Friday, April 19, 2013

Tarzan the Tree Man

I thought of a GREAT dinner idea the other night...cookies!  And that way I didn't have to worry about any dessert.  What a time saver!

So I had my tree guy, Tarzan, out the other day, a month or two ago.  I've had him out every year since we moved in.   Even if he accomplished nothing, he is incredibly entertaining to watch.  He swings through the trees with the greatest of ease...

The first year he took down two or three oaks that opened up the space necessary to complete Chicken Fantasia Land.  He also took down three others that were close to house which also opened up enough room to allow me to make Hammock Land.  My lovely wife's fabulous parents gave me a wonderful hammock circa 2004 that I FINALLY have the appropriate room for.  There is room for one that as well as another hammock that a good friend gave me that he purchased for me down in the Yucatan.

 That's the way I swing from trees.

The next year he cleaned up a lot of dead stuff in an area where an old swing set yet exists.  The swing sets actually in pretty good condition, probably been up there at least a decade.  A little grease, a little lightening, it could almost be a little frightening.  

Then just a scant hopping distance laterally across the hill is the old, dilapidated remnants of some form of a tree house.  I have no photo of that at this moment since it will be fully covered in a future post once we start in on a major tree chalet.  I want to wait until our Grandson is old enough to work on it as well, which is yet a couple years away.

Anyway, Tarzan cleaned out a lot of dead limbs up there which of course would have eventually fallen on their own.  But picking and choosing the time of it's plummet is really desired in higher trafficked areas.   Especially when Grandchildren are concerned.  He also took down a few by the garden shack and started in on one of the main front oaks as far as cleaning it up for the upcoming view.

Then he took down the main line all the way, all those scrub oaks and pines along the left side of the frame.  Most of them were impinging on the potential view, and they were going to come down anyway with the landscaping plans I currently have running around my cranium.

That one above was the before, the one below after.  My son-in-law actually took down a few of them when he was earning his lumberjack badge.  Tarzan took down the taller three which had the potential of falling on the propane tank if not fallen properly. 

Future plans call for a row of 3 or 4 (probably) Almond trees, maybe Dogwood, along the left side of the property shown above.  A little spring time color will be a welcome addition down yonder.

This time out Tarzan, AKA Mike, cleaned up the two majestic oaks in front, affording our front covered porch, or veranda, as I prefer to call it, a wonderful western, sunset view.  There were also about eight sprigs of mistletoe in one of the oaks that he trimmed out as well.  Then he took down a medium pine, which ended up being a huge pole in the middle of the view.


And wallah:


When we first bought the house, we had no idea there was a view, there were that many trees.  But then, as the story goes, I was sitting on the porch one evening at sunset, and through the branches and leaves I saw all this wonderful red and orange color and began to wonder, "What if?"

That little arched frame between the trees captures the sun setting from November through January, with the sunset moving off towards the north, or right as the months progress into summer, slowly moving back in time so that we have our framed sunsets again for the holidays!

After Tarzan cleaned up those two trees above, he moved off to an even taller one to the right of these.  In this tree, at almost the very freaking top, sat a sprig of mistletoe.  That's about 80-90 feet in the air, doing a little ballet on a four inch diameter branch.  As far as I'm concerned, he's the best in Western Nevada County, and quite reasonable too.  If you know the right people.  If you know what I mean.  If you need a tree guy, gimme a holler, I'm a right person.

If you don't know, beside the fact mistletoe is a celebrated holiday botanical, it is an obligate hemi-parasitic plant in several families in the order Santalales. Say that real fast ten times.  These plants grow attached to and penetrating within the branches of a tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb nutrients from the host plant.  If left alone, it will spread and eventually kill it's host.

I did not want this to happen to this tree for a couple reasons.  First of all, it is a grand dame, and one that I want to become even more majestic than it already is.  Second of all, it has a prime branch and prime location for the rope swing of the century!

There is a nice, large branch about thirty feet up that is the swings "host".  To safeguard the limb so that we wouldn't cut off it's circulation and have it fall off in a few years, I ran the rope through a two foot section of two inch diameter black rubber hose.  Then Mike tied it on with a running Bowline knot, so that it will expand with the limb.

And there the rope dangled until I finished the seat and cleaned up the area a little bit.

The rope comes down from the limb in a single run, then goes in one hole, underneath the redwood seat and up the other side.  The seat is two feet wide, and should accommodate even my expanding rear end.   The rope is rated for 5 or 6 thousand pounds, and that should accommodate most mammals, even four legged ones, like a Moose, or a Caribou.  Like if they were your friends, wanted to swing and you lived in Canada.  And maybe drank a lot of beer.  Cause you'd have to drink a lot of beer to want to try and put a freaking moose or caribou in a swing.  What were you thinking?


It is finished off with a figure eight knot, used in rock climbing quite a bit and one of the strongest around.  I had some difficulty at first, because I had to incorporate the wood into the first portion of the knot.  I'm not great with knots anyway, so what should have taken five minutes took about thirty, but we got her done.  There's an extra 3-4 feet on the end of the rope, all dangled around so you can't really see the beautiful knot. There's still a couple potential minor variables yet, and I don't want to cut the rope until those are resolved.  None are a big deal, and more a preference than anything else.

