More tree removal with a crane!

We finished the Mulberry tree re-topping I wrote about in my last post, then moved things into place for today’s job – removing a large Mulberry tree with a crane. This tree was in a trailer park and had extensive rot in the trunk and branches from age (50+ years old) and previous poor pruning practices. We had trimmed all the deadwood out of it last summer and the decision was made to remove it.
One branch was over a trailerhome and another over a large fifth-wheel camper. This, plus the condition of the tree made a crane necessary to remove it safely. Our plan was to remove the large branches, lay them in the roadway, cut off the chippable branches, and load the logs with the crane. We would then deliver the logs to a firewood cutter (for him to process and eventually sell) and come back to do the chipping and cleanup.
Here is the tree at the outset of the project. You can see all the obstacles under it!

There it was!

This removal would be a little different from taking down the palm tree with a crane which we did last week. A palm tree is straight up from the ground so the crane load line is always vertical. Here you can see all the horizontal branches over targets! First I needed to get up with the lift and attach the load line to the end of the branch with a webbing sling. Thanks to some spectators I got some pictures with me in the lift!

Fighting my way through brush to where I need to be!

To get the horizontal branches off the tree without causing damage we needed to do some tricky stuff! With the end of the branch tied off (making sure we were in sound, and not rotten wood!) I made a notch in the TOP of the branch. Usually when you knock a tree over you use the open or closed face notch on the downhill side, what’s going on here? Well, the top will become the “downhill” side with the crane’s help! I notched the top and cut from the bottom to create a hinge. Once the hinge is established, the crane can lift the end of the branch until the whole thing is vertical! Then I just needed to cut through the hinge and the piece comes straight up and away from the tree. In the picture below, I just about have the hinge established. This branch was already coming up fairly straight so the effect isn’t as dramatic.

Cutting the hinge.

It sounds easy, and it is except for one thing. We never know where the center of gravity is on a limb. Once the piece is cut loose from the tree it can do some strange things like twist or roll, flip completely over, or just spring up to horizontal again. That is why I like having a crane operator that knows their stuff! I’ve had two limbs in the 12″ to 15″ diameter range and 2-4,000lbs brush my helmet during these maneuvers – I don’t like that! Today things went very well.

Shannon cutting slash with the crane operator in the background.

The branches always take up a lot more room on the ground than it seems that they should. We had quite a pile once the whole tree was on the ground! We moved the chipper over and got everything chipped in about an hour, after the crane left.

Front row... seat?

I got ahead of the ground crew and was waiting for the crane to finish loading logs before hooking him up to the end of the last branch to be removed. It was a neat perspective! I enjoy working with a crane because it takes most of the risk and a lot of the drudgery out of the job. The only downside is the cost – we can’t justify it on most of our jobs.

Tomorrow we’ll be cleaning up a bunch of trees in a front yard. Then on Friday we will be trimming some huge old California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) in advance of a realtor’s open house for a very very nice, exclusive property here in Wickenburg. I will try to get some photos!