Life and Limb

You really could not pay me enough to do this kind of work:

That was the view from my back deck a couple of days ago, as crews removed two stately, gigantic white oaks from the lot of my neighbor to the rear.  A third massive oak had blown over during Hurricane Irene, quite close to their house, so I guess the homeowners figured they didn’t want to chance it with these other two.  I am very sad to see them go, but have been thoroughly transfixed by the precarious process of removal.

Being afraid of heights, I cannot even imagine scaling a tree that large.  I don’t care how many ropes are attached to me or how big the spikes on my boots — it’s terrifying.  I’d always thought that tree removal of this magnitude could only be done with a cherry-picker and a crane, but these guys were doing it freestyle. 

In the picture below, you can see the huge piece of branch that the crewman just cut as it plunges to the ground.  Ropes are attached to these pieces before they’re cut so that they won’t crash into the roof of the house, but then they swing wildly back and forth before they hit the ground, sometimes coming close to knocking the climber out of the tree.  Ack!!!

Here’s a closer shot of the climber, with his chainsaw dangling from a rope: 

Just looking at these pictures makes my stomach queasy and my palms sweaty.  Not surprisingly, tree trimming is one of the most dangerous — and most unregulated — jobs out there.   And of course we all know the quality of work varies immensely from crew to crew — and that good work costs.

I honestly can’t imagine the price tag for removing those huge oak trees.  (They’re not done yet — they’ve already been at it for 3 days and still aren’t finished.)  Last year, we had a mature ash tree fall in a storm, and it cost us $1000 to get it all cut up and hauled away.  That price may have been inflated since it was a bit of an emergency (the tree actually fell right in front of my neighbor’s front door — oops!) but it seems that even a nice crown thinning on a large tree often pushes a grand.

I hope that guy who’s climbing those huge white oaks is getting some serious cash for risking his life, but I sure am glad it’s not coming out of my pocket.

14 thoughts on “Life and Limb

  1. Oh yeah…no WAY I’d be up there! It makes me so sad to see trees like that go. I had no idea how expensive good tree trimming is until our neighbor across the street told us how much bids were for trimming her oaks…yikes! Luckily for us all, she’s just having old, dead wood cut out…and opening them up a bit…I’d hate to see them go.

    • Scott, you’re right…it is really sad to see big trees go. You live with their presence for years and years, taking them for granted, and then suddenly there’s this huge empty space in your life….literally. Sniff.

  2. Having had several mature longleaf pines removed from our yard in Mobile, Alabama, after they died from beetle infestations, I can totally agree that it’s harrowing to watch (and worry) while a big tree is being taken out of a yard.

    There is a way to be sure that you get someone who knows what they are doing and who doesn’t take unnecessary risks, though. Just be sure they are qualified arborists – they usually advertise themselves as such. They may be more expensive, but then they should be, as they’ve spent the time and money to get education so they know what they’re doing.

  3. I can tell you from experience that this is something to be left to professionals. In my twenties, I was told by the power company that I would have to trim some limbs from a large willow tree that was blocking them from running a power line to my new house on the side of a hill. Long a climber of trees, but never a willow tree, I undertook the task. The fall was from forty feet. I suffered only a broken foot at the time, but the knee and hip on that side of my body are reminding me now of that misadventure every waking moment.

    Willows are brittle and do not like to be climbed. Pay the professional!

  4. Mary,
    It is fascinating and terrifying to watch a crew take a tree down. We have a number of 100+-year-old oaks and gums in our yard and have had to take four of them out. The guy who runs the tree service told me that most of the cost of the procedure was for insurance. I believe it.

    Continuing to enjoy your blog. Write on!

  5. We had to have a tree trimmed up last summer. We are complete DIY’ers. No project will we not attempt to do ourselves – except that! We paid a crew to come out, and it was truly amazing to see them work. It was worth every penny we paid them to keep us from climbing up those trees! Very interesting post – love the pics!

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