By Manfred Rieder
Benjamin J. Farney (30) of Newport is a certified professional tree climber. Last week he came to our home and politely asked me to remove my 30 year old Chrysler from the back of our home because my neighbors had engaged him to take down two huge maple trees which had become a nuisance. I should know because at the last storm one branch dented the aforementioned old car and the trees were simply becoming too dangerous to keep alive.
Now, we had trees taken down before, especially when we lived in Sutton, Quebec. Normally our experience was one older gentleman with suspenders and a rusty pickup truck would show up, crank up one ancient two stroke chain saw and let it rip...Not so this time. Mr. Farney is a consummate professional and watching him work for a full day was enlightening. The $ 250.-/day rented man-lift was the "operating theater" and when he first ascended to some 70 feet up and began to carefully trim the branches, every single time shouting "clear" to his assistant Wyatt Wilson, it became a ballet of sorts, a well crafted exercise without fanfare or drama. There was the simple joy to watch two men do a job and do it well.
Gradually the first tree was reduced to about 30 feet of majestic trunk and section by section it came down until there was nothing left than a large elegant stump protruding a few inches above the ground.
When the job started on the second tree we asked the men if it were possible to leave about three feet of trunk for us to use as a picnic table because my lovely neighbors had granted us permission to have a small rock garden in the corner of their grounds which abut our property. There I have to mention that my flower and herb beds were directly under the about to be eliminated maple tree # 2 and amazingly, not one single flower or stalk of chives has damaged by the operation. Those people were amazing.
Benjamin started his professional career as a logger and eventually got his certification as a licensed tree climber after which he started his own company two years ago. But he does not just chop down trees - his main profession as an arborist is actually tree maintenance. He works with ornamentals, trims fruit trees and will soon give a seminar at the Northwoods stewardship center for other people who would like to know more about forest preservation. Eventually he wants to establish a school for tree climbers and arborists.
In our home we have a large wall mural of trees and even some ornamental branches to give the wall dimension. When Benjamin agreed to visit with us last Saturday, he used this wall as a teaching tool to explain about the intricacies of the rope work required to "rig down" branches. Benjamin uses the double rope technique and will not use the traditional spikes because, in his own words: "I will not intentionally hurt a tree". This of course is when a tree is to be pruned or preserved but even when he cuts down a tree like the two maples, he gives the tree, a living thing older than himself, a great degree if dignity. There is use to be made of the wood, either as timber, which some of the larger logs will be milled for, or a fire wood. Thus, just cutting a tree down and leaving a mess is not in the repertoire of this man. Everything was stacked neatly and by size, branches where whisked away by truck and by the end of the day the landscape looked clean and neat.
"Climbing is addictive" tells Ben. "But every move has to be calm and calculated otherwise you get in trouble really quick". Thus far he has never got injured but this is in part the result of his studied technique and the superb tools of his trade. He will only use the very best in ropes, carabiners and harness gear and has a large amount of money invested in the best saws money can buy.
When asked about which trees he prefers to work with , the answer was hard woods. A maple or an oak is predictable, most evergreens are not, they have mostly shallow roots while hardwoods have stronger structural root systems. Ben also does not like to work around life wires and while he will gladly accept a job that involves a tree next to the electric grid, he will insist that power be cut before he will attempt the job. However he stated that often jobs of this nature will be taken care of by the power companies possibly at no cost to the home owner.
And at the end of the day we had made a new friend and gained a picnic table!