Coffee Share 210403: Overthinking Backyard Chores

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest.
Link to This week’s full list
Link to my Story Blog:  Table of Contents.

Every molecule that shares space with us in our gravity well suffers the same reality of, lacking something to prevent it, free-falling towards the center of the Earth. Every rock, every tree, every person, every bird and cloud and drop of water or piece of concrete is, moment by moment, trying to abide by the law of gravity and move downward.

Rocks stay put only because there is something more solid below them preventing their movement.

Trees stay put only because they spread a wide net of roots which holds fast the soil below them.

Birds cheat by using a simple alternate law of physics that, as long as they are moving and their wings are properly spread, there will be a significant lower air pressure above their wings than there exist below and thus they are literally being sucked higher as they fly. Should their motion forward stop, so shall their gravity avoidance and they too will fall.

Clouds cheat more effortlessly by weighing less than the air below them.

Ships too are designed such that, even though they are extremely heavy, they displace enough air-filled space that they appear to be lighter than the water which supports them, but fill that same space with water and, ugh, the cruise is ruined.

This is all germane to my coffee share this weekend because, despite a very busy work week, I’ve been tinkering with gravity and it’s effects in the backyard.

Twenty plus years ago, we bought this home and yard.  Before we bought it, the previous owner had done some landscaping which included carving out a flattened area from a small hillside, lining it with large rocks to separate the lawn from a short path up the hillside leading to the tall back fence line.  He had also planted trees about the property that we’ve enjoyed ever since.  However . . .

Enter gravity and time and things change.

The rains come and go while softening and lifting the soil so it acts like a glacier and looks for a path to follow in compliance with the law of gravity.  Trees, unlike rocks and soil, are living things, subject to all kinds of assaults that would be ignored by any self-respecting rock and thus trees, have to deal with attacks from woodpeckers and bugs that bore into their trunks weakening and sometimes even killing the tree.

Twenty years later, my large rocks are mostly covered with glacial dirt from up the hill and one of my trees is going the way of its ancestors to join them in some heavenly mulch pile.

Rocks are one thing, but when a tree dies, it keeps its potential for causing damage as gravity is still pulling it down and if my neighbors fence is in the way, so be it.  If the tree falls in the wrong direction it will not only take out a portion of the fence but will, most unwelcomed, try to join my neighbor in their pool making an unpleasant conversation necessary with said neighbor and the writing of a large check to clean things up.

So this week, I began asserting some management over both situations.

The rocks are barely light enough for me to move them.  Few can actually be picked up by some old guy who in recent memory had to have back surgery to continue life without constant pain.

The rocks are being dug up, and lifted by various means (some more painful than others) from a lower spot in the gravity well to a higher spot where they can be enjoyed by the next twenty years of owners and that tree. . . well it is another story altogether.

20210403_Rock Path 2

I don’t have enough adult children about anymore to help with such things and actually enjoy the challenge of thinking of ways to do something like bringing down a tree to where I want it to land.

The draw of gravity is relentless and doesn’t vary with the time of day or season and gives no opportunity to sneak in the desired changes, required some clever thinking, or the writing a big checks to hire a service to do the desired deeds.

The rocks are yielding thanks to some strategic digging, leveraging with a heavy metal pry bar, then slow pushing or rolling up the hill into their new spots.

The tree was a whole different challenge because it had to come down into the yard on my side of that fence line and hopefully not rip out the surrounding hedge it had been planted in. It required a single hand saw to sever its tie to that root system, some rope and long heavy stakes.  I had one rope long enough for the task so made a simple loop in the middle and reached as high as I could, passed the loop around the trunk and then pulled the rest of the rope through, thus making a no-knot connection from the trunk to two tie-down spots on my side of the yard, each preventing the tree from falling away from both stakes which I’d separated by about 30 feet.

If I had a drone, I could have taken a photo, rather than build a clumsy diagram, of what this all looked like from above, starring down towards the center of the Earth, which is making all this fuss necessary.

Once I had the tree limited to a certain landing zone dictated by where both ropes would allow, the old guy could safely crawl beneath the hedges with his saw and begin the fun part of sawing.  A chain saw was sorely missed about this time, but a hand saw was what I had, so away I went, weakening the tree’s grasp on the nearby soil with each push or pull.  The saw dust piled up and the sweat poured.  The sun was setting and the tree showed few signs of weakening.

Saved by the setting of the sun and dinner time, I called it a day and left things as safe as possible.

The next day, when my employer was satisfied that I’d earned my keep, I picked up that saw and returned to the task of dropping that tree.  The next problem to solve was that I did not want to be anywhere near the base of that tree when things broke loose.  My wife takes exception to my setting up near-death situations these days so, just to keep her happy, I planned a means of not being where death might be possible as I finished bring down the subject.

I sawed some, then backed out and went to one or the other of the tie-down points, lifted the rope away from the stake and held it in hand.  From there I pulled the tree to see if it would move at all.  At first, both points yielded no motion at all.  Not enough trunk had been sawn away.  I returned maybe four times, making sure I had a full circuit of cut wood around the base and backed out to try pulling again.  On my fifth pass, ooo, the tree began to move at my pull from each rope end; clear evidence of progress and tension of my account can now be built.

The most center part of the trunk was not yet dead.  It still felt damp and spongy through the hand saw as opposed to the dry easy sawdust creating sawing from earlier, so that is where I focused my effort — just a few more strokes. . .

Now, when I pulled on either rope end, I could get the tree rocking back and forth.  I pulled the tree to me, feeling like I was over-ruling gravity, just for a few moments, before letting the tree swing back, passing its original spot, then pulling again to increase the sweep of the tree top to a wider and wider and even wider arc.

