Gather round kids as I tell you a story of a snag and a homestead…

A snag is a dead tree that is still standing. We urban dwellers see them as an eye sore, but wildlife see them as a valuable place for nesting and finding food. In fact, some native birds in the Pacific NW will only make nests in snags. No snags means no babies, which means some native bird species have populations putting them at risk for extinction.

We have a large snag next to our house along an unimproved road. It’s a Bigleaf Maple, a native tree, and we left it there for years because it wasn’t causing any harm. One recent spring day there was a light wind – nothing real strong – and half the tree fell, no longer able to support its own weight. Luckily, it fell away from the house and no one got hurt. That left the other half standing, which is the half that leans toward our house.

Sadly, it was time for the tree to come down. This is no easy feat as power lines are on each side of the tree. Our fence is also next to the tree, with the duck coop next to that and of course our house next to that. My crazy dad was game to help, so we made a plan to remove the tree on the next available dry day. My plan was to leave about eight feet of snag remaining as habitat.

I wasn’t allowed on the ladder, much to my chagrin. Dad and Jay overruled me, since I am nursing and therefore another human being is too dependent on me to let me end up in the hospital. So instead I watched from below, hands gripped with terror, as my husband and father took turns gently climbing up the brittle, dry snag.

They made cuts halfway through the limbs leaning over the house, threw ropes around the branches, and tugged them off from below. It worked pretty well. The biggest branches closest to the house came cleanly off.  Just a few more branches to go and we could safely pull the whole trunk over, away from the house.

Our luck ran out when they were getting those last branches down. There were some tugs on the rope and I heard a huge crack, then watched as the huge trunk came crashing down.

Only one branch hit the house damaging the gutter. A portion of the fence was broken. The duck coop roof was knocked down. AMAZINGLY, no one was hurt. The ducks were fine. The chickens were fine. My dad and husband were all in one piece. The house was fine. Holy expletive.

Like moths to a flame, the neighbors appeared. Some came to gawk, but most came to help. Stefan offered to saw the wood and take away to heat his home. Randy brought over his tools and spare plastic roofing. Dan came down the road with more tools and spare lumber. I went to the lumber yard to get more fence boards.

A couple hours later, the snag was cut for firewood. The fence was repaired. The duck coop frame was fixed. Beers were distributed. A couple days later, the plastic roofing was replaced on the duck coop.

Part of the rotten stump remains for wildlife to pick at, although most fell off.

I got a nice souvenir for the garden as well. A little token to remind me of our foolish endeavor that put us out $22 bucks for fence boards and brought the whole neighborhood together.

And in case you are wondering, I don’t recommend you try this at home.

REMINDER: Don’t forget to leave a comment about your homesteading journey on my anniversary post from earlier this week! I’m giving a copy of my book Modern Homestead away to a winner that I will announce next week.

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