Posted on August 14, 2012
A large Darwin Woollybutt (Eucalyptus chartaboma - eastern variety) fell over in a friend's backyard recently. It had been planted about 60 or 70 years ago by a previous occupant of the house in Mount Molloy. The trees initial job had been to provide shade for the chickens which ran in a yard surrounding the sapling. As the tree grew, the chickens all eventually moved on and more came and went ... several owners and occupants of the house also came and went ... and that tree kept growing ... dominating the backyard and North West view from the house.
The tree had the most idyllic life ... growing in chicken manure and receiving all the water run-off from the house yard garden. It had reached a height of about 25 m and was at least a metre in diameter at the base and had a full crown of leaves.
Eventually though, the good life became its enemy. Growing in perfect conditions had all but eliminated the need to sink a deep root system ... all the nutrients and water were right on the surface. It was just hanging on to top soil. One night, during a period of rain and wind, a crash in the darkness signalled the end as its shallow roots let go their tenuous hold.
The fallen tree lay across the fence and into a neighbour's yard, so contractors were urged to remove the mass. Lots of people had put up their hands for firewood, but I thought I'd see what was salvageable for my own work ... fully expected that the main trunk would be rotted and hollow.
To my, and the tree loppers, surprise, the trunk was as solid as any tree could be. There wasn't a sign of hollowness ... but it was huge.
Big trees have an uncanny ability to get bigger when laying on their side and this tree was well doing the trait justice. By calculation, there was almost 20 tons of wood. There was no way I could deal with anything like that quantity, so was happy to take just a few pieces cut from the more manageable upper section.
The main trunk bole was enormous and had to be cut it into small blocks ... the only way it could be managed and a slow process at that. This made way for the firewood gatherers to come and fill their trailers.
The wood in the pieces I salvaged is light-coloured and quite highly figured. It remains to be seen what colour it dries to but at present it's a light honey colour. It reminds me a lot of white stringy bark. I got the blocks home ... some weighing 80 to 100 kg ... and sealed the ends to control end-grain cracking. It will be some time before I get to work with any of it due to my current workload.
In hindsight, and as we discussed on the day, the operation could have taken a way different course. A crane could have been called in, milling contract could have been arranged, and sales could have been found for the resultant milled wood ... which is all good in an ideal recyclable world. But, in the reality of the moment, the tree was needed to be got off the fence. The salvage option was going to be very expensive and time-consuming ... so, was deemed infeasible at the time. I felt fortunate that I had made the time available to salvage a small part of the tree to turn into fine art forms some day. :-)
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