But no joy on the tree breaking loose yet, but no problem either.  I let the tree stop swinging as I replaced the rope and shook some blood back into my hands.  Then I picked up the saw and made another visit to the base of the tree to shave off a bit more live wood.

As I returned to the rope end, my shirt and yard hat were wet with sweat, so the requirements of using this event to maintain my hard-working-man-card were satisfied and I pulled again, this time easily getting the tree to rock and swing wider than before. 

Dead branches were shaking loose as were the dried out prickly seed pods from last year that never fell, and the top of the tree was whipping back and forth when a large CRACK, could be heard from the base of the tree and the arc noticeably got wider.  I let the tree swing away from me and pulled hard when this upside-down pendulum was ready to swing back, adding my energy to the swing towards me to the momentum of the swing back from the neighbors side.  This yielded yet another louder CRACK and the whole tree shuttered in my direction.  It was breaking directly towards me, so I stepped towards the middle of the preferred landing zone and pulled again – and the tree followed me but was not ready to drop.  I had to allow yet another swing back and wait for the time to pull again, again using all the momentum of the tree swinging back towards me as I stood near the middle of the landing zone.  The tree spit out several tearing CRACKs — and — finally passed the point of no return.  There was plenty of rope and distance, but I stepped to the side away from where the tree was now falling and CRASH.  The tree landed, flipping dead branches everywhere but collapsing against the Earth as only a half dead tree would.

20210403_Dead Tree 2

20210403_Dead Tree 3

20210403_Dead Tree 1

20210403_Dead Tree 4

I’m something of a tree lover so will miss this one.  It had a great bright green canopy much of the year until it died.

Okay.  This is what passes for adventure these days in my backyard.  Gravity, while not defeated, was bent to my purposes and I may be guilty of over-thinking the whole thing but I hope you enjoyed the ride.

And, that’s it for me.  Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll be around to visit your share shortly, but I may be delayed by this huge dead tree mess in the middle of my back yard.

Blessings all! 

GW bio card 4

15 thoughts on “Coffee Share 210403: Overthinking Backyard Chores

  1. Sorry about the loss of a good tree but better to remove it then have it eventually make a mess of a fence or bushes or wherever it may fall on its own. I Love your backyard adventures! Thanks Gary for sharing! ❤️😀 I hope the clean up is fast and I hope you have a great weekend! 🤠

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some adventure, Gary! It reminded me of when we took down a tree in our garden in Sweden, before selling the house to move to Ireland. My garden adventure this week was to move small rocks from one place to another, to create a rockery where I have to agree that there’s no point trying to plant anything. I have a tree adventure ahead though, but a small one. My neighbours have some cherry trees and I’ve discovered one of them is actually on our side of the fence (probably after the fence was adjusted after a storm) and it has fallen down but still with the roots in the ground. It’s very small but also lying down it still has buds so I’m going to just cut it off and treat it as a cutting to see if it can survive somewhere else.

    I really enjoyed reading your description of gravity and how different elements keep at the ground or on the water. Nature is fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susanne. I’m glad you stopped by. Agreed – nature is fascinating both when it grows and when it just follows gravity. Even planning how and where to drop my dead tree was intetesting. I am going to miss its shade, but that was long gone anyway.

      Thanks for giving my essay a read and sharing in my little adventure.



  3. HAPPY EASTER! Phone interview went well, in person next week. Apt tour scheduled next week. 4 miles from new work site (if he gets it) and within commute of current work, so may go ahead and get on wait list.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Tuesday is the inperson interview. This morning, we attended church online with a church that is literally right next door to the complex we’re looking at. Wednesday, I do an inperson tour of the complex (though we’ve already done a drive through).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As a former science teacher, I was intrigued about how you “tinkered with gravity”! 🙂 Great story, Gary! What an adventure! I can’t believe you took that tree down with a HAND saw!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As I was reading this coffee post it sparked a memory for me. There was a tree at my grandmother’s cottage when I was young, I think it was a birch tree because I remember it had white bark with black highlights. Anyway, that tree grew near the water line and there was a good drop from the ground into the water. Enter gravity and time (haha). That tree didn’t grow straight p towards the beautiful blue sky. Nope, that tree grew almost horizontal to the water line. It was a lovely place to sit and fish, read, or enjoy people’s company that were on the patio in lawn chairs. I loved that tree. As you can imagine it had to come out at some point and I was sad when I visited grama’s place and found it gone.

    Well, that was long winded of me!

    Great coffee share Gary. Good luck with your yard project!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shari. I have so many tree-related memories, that I really do need to create a tree story using some of those memories.
      BTW: This morning, I was correcting a typo in my story “Not Forgotten” based on your photo of the cemetery in Dawson City. I like that story so much that I doubt I’ve thanked you enough for sharing that photo. It remains one of my favorite photo prompts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I look forward to reading a tree story when you get around to writing and sharing. As for the picture, you are most welcome. I enjoy visiting cemeteries and that particular trip yielded some great photographs.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Good for you, Gary, Vince and I tried trimming, not cutting down our two large fruitless mulberry trees the spring of the first year we lived in our house in 2002. We never did that again. We learned our lesson with trees and that was to let someone else do it. It’s hard, and potentially dangerous work. Other people go about it more safely and much more efficiently than we did that first year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Marsha and thanks for spending some time reliving this experience with me. With all the gravitational and geometric vectors involved, it was both a mental, and physical workout. The poor tree is mostly cleared up now (I’m down to just most of the dead trunk) and the rocks are closer to their new home further up the hillside. I may have lost enough sweat to prepay my man-card dues for the next 3 years, but lord, do I need a nap. . .
    Blessings. I’m so pleased that you stopped by.


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