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Manual Labor for a Clear Head: Clearing Wood

We’d been wanting to do some serious tree trimming for a while in our hugely overgrown yard. And while I can get to spots here and there with a pole trimmer, and perhaps a ladder, the job just isn’t going to be right or comprehensive unless one actually gets up in the tree.

Prudence dictates letting a pro do that, unless you have a lot of rigging experience — which I don’t. And it’s not just a matter of not falling — you do have two hands after all — it’s that once you get up there you’ve got to perform work with a rather heavy, noisy machine that spins a chain around and has sharp teeth on it.

So we did a deal with a local young man, Bernardo, 22 years old and has been in trees since the age of 15. Sunday he got to work. All of the photos can be clicked open for hi-res versions.

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Two of the six palms after trimming
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Says he’s never fallen
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The final tree of about 8
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Where we live, the trash and recycle service includes pickup of yard waste along the curb, so long as it’s in about 4′ diameter piles. For this job, I got it for about half the price by agreeing to get some exercise by disposing of all the trimmings myself, instead of have them come with the chipper and truck.

So this is what I had to contend with, a good hundred feet of debris, by ten feet and five feet high.

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So yesterday I got busy. At first, I was using a chainsaw to cut up the large branches into short enough lengths to accommodate the piles. It was tough going, the noise of the saw is a pain, and so on. Progress was slow and after 30 minutes, I had only one pile done, was hot & bothered, and wondering if I really wanted to do this. At this rate it would take days.

I took a break, thought about it, and adapted. First, I put the chainsaw aside and instead began hauling the large branch parts out, some ten feet long and more. Once out on the sidewalk, I simply planted a foot and manually snapped them in appropriate places, and the exercise became exhilarating, natural, primal in a sense, and I got into a groove — loving the next 2 hours or so of manual labor.

And I got good results.

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Five complete piles
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Almost halfway done

Alright, so time to feed & walk the dogs and get ready to get back to work. Unfortunately, with every new pile, I have father to drag stuff, so going will be a little slower today.

Grok on!

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

21 Comments

  1. Sandy on December 7, 2011 at 09:05

    I find manual labor to be very meditative. Especially because I sit behind a desk all day. Over the summer I started landscaping the front garden. I put in a couple of hours after work every day and a few each weekend day moving large rocks, building planters, unloading compost, soil and manure, digging out walking paths, moving wheelbarrows full of gravel and putting in plants. I’m by no means done (who ever is?) but that makes me happy, more work to come when it warms back up.

  2. Justin on December 7, 2011 at 10:02

    There’s no better way to get your primal on that clearing trees. If we did more things like this every day we wouldn’t need to to artificial isolation workouts in the gym.

    Great job on the trees!

  3. chuck on December 7, 2011 at 10:27

    Every needs to get dirty WAY more often. Skip the sterile gym every once in a while and go outside and do things most people think they are above doing. Dig some holes….plant some food….cut your own wood for cooking on a real fire. And take your shoes off outside whenever you can. Oh yeah, go cut your own dirty, real Christmas tree down and let the easy, sterile plastic, fake thing stay in the closet.

    Can you tell I have a bug up my ass about this?

  4. Madbiker on December 7, 2011 at 12:12

    Awesome, Richard. It does a body good (literally and figuratively) to do manual labor – not just get exercise, but to put purpose to all of that labor.

    We heat with wood in my house, so there is always a pile of logs either drying or ready to be split. Last year DH taught me to use the splitting axe so I could split when I have some time. It’s quite a workout, but very satisfying. Looking at a load of freshly split and stacked wood, feeling soreness in my shoulders and back, and breathing a little heavy makes me feel alive in a way that running or lifting weights doesn’t.

    @chuck, agreed on all counts.

  5. Madbiker on December 7, 2011 at 12:13

    Awesome, Richard. It does a body good (literally and figuratively) to do manual labor – not just get exercise, but to put purpose to all of that labor.

    We heat with wood in our house, so there is always a pile of logs either drying or ready to be split. Last year DH taught me to use the splitting axe so I could split when I have some time. It’s quite a workout, but very satisfying. Looking at a load of freshly split and stacked wood, feeling soreness in my shoulders and back, and breathing a little heavy makes me feel alive in a way that running or lifting weights doesn’t.

    @chuck, agreed on all counts.

  6. TandooriChicken on December 7, 2011 at 13:19

    Chopping trees like that, you really did get into a grove.

    Sorry, couldn’t help meself.

  7. rob on December 7, 2011 at 13:45

    Gym is artificial, sterile … but guess what, every single day of the week, starting at 5 am on weekdays and 8 am on weekends … you can go to the gym and manual labor until you vomit. You can get your manual labor on pretty much every single day of the year.

  8. Aaron on December 7, 2011 at 16:04

    Awesome working outside like that, great job. But the pics of that kid Bernardo … that is friggin impressive.

  9. Ron on December 7, 2011 at 17:36

    Clearing wood=Morning wood

    • Richard Nikoley on December 7, 2011 at 18:51

      Ron, what do you think has reminded me to get my ass in gear every morning. 🙂



    • g on December 7, 2011 at 22:58

      thought i saw… HEAD… WOOD… haaa ahaaa!!



    • Richard Nikoley on December 8, 2011 at 00:45

      G… G…



  10. Rob on December 7, 2011 at 19:06

    What’s that fruit in the lower right-hand corner of the first pic?

    • Richard Nikoley on December 7, 2011 at 22:39

      Good eye.

      Those are some sort of tangerine and very sweet. Bernardo downed a couple each break he took.



  11. David brown on December 7, 2011 at 23:41
  12. Rob on December 8, 2011 at 09:48

    Bernardo looks like “Predator” blending into the trees.

  13. Karen on December 8, 2011 at 19:18

    Those heading cuts-glad they didn’t come down any further to the thicker wood (i.e. tree topping) There seems to be an epidemic of it my town. I like what they did with the palms, but I’m curious why the need to trim the other trees exactly?

    • Richard Nikoley on December 8, 2011 at 20:32

      They were very overgrown and dense, and too much load such that many branches were drying out. The Chinese elm was the worst. It had been topped before, so time to clean up. Also, not getting enough sun to the backyard.



  14. Razwell on December 9, 2011 at 13:02

    California has FANTASTIC scenery. Really awesome. I am impressed it is so bright this time of year.

  15. Montie on December 10, 2011 at 08:29

    I needed to do some trimming along the same vein about a month back. Any thoughts of being able to do it myself were quickly put to rest ( way too many years since I did any extensive activity in a rappel style rig (yeah, as in a good 25 years ago as an air assault qualified infantry officer). So, I also hired a young local guy of some experience. Seeing him work through the large trees in my back yard after hoisting himself and his equipment up was truly impressive. I ended up saving most of the usable sized wood for fireplace fodder and did exactly the same thing you did with the smaller stuff, since my chainsaw was too recalcitrant to be of much use anyway.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 10, 2011 at 08:40

      Yep, I saved all the bigger stuff for my fire pit. Lots of it to cut up still but the backyard is now pristine, wonderful, and we have sun throughout the day.



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