Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cutting Down a Tree

Over the past three weeks or so, I've been cutting down a rather large banyan tree (ficus microcarpa) in our front yard. Now, I'm not fond of tree-killing, though I seem to have done more than my share over the years; but the damn thing is cracking our neighbor's wall and patio, and they aren't happy about it. Our front yard is ridiculously overarboreal anyhow.

Banyans do have a tendency to spread. Despite what the Little Prince thought, it's banyans, not baobabs, that can take over planets. (The photo is a banyan on Maui, not in our front yard. But you can see how our front yard might look in the not-too-distant future.)

Cutting it down over three weeks? you ask. Don't you just take out a wedge on one side, cut through from the other, and cry, "Timber"?

One might. But that approach works better with pines and firs, the classic pole-shaped trees. A banyan spreads easily as wide as it is tall, so lopping the branches after it is toppled is a risky proposition.

Plus, I'm an incrementalist. Rather than drag out the chainsaw first thing, I climb up into the tree with a pruning saw and, well, prune. Little branches and then bigger branches and finally major branches, until at the end the two-and-three-hundred-pound branches are the last to fall. All that takes a while, especially if you're doing other things. In this case, it has taken weeks.

So, it's a process rather than an event. I don't even think of it as chopping down a tree. I think of it as editing. Really aggressive editing.

A new X-sport for writers. (Next week on Extreme Editing: Reginald pares down a rampaging Bull Elephant.)


Frances Garrood said...

Just so long as you sit on the right bit of branch while you're doing it, David...

David Isaak said...

Hi, Frances--

I'm pretty sure I'm sitting on the right side with respect to the tree in question. BUt I'm not always so sure about where I'm sitting when I'm editing on the page...

Alis said...

Yikes, that sounds less like tree surgery and more like managing a whole hospital!

David Isaak said...

Hi, Alis--

The tree is down now and chopped into more firewood than I know what to do with.

Once I got the chainsaw out, however, medical analogies seemed inappropriate.