Cutting Dead Trees In Deep Snow

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

When you just happen to live at 9,750′ elevation you learn to seize the moment.  We still have snow on the ground and as the photo depicts there are stumps from past winters which are two feet high and those from the dead trees cut down yesterday that are cut off much closer to the ground. The reason these are closer to the ground because I shoveled the trees out of the snow so I wouldn’t have tall stumps sticking up all over the property.  Living in the mountains presents its own challenges and waiting for the several feet of snow to melt should not be one of those challenges.  Working around obstacles or difficult situations is just part of life here. 

Yesterday we were sitting on our deck in lawn chairs enjoying the near 70 degree weather and today as I write this it is 27 degrees complete with blizzard conditions.  The forecast for our area is up to two feet of fresh snow from this storm.  Few other places have extreme changes in weather as we have at this elevation.  So those trees I cut down yesterday will be covered in fresh snow today. They were so dead that I was afraid they would fall over before I could cut them down.  I would rather have them fall where I want them as opposed to the wind deciding to blow them over on our telephone pedestal and being without telephone service for several days.  

The woodpeckers have been having a feast on those dead trees and I hate to deprive them of a good meal, however, I also don’t want to wait until the song birds start to nest and accidentally cut down a tree with a nest hidden in it. 

When you have a window of opportunity to remove dead trees you don’t  procrastinate just because there is two or three feet of snow still on the ground.  You use what ever means it takes to get those trees dealt with. Even if you have to wade through deep snow to accomplish the task.  Note what happens like in the photo when I miscalculated the depth of the snow and promptly broke through the top crust and was suddenly waist deep in wet snow.  Unfortunately when that happens your arms are of little use because they don’t allow you to push off of anything.  Therefore I floundered around for a while like a turtle on its back until I could wiggle deep enough to get myself upright again.  For a while it appeared I may end up within sight of our house until later in the spring when the snow melts off completely.  It does prove that if you thrash around enough sooner or later you will work free of being entrapped by deep snow but snow will work into your clothes and pockets.   

We have also trimmed limbs high enough to keep any wildfire on the ground from jumping into the tree tops.  We usually trim up to at least 20′ high.  Not much goes to waste around here, even that pile of limbs.  Much of our soil is high in clay and everyone knows what clay in like when wet.  Therefore we mulch the limbs and spread them on susceptible areas  of our driveway early in the year to act as a soil binder.  It doesn’t take long for the mulch to work into the soil and provide a much stronger foundation.  We have been doing this for 15 years and it has worked very well.  It is a lot more effort than spreading road base on the driveway, and much cheaper too.  The key component is to get it on the needed places early in the year when the ground is  wet and soft and it can be worked into the soil.  If we wait to long to spread it around much of it will blow away and it will not work into the ground where it is needed.  Cheap, labor intensive, but effective. 

So in the end we accomplish several things by starting early.  We remove dangerous dead trees, we improve our wildfire mitigation, and we obtain soil binder.  For more on life on a mountain and Bruce and Carol McElmurray go to: