The Big Dead Oak Tree Hovering Just Above Camp

Woodwork Nov 27, 2021

I walked the property a few times looking for the flattest looking spot to make a camp. I kept arriving at the same place. Not too level, but the level-est spot in the woods. I started clearing out the area between two trees...I started leveling the ground, digging uphill and building up downhill, to make about a ten by ten flat area.

I got a good start digging. Then I started looking around the site a bit more for hazards. There was this big rotten dead tree close by...also a piece of it that must have fallen off years ago and got stuck high up in another tree.

But that wasn't an immediate worry because it wasn't about to fall on my little ten by ten space...and I could have fun trying to rope it down later...

I looked around a bit more and found that a big oak tree, just uphill from my chosen campsite, was dead.

This seemed beyond me...

What's the point of making a camp or leveling ground on a place like that? The tree wasn't likely to fall that instant...even that year, but I was trying to plan ahead and pick a nice place for a long-term camp in the woods, for doing woodwork and Tai Chi...

And I don't even own a chainsaw.

No worries. I've got my grandfather's axe.

Once my madness had fully set in, and I had enough time to give it a shot, I went to work chopping down the old tree.

I took my time and cleared out the area around the tree.
I came up with a plan and a direction.

Then I started my notch.

At this point my body gave out. And my axe. My axe handle didn't break, but the wedge loosened up. Also, my left wrist was hurting. I had to leave the tree till the next trip. So I went home and fixed my axe....and healed up.

Once I returned, with my wrist healed up and my axe properly hafted and sharpened, it didn't take much more chopping.

There was great relief when the tree finally fell....and fell in the direction I wanted it to go.

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Joseph Shamis

Joseph Shamis is a recovering academic.

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