Life in the States – Downed Trees

We are fast approaching our 10th anniversary of Life in the States. We have gotten used to doing things different than how we did it in South Africa. For example: the whole DIY movement. There are just so many possibilities when it comes to doing things in and around the house yourself. From little things like small plumbing jobs (think fixing a toilet) to larger renovations (taking out walls, non-structural of course), people are used to doing things themselves. Sure, the professionals are available here too, but homeowners have so many options when it comes to doing projects.

Life in the States - Downed Trees - Garies Girl

We learned so much from our year in Rome (Georgia, not Italy, lol). We bought a house because we loved the land it was on and the large pool out back. The house was… special. But we could see potential. Over the year, we DIY’ed our way from front to back, inside and out, and was able to sell it again in a much better state than we found it in.

Our “New” House in Rome

If you missed out on that whole series of posts, start with When in Rome and read all about our yearlong adventure.

The Tree Thing

I love all the trees in our neighborhood and on our property here in Suwanee. In Spring, everything turns a beautiful bright green, so that I usually joke and say it hurts my eyes. In Fall, we get the lovely yellows and oranges as the leaves turn. For someone that grew up in a small town Garies in a very dry and brown area of South Africa, where trees were scarce, this view never gets old. The thing with trees though, is that sometimes, they come down.

Trees in our Neighborhood

We had a close call with two trees that came down during a very windy morning. The trees grew between our house and the neighbor’s and this particular type of tree is not know for a deep root system. Luckily for us, they missed the house when they came down, just touching the edge of our back deck. I was up since 5 that morning listening to the wind and rain and felt the house shake when they hit the ground. Our power also went out so it took me a while to figure out what exactly happened outside.

At First Light

We were assessing the damage the moment it got light enough to see outside. And it looked like a huge problem at first. Pieter inspected the deck and determined that the damage there was minor and something we could fix ourselves. Our neighborhood Facebook page reported damage throughout our area so we got in the truck and drove around to check on the extent of the damage.

After the Storm

A large tree close to the one entrance to our neighborhood came down across the road, ripped up the homeowner’s gas line and took down the power lines. That was the source of our power outage. Towards the other entrance, another tree came down over the main road, blocking traffic in one direction. This tree also took down power lines. Five or six neighbors were dealing with trees that came down on their homes. The worst one was just down the road from us. Their tree went through the roof, the attic, the second floor and the first floor. There were only two people home and they were on the other side of their house when it happened.

After the Storm

Back on our property, the trees looked even bigger on the ground than they did standing up. Leaving them there was just not an option and getting a tree company out while so many other people were dealing with similar situations throughout North Georgia, was going to take a while and cost a pretty penny. We would just have to do this ourselves as well.

After the Storm

The Plan

The tool list was short and involved two items – a chainsaw and our truck. The labor list was loooong. It was going to take a lot of muscle and energy to get this done. Both trees needed to be cut into more manageable pieces. First get the limbs cut loose from the trunks, and then cut the trunks into smaller sections. Then everything would have to be loaded onto the truck and hauled away. The chainsaw hasn’t been used since our Rome days, so it needed some love before we could put it to work.

Cutting up Trees

Pieter ordered some parts for the chainsaw and got to work getting it up and running. He and the neighbor got started the next day and made good progress on cutting off a lot of the tree limbs. I was in charge of dragging them away and keeping the cut site clear. Leaving big piles of tree limbs lying around is not our style (I hate a messy yard and house) and we knew that we would have to take care of these quickly. Since our plan was to haul these away using our truck, I dragged the limbs to the street side of our property. As I started making piles I realized we would have to make way too many trips to get rid of all the piles. And we will end up with a lot of unwanted scratches on the truck in the process. This part of the plan needed to change, but for now, the focus was on making piles.

Chainsaw Work

Renting a Chipper

We came up with the idea to rent a chipper from the local home improvement store which would be the fastest way to make the tree limbs disappear. We started calling around and got our names on a wait list at a landscape company. The availability call came the Saturday quite late and since Pieter was at work, it was up to me to get to the company as fast as possible and tow this thing back home. I’ve never towed anything bigger than a little Venter trailer before, so I was quite nervous. Simon offered to go with and having a second set of eyes with me made me feel much better about the process. It turned out to be almost an hour’s drive to get to the landscape company. The chipper itself was much bigger than I expected. Simon helped to get it hooked on to the truck and after watching (and filming) the demonstration, we towed that thing back home.

Renting a Chipper

Chipping up Trees

We got started early Sunday morning and everyone got involved. Even David, Ilse and Matthew came over to feed the chipper. So exciting! It made a hell of a noise but we didn’t mind at all since it made the tree limbs disappear in seconds. The chipper arm is moveable and can direct the output of woodchips wherever you want them. We directed all of ours into the tree line and spread it out evenly away from our lawn. We could have saved the chips for other areas of the garden, but it was the end of the season and I didn’t want to spend the whole winter looking at a pile of work.

Since most of the limbs were already in piles, it took less than two hours to take care of all of it. David also had some trees down on his property, so we towed the chipper to their house and started it back up again. Pieter would cut down limbs and we would drag them to the chipper and feed them to it. Again we distributed the woodchips all around.

Using the Chipper

Returning the Chipper

Our rental needed to back at the landscape company first thing Monday morning. Pieter had work, the kids had school so it was up to me to tow it back before going to work myself. I left very early and were waiting for them to open their doors and complete the paperwork. I was worried about backing up with the chipper (not my strong point), but they were able to unhook it and move it themselves. While it was a lot of work, I was pleased with the speedy way we handled everything and getting our yard back to normal.

Final Cleanup

We kept a log of the big stumps to use in our outside firepit and needed to put them somewhere to dry. I spent the next Saturday moving tree stumps around. As with a lot of my cleanup projects, I distracted myself with our ugly firepit. We were storing some landscape stones to the side of the house and since this would be a good spot for some of the wood, I had to move them too. It made sense to just place them around the firepit to create a more permanent looking one. I had to restack them twice, they were not a perfect fit, but it was a good enough one for now.

Final Cleanup

The rest of the wood went under our deck. The only items I could not manage to move were the bottom stumps of the tree. They were just too heavy for me. We will make a plan with those soon.

Firepit Stone

Hiding the Wood

I wasn’t very pleased with how messy it looked under our deck, especially since you can see in from the street, so the solution was to start another project. Read all about how we covered the side of our deck next.

DIY Deck Skirting - Garies Girl
View of Under Deck Storage Area

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