot so we didn’t mind. I learnt that there is a method for stacking a fire to encourage it to fall in on itself and continue burning right down to ash. It’s a real shame I forgot the marshmallows at the supermarket!!
Peace of Mind
I love trees so I was nervous about taking down so many. Once on the ground though I loved the new open feeling and light; I never truly appreciated how oppressive and closed in it felt before. There is also the feeling of safety as every Cypress tree felled contained rot in the core. One of the trees split as it fell due to a bifurcated trunk and had it not been done professionally, or if it had come down in the winds then the natural lean and weight in the head could have meant it dropped on the house.
Now we can look forward to developing a garden. At the moment it does resemble a deforestation site, but once the grass grows back and we introduce some landscaping then it will be just stunning. The fruit trees will undergo a serious prune and we have more to plant. Next week we are also hoping to establish a garden fence and in time shrubs, flowering plants and vegetable beds.
I’m not a great gardener, but hopefully this will change! If anyone has suggestions for pretty flowering plants or native shrub species that will do well in South Gippsland then I would love to hear them.