I will freely admit to anyone that I have chainsaw anxiety. It's not a made up, drama queen, kind of attention seeking behavior, but true, honest, anxiety. I grew up around chainsaws - it was how wood was cut and that wood was used to heat my Grampa's garage and my Dad's home. The adults in my life who used them were safety conscious and had respect for the machine, and they taught me the same.
I must have been about 7 or 8 years old when my Grampa had a chainsaw accident. He hit a knot, there was kick back and he was cut from his neck down the middle of his chest. The way the story was told, he grabbed his handkerchief, covered up the cut, walked into the house and told my Gramma that he had an accident. He waited on the front porch for the ambulance and walked down the front path to meet it. He recovered in record time - missed the jugular by about a 1/4 of an inch.
As an adult, I've had anxiety whenever I've been around chainsaws. I knew that I would have to deal with it sooner or later when we bought this tree rich property. I trust my husband implicitly, and feel I have done very well being around him chainsawing the hundreds of trees we've taken down. I've had to stand very close a few times, and kept things in check. I have my escape route planned out well ahead of time and use it even if it's not necessary. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
So, today, we had to take down a 13 inch in diameter, 50 foot tall (45 year old) sand pine. Mark turns to me and asks me if I want to do it. Um...okay. I think. I don't know what the heck I'm doing, but I observe a lot and knew this tree was a textbook felling and one that would be easily manageable for me. At least that's what I told myself.
Mark cut the wedge out of the front of the tree and then turned the saw over to me. We talked about how to hold the chainsaw, how I should stand, how to use the throttle/gas, and how to move it through the tree. We went over my escape route and what to do when I heard the tree start to move.
I had a little trouble moving the saw through the tree, but Mark helped me and I heard the crack! I pulled the saw out, took a few steps back and watched it fall. My heart was literally beating out of my chest and I felt like I couldn't stop smiling. It was the purest of adrenaline rushes, but it was also so much more than that for me.
I faced a real fear, head on.//tr
More central drive clearing and the establishment of the first trail into the property. The plan is to establish connector trails that lead from the central driveway and link to each of the property borders. The north connector trail is the first of these inroads.
Today we set our four corner posts. This was a pretty simple task that was made more difficult due to extreme heat conditions and limited vehicular access. We persevered and completed the task.
Our corner posts were purchased through the local dock maker and are basically marine-grade pylons. Each post is no less than 7 inches in diameter and hand dug to a depth of 3 foot deep, back filled and packed tight with a 60 pound bag of Sackrete.
From start to finish it took us about 4 hours to complete this milestone task. Sitting at home, clean, comfortable, and toasting with a glass of wine in the air conditioning, it's starting to really sink about how important this job was for us today. Any good project starts with a solid cornerstone - today we laid four of them. The foundation for our fence and ultimately, our farm.//tr
This tree was 65 feet tall, circumference at cut was 58" and it was only a 42 year old sand pine. Unfortunately, it would impede on the fencing progress, and contribute to fire risk with dropping it's dead, shaggy, dry branches. Such is life, some monuments both made-made and natural must yield to progress. In other words folks, you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet.
It had to happen. We had to do work along the main road. The North, South and West lines have all been cut. The East side road frontage is the only line that has work remaining on it. The goal was to make a cut into the property that will first serve as a place for us to park our vehicles on our own land as well as begin to establish our future driveway.
We have avoided this for a couple of reasons. First, the road is on the East side of the property. From about 7 am to 8 am its nice and shady. After that, it's not a pleasant area to work because you are being baked. Somehow the jungle heat of the interior of the property paled in comparison to that day's work due to the blazing sun. We would have to walk across the glaring limestone road that captured every last ray from the burning star overhead to seek relief in the only sliver of shade within sight.
The second reason we have been avoiding working along this section of the property is that it is inevitable people are going to stop and start asking questions. While this is not a bad thing - we both feel knowing our neighbors is beneficial - it feels kind of weird being the couple questioned. We do understand the curiosity of two strangers hacking away along the road with hoes, rakes and shovels on a piece of property that has sat idle for greater than 20 years.
So the day we worked the road, we met some of the locals. The conversations and comments ran the gamut from "you're not going to cut these trees down and clear this land, are you" to "cut them all down, they are all junk trees!" Mostly everyone was kind and welcoming. They asked what our plans were and if we would be moving out there soon. It’s funny, because when we asked a few questions of our own, many of the negative comments about the area centered around the roads. The road and it’s access is actually one of the reason why we chose this particular piece of land. One guy was trying to scare us by telling us all about the multiple 5 foot rattle snakes he kills all the time. When my husband extended his hand into the truck’s cab to shake hands, he later commented that he got a contact drunk off the guy. It’s is Florida, and the saying goes, “up by 7, drunk by 11.” A couple of folks were even bold enough to ask us what we paid for the property. We were perfectly fine offering up this information, it is public record, but I don’t ever recall asking a stranger what they purchased their home or property for. Immediately after asking that, they harkened back to the days of the last real estate bubble.
We achieved our goal for the day of being able to park our vehicle on our own land. The fact that neither of us had a heat stroke was an added bonus. //tr&mr
It's mid-July, in Florida, and it's hot. I must preface this though with a statement that Florida is not the hottest place we have ever dealt. We lived for many years in Arkansas, where triple digit temperatures, straight-up, no heat index were normal. Don't even get me started on the heat index... Florida is a different kind of heat - more along the lines of a jungle heat. If you wander into the shade, it's instantly cooler. If you sit down and put a cold water soaked bandana on your neck, it's instantly cooler. If you eat your weight in watermelon, you are instantly brought back to a cooler internal temperature.
You have to be careful, and you have to pace yourself. You have to know your limitations, and you have to know what you can and cannot do. You have to rest when you feel fatigue setting in and you need to stay hydrated.
We worked for about 6 hours today with rest breaks totaling around 45 minutes. We sat in the shade, we drank Gatorade and ate watermelon. We brought enough water to last us twice as long as we were out there. We achieved our goal for today (clearing the West line) and decided to eat our sandwiches and take a little break before packing everything out. As I was inhaling the last bit of sandwich, I found myself staring off into the landscape. You know, that far off stare where your mind is completely empty and void of all thoughts. I finally heard a voice, "stay with me sunshine". Ooops! It was time to go home. A bit more water, a nice change of clothes, and a sweaty walk back to the car put an end to me. It was a pit stop at the ABC store, then straight home to the pool to cool off - gotta get back out there in the morning!! //tr
There is something special about using hand tools. Sure it would be easier and quicker to rent the equipment or hire the workers to clear the land, but what fun would that be? In just one day using only hand tools we were able to clear away a path about 4 foot wide and 200 feet long. We are both extremely pleased with that.
It is an exercise not only in clearing the fence row, but in access. The property is thick with scrubby underbrush which makes maneuvering through it very difficult. The exercise in clearing the land is also one that will enable us to learn about our land. We will learn where the live oak stands are, where the trees we need to remove are, and where the bumps and depressions are. We can decide where we want to put meadows, gardens, and our home site.
Yesterday we hacked and sawed and machete'd our way along the North boundary. Today will be much of the same. It's not easy, but strangely satisfying. The quote by Robert Frost: "The only way out is through" kept creeping into my mind to keep up the momentum. I love the feeling of accomplishment I am already feeling from just a mere 200 feet of open space. Only 400 feet to the pin!
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.