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  1. #1
    Elite Member Richard's Avatar
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    Default ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    Looking for advice on: Using backhoe to topple standing tree, looking for the merits of the logic AND danger warnings.

    I’ve been downing trees by either pushing them over to uproot the root ball, or cutting a notch in them and pushing them over then digging out root ball, or flat out cutting them down, again...then digging out root ball. The final goal is to get out the roots.

    Last night I approached a large (dead) pine and ultimately did nothing, as it was getting dark. As I viewed the tree, a thought hit me and that brings me here.

    Presume a tree not leaning any direction very much, if at all. Instead of felling the tree with saw or notching it, and having to dig out the root ball, what are the merits of digging on one side of the roots to loosen up the root ball (while entire tree is still standing) THEN, after roots are “loosened up” pushing the tree over? The thinking here is I could be in the cab during the entire operation, not having to use chain saw and can then push tree SPECIFICALLY in desired direction. By the way, my mental definition of loosening up the roots would be to dig on NO MORE than 1/2 of the circumference of the tree trunk.

    If this were a common or acceptable (not to mention safe) way to down a tree, what side would you dig on? For example, would you dig on the “near” side creating a hole that the roots can pivot up into. This would theoretically leave the roots intact on the “far” side of the tree insuring [img]/w3tcompact/icons/crazy.gif[/img] that the tree won’t fall towards you. OR, you could dig on the FAR side creating a hole that the tree could “fall into” a bit easier given that you would then be pushing on the opposite side.

    How does the philosophy change if the tree has a specific lean?

    In my retentive ways, I can see how either way could work. Which probably means neither one is too bright, so I thought I’d pose it here for some more experienced users comments prior to me going home tonight and attempting it.

    Thanks for any thoughs.



  2. #2
    Super Star Member
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree


    I don't think I would do what you propose.

    First pushing over the dead tree is a bad idea. There was a thread a while ago that mentioned dead trees breaking in half with one part going away from the tractor and the top part landing on the tractor. Even if you have a FOPS I would be very leary of this. FOPS is my new word for today! 8-)

    I did something similar to what you are proposing to do this weekend. It was not fun. I had two trees, about 15 inches at the stump that had been knocked over and formed one root ball. I had been cutting them into firewood a few months ago and the weight distribution changed as I cut off the cordwood. Eventually the the trees fell "up." I could see it was going to happen since I was cutting off cordwood and could see the trees trying to right themselves so it was not a suprise. One stump had about 3 feet of wood left and the other about 15 feet.

    This weekend I took the tractor and with the FEL dug under the root ball and tried to knock the trees down. This was not fun. The trees where like weables and just wanted to stay up and not fall down. So I would push one way but the balance of the trees was such that they would not stay down and the trees would ROCK back towards me. This was big pucker time. I had the FEL up a prevent it from falling on me or the tractor but it was NOT safe. I eventually got the trees on the ground and I sawed them up the next day. I'll be able to move the root ball around without a problem.

    What I SHOULD have done was to just cut down the danged 15 foot section and been done with it. MUCH more safer and I would not have had to replace my now brown underwear! 8-)

    I cut down what I hope are the final trees in my drivway this weekend. I ain't pushing over trees. Its just too easy to cut them down with a chain saw and dig out the stumps. I cut the trees waist high since that is comfortable for me. After the tree is down I just saw the rest of the trunk off at the base and then use the backhoe to removed the stump. It might be a little slow but I think it is safer.

    With the roots still attached to the ground you MIGHT not have the rocking effect but you then again you might. As I have started my stump digging career, 20-30 stumps ranging from 4 to 24 inches, I have noticed that there is a huge difference between tree stumps.

    Hope this helps...
    Dan McCarty


  3. #3
    New Member
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    Ford 1220 4WD HST; John Deere GT235

    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    Richard:

    Let me preface this by saying I have no personal experience pushing down trees; my backhoe's too small, and I'm dubious about the safety questions. However, I did watch an operator with a very large tracked excavator using the technique at a neighbor's home about a month ago.

    The neighbor had brought in logging crews to initially clear most of her 4 acres using ordinary felling techniques. While subsequently regrading the hillside, she apparently decided to remove several of the remaining trees. These were all mature hardwoods with trunks at least 20" in diameter. From what I could see, the excavator operator dug out the roots on the "pushing side" of each tree (i.e., opposite the intended direction of fall). Given the size of his machine, he could then reach up quite far(20+ feet?) and push the tree over, popping much of its root ball out of the ground as it came down.

    The whole process was much faster and easier than normal felling, but I'm not sure you'd want to try it with smaller equipment; at the very least, I'd think you'd need to have a very substantial FOPS (even then, I wouldn't want to tackle anything very big). From my vantage point watching, I couldn't tell whether the excavator had to compensate for any lean in the trees he pushed over; again, this was happening after most of the other trees were gone, so he had the freedom to push the trees in any direction he wanted.

    AndyH


  4. #4
    Elite Member Richard's Avatar
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    Thanks Doug and AndyH

    I’m presuming you don’t know, but I’m not using a “regular” tractor/backhoe. I now have a full sized 16,000 pound 90.5 hp turbo/diesel TLB with cab, FOPS/ROPS and 1,500 pound 8 foot wide loader bucket.

    Now, I understand that might not sway your comments at all, I don’t know. What I DO know is I “feel” a whole lot safer inside Brutus while doing this as opposed to having my soft flesh next to aforementioned tree. After all, I’d MUCH rather the tree break and land on Brutus than land on me [img]/w3tcompact/icons/crazy.gif[/img]. I guess I don’t know any safe way to remove trees other than burn woods to the ground ...[img]/w3tcompact/icons/crazy.gif[/img]... nah..I tried that last summer, it didn’t work either. I was left with dead, still standing, burnt trees.. I DID get to know the forester bulldozer-driving dude well though...I even had some fancy BBQ ribs sent to him for saving my @##.

