Our backyard hillside is home to many different kinds of trees. Their root systems help with erosion control, which makes me feel more secure in our house atop the hill.  A few fir trees, a western dogwood, and a couple of others I have yet to identify tower above our home.  They grow among our outdated retaining wall that seems to have two not-so-defined levels.  It’s a little too charming in its worn appearance.  Some of the chunks of stone have rolled downhill at some point, but others have remained in place collecting moss to brighten up the shade from the trees.  I have no idea what one side of the wall looks like since ivy overtook it in the years before our arrival.   For now, the wall holds, but I can’t say the same for the trees.

After suffering the first real drought in recent memory, western Washington’s weather pendulum has swung in the complete opposite direction. Rising rivers have threatened floods and landslides are a real probability with the rain soaked, over-saturated earth.  High winds have also toppled trees.  Yes, those same trees holding up our hill.

After one particularly windy storm, we found one of our thin fir trees broken in half. The broken half was connected by a small amount of trunk and dangling down the hillside.  I had made a note to scale the hill and cut off the broken part.  I had to wait until the weekend since the winter daylight hours were scarce.  My plan of attack was to climb the hill from the lower lawn and saw off the broken part. I marched my pruning saw down our stair less path to tackle it and discovered a bigger issue.   Much bigger.

Tree over fence

One of our unidentified deciduous trees had uprooted from the lower part of our hill and fell across our lower yard, smooshing an overgrown rhododendron in its path, and resting its top about 5 feet over our fence.  I’m still surprised our old fence held. With almost a foot in diameter, I knew the clean up was going to be a chore. We have a chainsaw, but I swear it was made for giants. Plus, it’s very hard to start and once that’s done, the stress of keeping all my limbs in tact is just too much for me. I know my limits. My husband was out golfing that morning so I was on my own.

Sure. I could have waited, but it wasn’t raining, which is pretty much the perfect time to get things done in the yard as long as daylight cooperates. So I collected a variety of tools and set them along side the tree.  My loppers, a hacksaw, and my pruning saw. After some experimentation, the pruning saw came out the winner.



I worked up a sweat sawing back and forth. It took a while, but I was able to relieve rhododendron of the trunk that was smashing it. The top of the tree dipped down on the roadside with its newly cut end sticking up over the fence. I cut the tree a second time, close to the fence, and watched the very tip of the tree fall over the fence to the roadside below. The fence was safe. The rhododendron was safe. And I still had all my limbs attached. Success was mine.

I was able to climb half way up the hill and remove the broken top of the smaller tree. I then found two more tree victims. One slender tree had fallen over and I was able to fairly easily drag it from the hill and then saw it into smaller pieces. I found another small tree close to our fence that was leaning on a bigger tree. My pruning saw made quick work of that one, but I did end up slipping and falling on my ass when I tugged it away. Good times.

It would be a few months later until my husband started up that chainsaw and zipped up the remaining trunk that divided our lower yard in two. I was worried for his limbs as well since he doesn’t seem to have the same sense of self-preservation that I do. Other than me wringing my hands, it was fairly uneventful. Now there is just a small, uprooted stump partially stuck at the bottom of our hillside. It will wait for a small team of men to be gathered for its removal.

I think I’ll keep my day job. Logging is not for me.

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