When I hired Dave to clear the land I was excited by the prospect of gaining ground, and was looking forward to the job being completed. What I hadn’t counted on was that in order to get the job done he would put me to work for him! The first day he brought along his Honda quad-bike so that Judy (his wife) and I could haul the wood from the clearing. That was the first lesson he gave me–how to drive a quad. The first week of clearing was–in retrospect–hard physical work but easy going in terms of learning curve. All I had to learn was down for reverse and up was in gear, two, three, four. Basically the week was reduced to a limited repertoire: chop wood, haul, stack, repeat.
The land clearing has been a bit of an ad hoc arrangement. Dave fells the trees and Judy and I clean it up, then he asks me where to go next. We discuss the pros and cons of each tree, where the fence-line should go and decide from there. At first, I wanted to keep some of the bigger stumps–an idea that bewildered him to no end. I thought they’d be great for the goats to play on and he simply thought they were eyesores. In the end we came to an agreement about which ones I was to keep and which ones he’d take out. This of course was not before he got a lesson in the subtle differences between what constituted a ‘nice’, a ‘beautiful’ or a ‘gorgeous’ stump. Once he had cleared a bunch of the land, he’d also convinced me that some of the stumps I was emotionally attached to would have to go. However, I was determined to keep my gorgeous stump and for several days it performed the task of housing equipment like our chainsaws, gas, oil, cutters, and the much needed cold drinks and lunch packs (we’ve had week of record high temperatures). The week was spent with my gorgeous stump being the brunt of many a joke. At one point Dave did allow that it was useful as he fetched his chainsaw from its depths.
However, on Friday morning when I walked over to join the work party he had the loader poised in front of it and was beaming at me mischievously, “It’s gotta go honey.” The land around it was cleared and suddenly I could see my wheat field and I realized he was right. It was taking up far too much ground in the middle of the best dirt on my property. “Get up here” he called and pointed to the driver’s seat in the cab of his machine. I stood there mouth agape, “There’s no better way to learn to drive a loader than to dig up a stump!”
Dave drove the machine and got it in position before handing over the controls to me. This machine demanded my attention as it was a lot more to think about than down-reverse, up-two-three-four. This has up, down, side-to-side, sweep, extend, clam, release, and that’s just the boom!
It sure looks a lot easier than it is (or he makes it so!). Each hand is in charge of 4 difference motions and several of the directions are anit-instinctual–at least they were for someone who has not had a lifetime of heavy equipment operation. In the end, Dave finished of the job of hauling my gorgeous stump out. The ground was soft and he didn’t want the machine to get stuck. Fair enough, I thought. The amount of ground gained was significant. We agreed that it was about 15 feet in diameter and because of the extensive root system, even more in actual cultivatable surface area. Although I was reluctant to see it go I know it was the right decision to do so.
Yesterday Dave cut down a clump of four large alders and then handed me the keys to the machine. After a brief orientation on the merits (and need for) ‘stabilization’ (three more things your hands must control), he turned me loose on the new stump and walked off to chop down more trees. When I had loosened the stump to his satisfaction, he came back and stood beside the stump and–while performing his best Bobcat impersonation–gave me some final hand signal pointers about how to actually haul it out of it’s place.