    I’ve pushed only one tree over and had it break. It was a slow motion break where a cedar was bending and (as film goes to slow motion) the bend snapped in my direction and daggers of wood shards came flying towards me. It turned out to be a nonevent, other than the startled education of it. I have recently ordered the full helmet/ear protection/visor to use from Labonville.

    The backhoe on this thing digs I believe 18 feet deep. I can reach up probably 10 feet plus (never really thought about it) with the hoe. My thinking was to either do that, or turn Brutus around and bring in the bucket and DRIVE the loosened tree over, using loader.

    Does this clarification alter your thoughts at all? Though I do FEEL safer using Brutus, I am trying to find enlightenment as to whether this safer feeling is real or only imagined.

    Again, thanks for the comments

    Richard



  5. #5
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree


    I do believe the machine makes a difference! I would not do what you propose on a tractor but you don't have a tractor you have a Brutus! 8-)

    But how armoured is Brutus? The skidders/cutters logger's use are armoured like tanks. A tree falling on one of these machines is not going to do much to the equipment. But then the cutters were designed to cut and move trees. Saw 'em do it a few times and it was very impressive.

    So how armoured is Brutus? And which is less risky, cutting with a chain saw or pushing with Brutus? Seems like with this machine and its backhoe you could push from a distance away and it would be fairly safe. I know that some of the contractor's I talked with used a backhoe to push over trees and these were much smaller machines than Brutus.

    Can I borrow Brutus? I have some very big stumps giving me fits! 8-) I think Brutus would change the odds.. 8-)

    Later....
    Dan


  6. #6
    Elite Member Richard's Avatar
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    The in-laws are in the last stages of having roughly 150 acres or so selectively timbered, so I am VERY aware of some of these machines of which you speak. That said, Brutus is rather thin skinned compared to them, they are after all, just shy of industrial strength tanks as you say. Compared to a tractor however, it is pretty heavy duty.

    I have used the backhoe and loader on different trees to push. If the tree is very weak the loader will seem to not have a problem pushing it over. I have pushed the easiest one over with simple “idle” pressure, meaning, move slowly to tree, place bucket on tree, click lever into forward to “inch forward and tighten up” and the tree just continued to fall over. YIKES !! On the other end of the spectrum, I had a tree that had a previously fallen treetop (that had broken off) stuck roughly 30 or so feet in the air. This thing was maybe 20 feet long and was hanging by the canopy IN the canopy of this tree with the lower end of this thing hanging down like a dagger, or more ominously, like the cross in The Omen that came off the church and impaled someone. I was VERY worried about this and DIDN’T want to get out in the open so I got on opposite side of tree, cut a notch and QUICKLY jumped into the relatively safety of Brutus. I then spent maybe 60 minutes or so, working the tree, trying to topple it. Because I had the notch cut, the tree BENT [img]/w3tcompact/icons/crazy.gif[/img] and the notch collapsed then turned into a SUPPORT for the tree which was now leaning at maybe 50/60 degree angle. This got me VERY worried as it was turning dusk and I wanted the tree DOWN. I was going to cut the “bend” but realized it was under INTENSE pressure and that could end up very bad. I also remembered the tree that bent and blew out the (small) woodchips directly towards me. I ended up pushing and as tree teased me with a fall over, I quickly dropped bucket so if any blowout happened I would be trying my best to keep bucket in between. Tree finally fell, but not before genuinely worrying (scaring) me.

    You are certainly welcome to borrow Brutus. In fact, when I get finished, you can HAVE Brutus!!! All we need to do is give you my secret Swiss bank accounts wiring instructions!! [img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img]

    My first ever time on a backhoe (kubota L-35) I spent maybe 5 hours digging up TWO stumps. This was also learning how the hoe worked. Those stumps were maybe 3 years old or so. I have gone to stumps in Brutus that were from “fresh kill stumps” and twice the size (pine/cedar) and took maybe 30 minutes. I’m still slow, but I’m getting there (actually most credit/speed/muscle goes to Brutus)

    [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]



  7. #7
    Super Star Member Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    Richard,
    Be careful for when the base starts to move and the root appear there might be a surprise,roots breaking..dirt flying..rocks etc..


    Thomas..NH [img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  8. #8

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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    Paint a ring on the tree, and offer free firewood to those wishing to harvest it. Probably get rid of the selected trees in a hurry and all you will have to do is deal with the stumps. At least it works that way where I grew up!


  9. #9
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    On my place a lot of the Alders have rotten tops which can go any direction, even if they are fell with a chain saw. My B21 has a **** for stout four post ROPS and steel canopy, but I don't think I will be knocking trees over with the tractor anytime soon.


  10. #10
    Veteran Member gordon's Avatar
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    Default Re: ? on using backhoe to fell tree

    Richard, The way your pushing trees over is fun but very very dangerousIt sounds like you have already used up your warning call---splintering trunk---. A hardhat and mesh screen will offer some protection but not the type you need with what your doing.

    When you start pushing the tree three things can happen
    One fall over just as you want
    Two make a barber chair
    Three top break off and go anywhere except where you want it.

    Remember even with Brutus things can go bad in a hurry without the proper safety items that you are lacking with what your doing with the tractor. You should have a full cage no less if your going to be toppling trees.

    The digging of the roots on one side of the tree does work well with some types of trees.

    What I would do is drop the tree (with a chainsaw) leaving a chest high stump that way you still have some leverage to work the stump after you dig on the root ball some. Alot safer!!!
    Remember the ten-ten rule![img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]
    Gordon


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