another tree falls in the forest

But first, this nice photo of some native phlox that was blooming downhill from the cabin. It’s getting to be spring flowering season in my Ozark woods, and while I used to try to identify each type I found, I gave that up and just enjoy them as they come.

So it looked as though we were going to get a break in the weather on Sunday, and since we’re occupied this coming weekend, we decided to make a dash out to the cabin when we could. Despite the weather not cooperating fully, we did have a productive time in the woods.

Arrival at the cabin involves a few routine chores. I will fill the bird feeder with safflower seed, and in the coming weeks, I’ll replace that with a hummingbird feeder. I always set (unsalted) peanuts on the old log near the cabin for the wood rat who lives in it, but I think the birds take most of them. I’ll rake the leaves away from the wooden cabin if there are any (not this trip). I’ll light some balsam incense in the small burner on my table so the cabin won’t smell (too much) like gym socks when the summer heat comes. I’ll inspect the water level in the lake (full pool this trip). I’ll think in the abstract about a hike to some far corner or working in the pines or the pecans. We set the comfy chairs on the shady deck overlooking the sparkling lake, and there we will have our lunch when the time is right.

On this trip I had not intended to cut down another large tree, and instead I began my chores with shoveling nine wheelbarrow loads of gravel to the west side of the cabin to clean and level the area (and to bury part of a drain pipe that the critters have moved into). I considered that a day’s worth of work: shoveling the gravel into the wheelbarrow, pushing it across un-level ground, spreading it evenly, then going back to do it eight more times. There is a good possibility that most of my grands will be visiting the cabin this summer, and I’d like them to spread marbles in the gravel, so I need to get it laid down while I can. (I’ll also need to get another load of gravel delivered so I can cover the area properly.) I was just finishing this work when the rain that was not in the forecast began. It was really a drizzle, but it was a good time for me to retreat.

When that was done, we sat down to lunch (cheese sandwiches on pretzel buns, fruit, and for me, iced tea, unsweetened, of course). Some geese visited the lake, and we watched for an appearance by the beavers. They’ve been busy in our absence, cutting down more trees across the lake (and trimming some cedars on the cabin side of the lake), and they’ve built a large pile of sticks against the mud bank to protect their den. So far, though, no appearances.

As we sat and mused, something like sunshine began penetrating the clouds overhead, and I got the notion that I could cut down a cedar tree beside the road down to the dam. We have an old weather vane that once caused leaks in the roof of our garage, and I thought I could mount it on a stump, if not for actual weather prognostications then for whimsy. I had been planning to put a mailbox on the stump (if I ever cut down the tree) but the weather vane took top position when that idea struck me.

So with the rain stopped and a weak sunlight reaching the ground, I decided to fire up the old chainsaw and bring down the tree. Once I got started, it was quick work. For some reason, the wood was easy to rip through. I did the wedge cut and then the back cut (a little too low, but I wasn’t killed, so that’s a win). The tree landed in the road just as I intended when I cut the wedge where I did. Behold:

There’s the stump on the right. My trusty chainsaw in the foreground. The fallen cedar tree. The bright green strip you see beyond the tree is the top of the dam. (It’s farther away than it appears.) And through the trees on the right you can see part of the lake. The water was muddy because of the recent rains. I don’t think the fish mind. When it rains, all kinds of good things to eat wash into the lake.

You can see I had begun trimming the branches from the fallen tree. My wife and I dragged them into the forest here and there, and then I began cutting the trunk of the fallen tree into manageable lengths for carrying into the forest as well. Cedar is aromatic when it burns, but it pops a lot and throws embers out of the fire ring.

I’d say we were about a third finished with this project when the rain began again. It was more than a drizzle this time, and we had to retreat to the cabin porch and wait it out. We could have just packed to go home then, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving a tree in the road like this, so I paced and looked to the sky and fumed a little. And it seemed to have worked, for the rain let up and we could finish the job. The rest of the trimming and cutting went quickly, and soon we had the tree parts dispatched in the nearby forest.

Here is the top of the stump in raw form:

It won’t retain that rich red color, which is a shame. I need to trim this into two angles down, both to shed water so it doesn’t rot too soon, and to accept the bracket that the weather vane is mounted on. But that will be a chore for another visit since the rain decided we were getting too much work done and resumed its falling.

So with gravel shoveling and tree felling, I decided I had gotten enuf work done too, and we began packing up to head home. It was then that I discovered that during the two downpours, the windows of the truck and been left down. No serious flooding though since the slope of the ground where it was parked meant the truck was tilted away from the rain. Still, I seem to need this kind of lesson a few times each year.

Here is what fresh cedar sawdust looks like:

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