HOW TO PEEL TREES

August 12, 2011 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

A crew from Whole Trees Architecture and Construction spent Tuesday and Wednesday on our land and completed peeling all the trees that need peeling this summer to serve as the unmilled timbers we will be using to build our house next spring.

Selected not only because they are the right dimensions for construction of our house, but also because they were crowding other trees, or likely to die soon for other reasons, the trees are peeled now and left standing till early winter because:

  1. After its bark is removed, the tree will die and dry to a much lighter weight by the time it is cut sometime next winter.
  2. Felling takes place after the ground freezes to cause minimum damage to the forest floor.
  3. The lighter timber is easier to handle and requires less power equipment to move around, and that in turn minimizes disruption to the surrounding growing area.
  4. Peeling the trees also allows us to see any flaws, holes, disease and structural damage before dragging them out of the woods.

Peeling trees is hard work, but incredibly engrossing.   Each species reveals different characteristics as it peels.  You become aware of how much water is moving under the tree’s bark as you peel it.  Sometimes you can be splashed in the face as you pull back a strip of bark.

Peeling trees is a 1-2-3 process. Get your tool under the bark and pull away from the tree. Cut the loosened bark. Take a hold and pull.

Peeling a tree is like unwrapping a present.

There is an element of surprise as its inner, often muscular shape is revealed.   Most of the trees we have peeled have been pine and spruce because we have a lot of those, and they’ll make great, straight rafters and joists.  That meant a LOT of branches to be sawed off before the peeling began, and I was on branch removal detail until all branches were gone.

Then I picked up a tree spud and joined the peelers to realize what a fascinating task I had been missing.

It is intensely moving to work so closely with these beautiful, strong trees that will retain their shape as they become part of our dwelling.

The highest we needed to peel any pine was 19 feet, and when you are working at the end of a long pole, peeling is more problematic.
Many of the more individually-shaped posts with forking branches will have to be felled before they can be peeled because they are too tall to reach with our tools.   That task will be undertaken later.

One amazing walnut, which will become part of our bedroom wall, was low enough to peel in this round, and the crew saved it for last.  We all worked on it together, admiring this fine tree as we prepared it.

Walnut bark peels off in great swaths.

This branch will stretch all the way across the bedroom wall. Had this tree not been chosen, in the long run this branch would have probably split off the trunk. This wonderful walnut will make a fantastic addition to our home, but it would be a reject to a conventional forester.

We could not stop admiring this fine tree as we worked.

We had a great time with the tree crew.

After they headed back to LaCrosse, Doug and I peeled three more trees — small, overcrowded examples of pine, cherry and walnut, which we will use to test various finishes this fall.

The next step for Doug and I will be to spray each peeled tree with a borate solution to keep them from becoming covered in mildew.  It will be wonderful to touch base with each of them again.

How many times will we thank these trees for becoming our part of our home?

Not enough.

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Entry filed under: Eco architecture, Ecosystem Restoration, TALES FROM OUR 44 ACRES. Tags: , , , , , , .

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