The seat hangs loose about 3 feet off the ground, and about 8 feet downhill from the trunk of the tree.  But as you bring the swing back uphill it hits the ground just about where it's equal with the trunk.  After that the arch brings it back up.  So, I need to dig out a short strip of dirt down about a foot, or bring the seat up, or both.  But I don't want to raise the seat too much, because that shortens the height at the end.  And we're talking high.  Final peak should be 25-30 feet off the ground, maybe more.

As I said, the tree swing of the century.  I need to figure out some sort of harness for the Grand kids until they're a little older.  This is definitely an E-Ticket ride!

Once the rope was set we moseyed on up to the top of the drive and parking entrance for the grand finale.  There's actually a three tree row of Cedar trees on the low side of the drive below, and I have slowly cut away impinging oaks so that they may flourish and glow. 

You may also notice a medium size Ponderosa Pine in the foreground on the hill side in the photo.  I want this tree to flourish and glow.  However, you may notice a large gray shadow behind it, which are actually two Digger, Gray, or California Foothill Pines.

Their demise has been in my plans for a while, and it was now time.  I didn't want to fall them myself because I was concerned about the Cedar row, two of which were in the Diggers fall path.  So Mike went to work:



And laid them down perfectly.  He has been out three different times, been to the tippy top of extreme trees, almost every drop with potential ticklish consequences, and has made at least a hundred of 'em around my place.  He has not missed one spot yet.  We've had to tie off some branches and swing them around and down, with me helping on the ground, but otherwise, he flies solo, and quite well.

The ruckus above is all off the drive, but in a big pile on the lower side.  I have fervent hope I can get it all brushed and cleaned up tomorrow.  We'll have at least one more storm before the sun is nigh and I like to do my burns around wet weather.  It would be nice to have all those flammables burned on my terms before summer and the heat sets in.

And now, you can see the Ponderosa has room to grow happy, unfettered and free.  I have also started a row of Lilacs running along the top of the cliff, which runs to the right.  In a couple years that photo above should show a nice 2-4 foot high green hedge, with ample purple and quite fragrant blossoms popping in early spring.  The Hypericum is also doing well along the face of the cliff.  It is starting to take hold, and entire neighborhoods are springing up all over the place.  I will continue to concentrate on those areas, hand watering, supplying nutrients and adding wood chips as well as add new sprigs again this fall.

We met some more of our neighbors the other day.  What a treat!  Some newer neighbors had a "Meet the New Neighbors" Open House, and there was quite a good turn out.  We folks out here in the country can tend to get quite absorbed in our own little worlds, and of course one of the reasons one lives in the country is for a reasonable element of privacy.  You know, being able to pee outdoors just about anywhere and anytime you choose.  Now thats livin.

Fowl Update

Once again, if we ventured into Homonym Land we'd have a grand time with foul, wouldn't we?  The English language is so dang amusing.  Anyway, Goldie and the 8 remaining hens are doing well.  There was a two week period after the vicious hawk that we were only getting 2-4 eggs per day, which is low for our flock.  But after a couple weeks in counseling and recovery they have returned to their regular productivity, averaging 7-8 eggs per day out of an eight hen flock.  Who sez having a Rooster around ain't good for business?

You know, our flock is a health conscious bunch.  They love their salad, which is what I call any green weed I toss over their fence.  See, it's even a tossed salad!  And since I can't let them out anymore to graze the lawn due to the hawk danger, I bring the lawn bag to them.  I dump out the bag, and within seconds they're in there scratching and tearing it all up.  They love their greens! 

So last week went to the feed store to re-up on vittles for the birds.  Lo and behold, there, right in front, in a nice, large, oval cattle bath tub were Guinea Keets.  At half price no less.  So I made me go home with four of them.  The soon-to-be brave explorers, Lewis, Clark, Daniel and Boone are all getting to know each other in a much less crowded environment.

These intrepid little explorers will soon morph into the great and legendary Guinea Fowl, whose pest control prowess is world renowned.  They massacre ticks and other bugs, and also add rodents and reptiles to their diet.  The nice aspect of their foraging prowess is that they don't tear up the landscape when doing so.  Chickens, on the other hand, are worse than the deer and tear everything up they can get into, since they love their greens.

It will be interesting integrating the Guineas into the flock, especially with Goldie.  But once the Guineas are adult, they will pretty much be on their own.  They do not become comatose like chickens once the sun sets, and will roost in trees at night.

They are supposed to be pretty independent, and once adult they may or may not hang out with the flock.  They may or may not even hang around at all.  It is advised that we talk to them a lot now, since the sound of our voice may help keep them around.  To that end, neither my wife or myself will sing for them.  That would be bad and we might scare them away.  We are unabashed music appreciators, not facilitators.

The Guineas are also supposed to be fantastic "watch" birds, warning of any inherit danger to them or the flock, or even if a strange person approaches.  Now if I can train them to attack deer I really might have something going on.

I am formulating some reasonable flock integration plans, which will require another caged, secure area right next to the existing one.  I think I've got the perfect area for this, I just need a little more fencing.  I'll need this area anyway whenever I want to integrate any new hen into the flock.  It is advised to have them in a separate, but attached area for about a couple weeks.

That way the Guineas and Chickens will be within spitting distance of each other for a week or so but they won't be able to establish any blows.  Hopefully they'll just all start telling poultry jokes and cackle a lot, anticipating the moment when they can all hang out together and rub feathers.  I am quite excited about these new little additions to the homestead.  It will be an adventure to be sure, and you can bet I'll keep you all apprised.