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Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Cleaning the Forest

Our home-owner's insurance policy was recently canceled because "you no longer meet our underwriting requirements, due to being located in a wildfire area".  Well duh.  I thought they understood that when they first issued the policy.

Because the insurer cancelled my home-owner's policy, I also cancelled the RV, Motorbikes, and cars.  They don't get to pick and choose what property of mine they get to insure.  They also saved me some money, because I found cheaper rates with a different insurance company (Geico).

Anyway... this is the second time that we have owned property.  The first property we owned was 2-1/2 acres in the Mojave Desert.  That property didn't require any maintenance.  Even tumbleweeds would blow right across the land because it was not fenced on the downwind side. 

Now that we are living in the forest, things require a lot more upkeep.  The insurance cancellation brought the realization that we have been here for two years now, and I haven't yet created a satisfactory fire-safe zone around the house and shop.  We have been busy getting the interior of the house set up, and ignored the grounds.

There is a lot of hard work involved with creating a fire-safe zone.  The  recommended minimum distance between a structure and any tree is 25 feet, with the forest thinned (and undergrowth removed) to a distance of 50 feet, with all tree branches removed to a level of 6 feet.

Personally I think 50 feet is a good radius for no trees.  I don't want the possibility a burning tree just 25 feet from my house.  Actually I don't want any tree close enough to fall onto the house.  Although two sides of our house have excellent clearance, I still have quite a bit of removal and thinning to do on the remaining sides.

This is an excellent time of year to clean up, because the forest is very wet, so it's safe to burn.  It's quite difficult to get a pile of twigs, branches and logs to catch fire.  Both times I burned, it took a full gallon of gasoline (and some diesel) to get the pile to stay lit.  This means that the forest won't catch fire whenever a spark flies off the fire.  The only bad thing is that downed trees located in the shade are often still frozen to the ground :)

This past week I got started on the process of making the house fire-safe by removing several years worth of fallen dead trees.  I have owned a 18" McCullouch MacCat chainsaw for the past 20 years, and it has served pretty well for odd pruning jobs and taking down small trees.  The first time I used it to gather soft wood for the fireplace, it proved not to be up to the task.  It doesn't have the power or the cutting ability to quickly get through a bigger log.  This past week I damaged the blade by forcing the saw into a log, and I realized that with this level of work, I needed a bigger, professional saw.

So... This year I got an early birthday present:  A Stihl MS 362.  This sucker comes with a 25" bar, but it is powerful enough to run a 36" bar.  It is amazing how quickly and easily it cuts compared to the MacCat.  This thing goes through logs like they aren't there.  Instead of spending minutes getting a log cut, it's over with in seconds.  It definitely makes the job easier. 

I also bought a skip-tooth chain to try out aggressive cuts, but haven't tried it out yet.  A skip-tooth chain makes kickback more severe, so I want to get used to the saw before putting on that chain.  Kickback is where the blade pops up after grabbing and releasing in a cut, or getting caught in wiry ground branches, especially at lower engine speeds. 

With the new saw, I can round up a lot of trash wood and a few chunks of firewood in short order.  Note:  This is not a lifted SoCal poser truck with chrome and aluminum hardware underneath.  I also don't cry like a girl when it gets a dent or scratch. 

Lodgepole pine - crabgrass tree of the forest.  Not even worth cutting up for firewood.

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