Week 1: Clearing Begins

With the house mostly unpacked and in a livable state (there is still much to do but it’s functional), our sights turned outwards to our land. As you can see from the photos in my previous post we live in a forested area and our land is largely uncleared. Husband and I had talked about how we might do this, neither one of us having done anything like this ourselves but really, until we got out there and started walking around, there were few meaningful answers.

We decided to start with the area to the West of the house. This part of the property is sloped, with the Northwest corner being the highest point, sloping down past the garage to where the driveway circles around. Here is a “before” shot:

You can see it’s mostly small trees and shrubs. Most of the trees are alders, which grow like weeds around here. There are also a whole lot of fallen logs, trees, and woody debris including piles of old railroad ties. Our best guess is that years ago, when they were converting the railroad at the bottom of our property to a trailway, they may have offered the ties to local residents. Otherwise I’m not sure how they ended up here. Most are rotted; some are still in decent shape but because they were almost certainly treated we won’t burn them.

In this next photo, Husband is tackling the first few cuts with the chainsaw. This is about as far in as one could comfortably get when we started (the southern edge of the area we’re clearing is just to the left of this photo; we were working northwards towards the right of the photo):

You can compare this with the “after” photo further below. As Husband cut down small trees (we’re talking less than 3 inches diameter here) and sliced through fallen logs, I hauled the debris out. We ended up creating three piles: one for firewood-worthy bits, one to discard, and one for the pressure-treated ties.

This is probably the first time in our 8+ year marriage that Husband and I have worked together in this way (raising children is definitely a team effort, but not quite the same thing as working on the land). It felt really wonderful! We were both excited and enjoyed the physical aspect of the work. It was also very satisfying, as progress was swift. It was a good patch to start with in this regard. In less than two hours we had cleared a large section. This is me showing how far we got on that first day (the photographer is standing at the southern boundary of the area we were clearing, looking northward):

That was only the first day. For the next three days we would head out after lunch to do a couple of hours of work clearing. So it is even more clear now than in the above photo. We are, however, quickly running out of stuff that we can do ourselves in this section. There is a huge fallen tree that we can’t cut through with the chainsaw, and if we do try to cut it there is a risk part of it will roll down onto the garage (which is just to the right of the above photo). There are also a few standing trees and fallen trees that we can cut but not move easily. At this point we don’t even own a wheelbarrow, so I was hauling the brush and cut wood strictly by hand (a great workout, by the way!).

We knew that the time had come to purchase a workhorse for the property. Husband had been researching the topic for the last three months and had decided that an ATV would serve us better than a tractor given the small size of our property. We were hoping to find one used but apparently the make and model we wanted is very hard to find used and we certainly weren’t having any luck. So yesterday we went to the local dealership and decided that we were just going to have to bite the bullet and buy new. At least we feel confident it will hold its value and last forever! Here’s me sitting on it at the showroom. It gets delivered on Tuesday.

We will also be buying a utility trailer, which we’ll be able to hook up to the ATV and then we can pile large cut logs onto the trailer and haul them to our firewood pile for chopping. We can also use the ATV to haul smaller fallen trees to a place where they can be more easily cut into logs. Of course, this is only the start of what the ATV will be used for, but for now it’s going to help us clear some land.

There will, of course, be a time soon when even the ATV is not going to cut it. There are large stumps, a handful of large trees (Douglas Fir), and tons of brush (Salal, mostly, interspersed with ferns) to be removed. The ground underneath is very uneven, with plenty of deadwood and rocks, and not conducive to using a brush mower. The next stage will be hiring a tree feller to come and remove the large trees (there are power lines close by so we really do need a professional). After that, the final stage of this – as far as we can tell now – will involve hiring somebody with large machinery to effectively “rake” the area so that it slopes evenly and gently downwards. Our neighbour across the street just cleared a large swath of land last summer, so he’ll likely know what we need. After that it’s a matter of planting pasture grass and waiting.

It’s a pretty amazing feeling for us, doing what we are doing. For one thing, neither one of us really had any idea how to do this. Not that it’s rocket science, but it does feel good to know you can tackle a problem on your own. We feel…well, competent! It also feels really wonderful to be working on something that is *ours* and doing it just because this is what we want to do. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in that, and in seeing the progress we are making.  For all our years of planning and thinking about it, we weren’t truly going to know how this would suit us until we jumped in and started doing it. I’m pleased to say we are immensely happy with all of it, including the aching muscles and extreme physical fatigue we feel at the end of every day. It feels like we have come home…in more ways than one!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Last month, had I read this, I would have been completely envious and a bit depressed. However, now that we have also finally found our little bit of property, I empathize completely with your excitement! We walked around ours this weekend (we close within a few weeks) and noticed there will be a lot of woody debris to clean up, too. Of course, being in a desert zone, the trees and fallen limbs are far easier to handle than what you’re tackling! In fact, we’ll probably do most of ours with hand tools. (Thank goodness we picked up a number of good quality saws at yard sales…)


  2. Loved reading this – and remembering that the first thing that my husband bought after the land was a wheelbarrow – I was using it over the last few days to move compost from the “ready” heap onto a fruit tree bed.
    More power to your elbow as we say in these parts…


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