Last summer, a nasty storm brought down a large red oak tree on the edge of the Mountain field. Two large branches stuck in the ground holding the trunk about a foot off of the top line of the fence. In the fall, we trimmed out the top of the tree leaving just the large central trunk and a few branches. Since then we cordoned the area from the cattle just in case the tree gave way, if or when, the cows rubbed against it.
Last week, felling the remaining trunk of the tree finally bubbled to the top of farm to-do list. With the two limbs holding the trunk high off the ground, we decided to use the excavator bucket to get high enough to cut the trunk. This was my first time running the excavator and I was more than a little nervous. My job was to lift Bill up in the air close enough to cut the tree but far enough to avoid the falling limbs from hitting the bucket.
I took a few minutes to practice with the controls. The last thing I wanted to do was confuse up and down while he was standing in the bucket holding a running chain saw. No pressure.
Let the chain sawing begin! We follow many safety practices such as ear muffs, gloves and pre-job planning, but the harness was too constraining so Bill took it off. We also reviewed our own personal hand signals before beginning. Closed fist is “STOP”, thumbs up is “Raise The Bucket”, thumbs down is “Lower The Bucket” and middle finger is “Put The Phone Down And Move the Machine”.
Suddenly, as the chain saw cuts and tree limbs fall, the cows begin to take notice – a cow is basically a very curious creature. At first, two of the young heifers Rita and Pearl, gather to watch the activity happening at the end of the field.
Then the two Wise girls join in, not wanting to miss anything. The grass around the fallen tree has not been grazed all summer so as soon as they realize the line is down, all of the cows move in, excited for the fresh food.
I think this is an example of why farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. There is always so much to take care of around the farm that farmers learn to just get it done.
Soon every cow had gathered to oversee the tree removal and sample the fresh grass. As if removing a huge, dangerous tree was not enough to concentrate on, we suddenly had to deal with a whole herd of curious cattle milling about the work site.
As I drove the excavator from one side of the tree to the other, I liberally used the horn to startle the cows out of my path. Otherwise, they would just stand and stare at me, not moving at all.
At the end of the job, Shane decided to check out the remaining stump and rub his neck against the rough bark. Before we left the field, I put the posts and line back up to keep the cattle away from the remaining tree trunk. Just in case!