pole sawing the widowmaker
Wednesday, March 14 2012
Today was yet another glorious balmy day, a great one for putting my tomatoes out in the sun and doing more comfortable versions of recent WiFi experiments. Today I tried a WiFi range experiment using a so-called "patch antenna" that had come with my Zyxel 802.11 N router. I set up one patch on the solar deck and then walked with my laptop to the bluff where I'd barely been able to get a WiFi signal using a cheap Chinese yagi. In today's test, the signal seemed to disappear well before I got to the bluff, suggesting that, bad as they are (and they're certainly not the 25 dB they claim), they're still better than a patch antenna from a respectable electronics manufacturer. So perhaps they are somewhat better than useless.
When Tropical Storm Irene came through in August, it didn't just knock out our power for a week. It also brought down lots of trees, though not many in our immediate neighborhood. The other day, though, our uphill neighbors ("the Greenhouses") called to offer me a cluster of trees that had been blown down on the edge of their field. I'd gone to look at them and been impressed by the amount and quality of the wood (it was two large Northern Red Oak trunks hung up at a 30 degree angle in a massive White Pine, along with a fallen medium-sized Chestnut Oak). But it had looked like a technically-challenging and potentially-dangerous job. (There is a reason that trees in this position are sometimes referred to as "widow makers.") The fallen oaks weren't just hung up in the large pine, they were also snagged in two small trees, one a hickory and the other a hemlock. Looking at the situation, I'd decided I could untangle some of this mess with a pole saw (a small blade mounted at the end of a long pole). But to get at other parts of it, I imagined perhaps attaching a chainsaw to the end of a makeshift sea-saw so I could stay well away while making certain cuts.
My pole saw arrived today. It featured a wickedly-sharp 16 inch blade and three six-foot segments of pole. I needed an 18 foot pole to reach some of what needed reaching, and this looked to be the longest pole on the market. (Anything longer would either be too heavy for a single man to control or too floppy to be useful.) As soon as the saw arrived, I snapped it together (it's nowhere in the instructions, which are really just a series of warnings in several languages, but you also have to drill a hole) and walked over to the site of the tree fall clusterfuck, about 200 feet away.
It took me awhile, but using the pole saw I was able to trim most of the branches from the small hemlock and cut through a six-inch-thick part of the hickory, both of which were supporting some fraction of the center of the leaning oak trunks. The whole thing was a massive dead fall trap whose low-force triggers could have been anything and there was no telling when the whole thing might just let go. Ramona had come with me, and I kept having to order her to go sit further away and maybe "help out" by chewing on the smaller branches as I cleared them out of the way.
At some point I'd removed enough of the supporting structure that the trunks starting groaning and making popping sounds. It would have been great had they just fallen, but there was too much resistance from the branches caught high up in the massive White Pine. There was no way to reach those without a bucket truck. So I ended the day with the hope that a strong wind would start blowing. At this point it looked like that might be enough.
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