It’s work time among the trees

Towering borer-infested ash trees fall at a Lake Erie marina; a fierce Mother Nature pushes back as high-rising Winnipeg poplars are brought to the ground.

Dave Lutes treewise
Dave Lutes

Since Christmas, I’ve been working steadily on different types of tree-work. Tree-pruning, tree-removals. Mainly large jobs. Two-thirds of the work was outside Manitoba.

With the first project, I spent three weeks in “the GTA”, as it’s known – the Greater Toronto Area – specifically in Simcoe, Ont. The project was large in scope, much like the trees. Tall ash trees, in decline thanks to the emerald ash borer. One-hundred footers, dead or nearly dead.

Ever-changing jobsites
I spent three weeks there, each day at the same jobsite. That’s not typical in my trade. Usually, jobsites change every day, sometimes they change every few hours.

This particular spot was a marina located on the shores of Lake Erie. A beautiful setting. My time was spent working with two types of cranes: first, a 50-ton crane and then a 90-ton crane. The difference between the two is the crane’s reach capability: A 90-ton does what a 50-ton does, but from a longer range.

Photo by Dwayne Neustaeter.

Crane-work is precise, demanding work. Cranes are expensive, so a tight, committed crew is needed to pull off a crane job in an efficient and safe manner. Time is money in the tree-care business as much as it is in other businesses, but safety awareness must always be top-of-mind.

The next project was in Winnipeg, where I spent a couple of weeks on a large tree-removal project. Thirty very large Northwest poplars were slated for a meeting with my chain saw. It was very cold. Old-school tarping of my equipment using propane heat was required to get my wood-chipper going. A sense of Mother Nature pushing back and making things as tough as possible was not lost on me. She sure wasn’t playing fair on that project.

That brings me to the third project. Boulevard-tree pruning in Medicine Hat. Five hundred trees. Another two weeks. What makes pruning a boulevard tree different from pruning a tree in your front or back yard? These specific aspects have to be taken into consideration: 1. Elevation over the street. 2. Elevation over sidewalks, driveways and yards. 3. Clearance from other trees, structures, wires, etc. 4. The need to remove all dead wood down to a certain diameter, as well as broken, hanging branches.

It’s production-oriented work. You’re paid a fixed-price per tree. The mantra is, Get it done; get it done right. Repeat visits to correct oversights don’t translate into profit.

I love this type of crew work: Fitting the pieces together with upright, competent people, hammering-down in pursuit of a common goal. Some crews never come together. Others do. Lots of reasons for that. Sociology is a science.

I look back and reflect upon the three varied experiences. Each job involved tree work of course, but the work offered different degrees and types of risk and a range of crew sizes, and had unique weather and location implications and administrative requirements. Each element had its own, specific responsibilities.

Great people were there to help
I feel blessed this morning as I sit here drinking my coffee. All three projects are done. Many great people helped me. The work was concluded with a short busman’s holiday in Calgary for my 18-year-old son and me.

Working with my son has inspired me. A little boy has become a man. There’s not a prouder father on the planet today. Toronto, Winnipeg, Medicine Hat, followed by Calgary. Now we start the drive home to Winnipeg. See you soon.

David Lutes, an ISA certified arborist, is an award-winning climber renowned throughout the North American tree world for his dedication to his trade.

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