Appalachia Logging Pap

Cutting Trees

wood cutting

When we first moved in, 20 years ago, we had lots of trees right up close to the house and not much yard. A few years later we had the yard re-graded so there’d be room for the girls to play and room for me to grow a garden. After the grading work was completed, we thought our problem with trees was over.

Snowy pine trees in appalachia

I’ve always loved the stand of white pines above our house. When it snows, its like having your own live Christmas card right outside the window. But man can white pines grow in the span of 20 years!

I first noticed the size of the trees as the shade began to reach farther and farther into my garden beds each summer. The Deer Hunter noticed them as he looked at their proximity to the house every time a bad storm was forecasted.

Several years ago he said he was tired of worrying about the girls sleeping in their bedroom whenever the wind blew and he cut two of the worst offenders. The girls were at school and I don’t care to tell you I went inside and covered my ears when he cut both of those trees.

We were so relieved at having the worst two gone, that we let the others slip to the back of our mind and those sneaky trees seemed to grow twice as fast once we forgot about them.

A few weeks ago, we had to get a tree at Miss Cindy’s new place taken down, there was no waiting on that one. It’s large limbs reached in all directions over the house, the garage, the studio, and the shed. The grand old tree had been dying for several years and those massive reaching limbs were all dead. Last winter I worried about one of them crashing down on Miss Cindy while she slept.

Tree cutting in western nc

While The Deer Hunter’s friend, Scott, helped him tackle the one at Miss Cindy’s, we decided the time had come to get rid of our white pine worries for good. Scott works for the NC Forest Service and cutting difficult trees is his specialty. It’s a good thing it is, because some of ours turned out to be worse than difficult.

Logging tradition in western nc

Most of the tree cutting took place while I was still at work. The Deer Hunter gets off much earlier than I do…of course he goes to work much earlier too. Good thing these two jaybirds were there to fetch and run when the tree cutters needed something. They also did a pretty good job of documenting the whole affair for their Momma.

A few things to notice as you look at the photos below-anytime you spot a bit of reddish brown color through the trees that’s the roof of our house; when you see a bit of white that’s the greenhouse; and when you notice a smooth area of green you can tell it’s the yard. Seeing those items peek through the woods offers a sense of how close the trees were to the house. The spots are hard to see-they probably jump out at me because I know where to look. A few of the photos show the steep grade the wood cutters were dealing with.

using a winch to cut trees

Using a winch to cut trees in wnc

With the trees being so close to the house, there were a few that Scott didn’t feel comfortable cutting without first winching them to another tree farther up the ridge. They were able to use The Deer Hunter’s truck as a pulling point for the tree nearest the kitchen.

Logging techniques in appalachia

how to make a tree fall where you want it to

Using a winch to cut trees in wnc

If it doesn’t matter where the tree falls, then cutting a tree is an easy job for an experienced wood cutter. If it does matter where it falls, then it takes some time and effort to study out the best way to cut the tree.

Climbing a tree to tie to another one

Climbing a tree to winch it off

Climbing a tree to tie it off

Scott climbed several of the trees to find the right winching point as an added precaution to ensure the tree fell where he wanted it too.

Wilderness in brasstown nc
The safety of ourselves and our home is what pushed us to cut the trees. The very week before we started, a tree fell on my friend’s mother’s house. No one was hurt thank goodness-but the house was badly damaged and unfortunately the lady isn’t sure how or if she’ll be able to repair it.

As you can see from the photo we live in a wilderness (yay me!). The trees will be missed by our eyes that are used to seeing them but if you drove up to our house today the only way you’d know there’d been any tree cutting going on is from the mess it leaves behind.

I’m excited to see what the extra sunshine does for my garden next summer and I’m anxious to see what wildflowers spring up in those exposed places next spring. Sometimes when the earth or the woods are disturbed plants that have laid dormant for years come to life.

Like much of western North Carolina and beyond, the area surrounding our house has been logged at least 2 times if not more. And by logged I mean they cut most all of the trees instead of a selective few. Pap can remember the logging and fascinating to me, he can remember what grew back after each logging session. Our white pines haven’t been here all that long. Maybe I can get Pap to tell you about it himself in a day or so.

Pap’s already been cautioning the girls about keeping their eyes on the smaller trees growing around the house. He said “Next time it’ll be you having them cut instead of your Daddy. Don’t let them get ahead of you like him and Tipper did.”



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  • Reply
    June 2, 2017 at 3:00 am

    I enjoyed reading this.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    October 17, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Glad you had someone to help who knows what they’re doing take down trees, especially if they’re close to buildings.
    A few years ago, our sister’s neighbor had a tree leaning towards his house. The way I heard it is, he had her call our brother who worked for an arborist along with a few others who gave him estimates he didn’t like, so he went out, bought himself a chain saw and tried to take it down himself where it landed leaning right on the side of his garage. So then he called our brother back who went and took a look, and walked away shaking his head and saying, “No thank you.” So he ended up bringing in someone else who had to rent a crane to take it off the garage so it could be laid down right where they needed it to be to cut into smaller pieces so nothing else got damaged. It probably ended up costing him 4-6 times more than if he’d just let an experienced arborist take it down in the first place. Thank God no one got hurt.
    Then on a tv show, a couple tried to take a tree down with her in the truck pulling and him manning the chain saw. He notches the tree, she starts the truck and starts pulling. Turned out the truck was sitting in pine straw which caught on fire beneath the truck setting the truck on fire. With their kids crying and screaming at her to run, she jumps out in time to save her life before the whole truck goes up in flames. Now the tree is half cut through, the truck is on fire, and they have to call the fire department and an actual arborist to come take down the tree. And I bet it cost them a bunch, because he’d already notched the tree making it too dangerous for the arborist to climb to take it down in pieces, but that’s how some people have to learn, I guess.
    Hope everyone’s having a good weekend.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    George, I could be wrong but that looks like an H inside a rounded off square with 3 points at the top under that yellow taped front handle. Plus, the slots in the chain brake are horizontal. I think its a Husqvarna. Stihl makes a good saw too!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    I have always found tree cutting science a fascinating job. I like to watch what I am cutting and when I trim branches from my trees with the pole cutter, I usually wear them. Not a very smart way, but I haven’t figured out how to cut and not have the branches fall on my head!

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    October 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Those two tree cutters look like they know how to do it. Their saw looks like mine-a Stihl 044?

  • Reply
    October 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Like you, I love living in the
    Wilderness and all those pictures
    remind me of my wood-cutting days. I’m not able to fell trees anymore, but I still enjoy burning wood in my woodstove.
    Years ago, me and a buddy cut 14
    big trees off my upper property
    and halfed the wood. That was fun…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 16, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I like your description of the twins as jaybirds. I doubt your jaybirds are noisy, bold and aggressive like the flying kind.
    Most people call them blue jays but I have always called them jaybirds.
    I worked with a guy whose first name was Jay. We called him Jaybird. He did fit the description.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 16, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Every year a white pine grows a ring of new branches (limbs) with one shoot coming out of the center. At the end of this years growth a new ring will start all over again next spring. You can tell how old the tree is without coring or cutting it by counting those rings.
    After they got established some of my father’s white pines would grow as much as five feet in height each year. At that rate your pines could have grown 100 feet since you moved there.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    October 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Thanks Tipper,
    As a child in the Sawmill Town of Cass W. Va. I had a total of three toys: A pocket knife, a fishing pole, homemade mostly, from Cane and a “Pole Axe.
    I remember “Blazing” a trail to a high up location in the Cheat Mountains near the logging operation, Mower Lumber Company. We found a “Spring” on a ridge, cold, just right for Pepsi or RC cola. My friends and I proceeded to cut young Birch, or was it Cherry Trees to build a log cabin. These beautiful logs measured about eight inches in diameter. We cut “Saplings” for a slant roof. A door and one window, open space, dirt floor, and we had a fine shelter, sort of a real “Lincoln” Logs thing.
    Now, in California, I am aware of the Redwood Harvest (Mining) controversy and I have taken a stand. No cutting of ancient old growth trees except for disease, fire damage etc. Management of forests based on Scientific Research and aesthetic consideration.
    In other words, we need to have a very good reason to cut any tree. Your need for safety & sunshine, of course are good reasons, of course.
    My Grandad was a pioneer in Steam Skidder design to raise the cut logs high above smaller trees. This saved a lot of young trees from the damage caused by skidding logs along the ground.
    I visited the Black Forest in Southern Germany some time ago. It resembles a Corn Field because of replanting, necessary because of earlier destruction especially during WWII. I enthusiastically support the Great Smokey Mountain Park decision, although my Grandad didn’t like Roosevelt & his politics at all.
    West Virginia has been “Logged Over” four times, at least they say. My dad called the timber “Poles” small, mostly for Pulpwood use. I lobby for the preservation of natural forests now. One of the most important things I did as the child of a “Wood Hick” was to replant hundreds of trees in Appalachia.
    Long story, Thanks for listening.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 16, 2015 at 8:58 am

    White pine outgrows any other tree in the southern Appalachians in both height and diameter except for yellow poplar on the very best sites. Unfortunately, they also tend to lose their tops in ice or heavy wet snow. And they get lightening struck, maybe because they are usually much taller than any other species growing around them. There is a small patch on my neighbor’s place and I think every one of them had their tops break out in the ice storm back in the spring.
    Like you though, I think snow on white pines or hemlock are a natural Christmas card.
    I’ll bet the Deer Hunter has plans for those trees though.

  • Reply
    Teresa Atkinson
    October 16, 2015 at 8:54 am

    i love that I recognized the view of the house and yard. I love that we have enjoyed visiting with you and I can’t wait to see how the yard changes with the new light. Gun season starts tomorrow — Matt and Tony coming down?

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 16, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Boys do love their toys, you can see that on the faces of the guys on the third picture down.
    This has been quite a process at both houses. I didn’t think to get pictures like you did, Tip. My trees has to be cut from the top down to avoid damage to the surrounding buildings. They brought in a lift and cut my trees one small piece at a time to avoid damaging any buildings.
    A big thanks to Scott and the Deer Hunter, now we can both see the light!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    October 16, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I so enjoyed your story of tree cutting and identified with it, as when Grover and I lived so long at our home in Epworth, GA (Fannin County –in the mountains, too) we had to have some stately trees cut for the same reasons as beset you and the Deer Hunter and your place. Safety becomes a primary consideration and decisions about cutting-or-not take precedence. Your account is one we all should consider if we have trees that pose a threat to house and person safety. Even here at my home in middle Georgia, Milledgeville, I’ve had to have trees cut to prevent them falling on my house in a storm. Not an easy decision, but sometimes a necessary one–before it is “too late.”

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