A tree falls

Fifty three years ago a Tulip Poplar seed fluttered its way down from high in the forest canopy. It skipped through the lush leaves of a stately red oak, danced about the fat twiggy branches of a tough dour hickory, and bounced about within the thorny crown of a holly before coming to rest in the moist rich undergrowth of an Eastern Kentucky creek bottom. Subsequent summer showers only served to nestle the young seed deeper into its new home, just as a corpulent Rhode Island hen would gather a wandering egg amongst her feathery warmth.

The rich loamy soil of the creek bottom along with a patch of open sky above soon catapulted our tiny seedling into the air. Within twenty years he had dominated his small piece of paradise in the canopy, and began to extend his leafy reach outward, amassing a gorgeous crown bejeweled with yellow flowers of his own progeny. If fate had been kind our young tree would have established himself as one true forest giant, his trunk could have reached more than ten feet in diameter, his height ten times that.

One early spring a blistery cold late ice storm rolled though the high country, bending mighty hemlocks, smashing spindly black pines against the hillsides, and even our stately Poplar could not weather the storm undamaged. His gorgeous crown, which had so dominated and impressed the clearing, was too heavily laden with ice, and broke off in a terrifying crash, leaving him doomed to an agonizing and protracted end. Not by fire or chainsaw, but slow vicious rot would eat away at his insides, till all which remained of our glorious tall tree was the hollow haunted tapping of a hoary woodpecker searching for grubs in his rotten remains.

In this case, we felt no grief in harvesting this tree. With axe and saw we would transform his yet whole wood into a home for ourselves, so that he may live on in another life, be enjoyed and appreciated for many years to come.

In this most intimate intrusion of the forest, the felling of a great tree, we feel doubly resigned to the use of hand tools. To give of ourselves, some great sweat and effort, in the taking of this tree, to not despoil the air with the noise and stink of a chainsaw, but add to the forest symphony our own tunes, of chopping axe and singing saw, it is this way in part we give reverence to this tree, and every tree we must fell to build our home…






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16 Responses to A tree falls

  1. jeff says:

    I just came over from your u tube channel… binge read all of it. Great stuff, really enjoyed it all and will continue to read and watch everything you put out. Would like to see more of your wife’s work as well. Is she a craft artist? She could be…
    I know you didn’t ask for it but I would like to share my opinion about log home building… what a waste of beautiful/usefull trees they are. I have watched several log homes being built in person and it always strikes me how many trees are used and how much waste is generated… please find another way to build your families home. Your timber frame workshop is spectacular… well, that’s just my two cents(by the way, what was with the penny put in the timber joint) anyway. Thanks for everything…


    • mrchickadee says:

      Thanks for the kind words. She shows true talent, and will be able to create more when we are finished building.

      In the past we wouldn’t have considered a log home for the reason you mentioned. This year we learned a neighbor who owns a vast property has several areas near a creek being destroyed by beavers, and as he will lose these trees he has decided to harvest these bottom areas and turn them into food plots. We will saw lumber for him as well as our logs for our cabin.
      Also, as our home will be only 14X18 we won’t be wasting the huge amount of trees you might imagine, if these logs are very long we might use less than 20 trees for everything.

      Thanks for commenting.


      • Josh: your videos are mesmerizing. I’m inspired by your work and yearn for the day (retirement?) when I can begin a similar project. Don’t worry about felling the trees. You treat God’s resources with the love and care they deserve. From what I’ve seen so far, you’re judiciously recycling as you go. Bravo!


      • Tom says:

        what do you mean lose them? Lose the $ from them? Make sure you garden / farm “beyond” organically


      • mrchickadee says:

        No not the money, beavers are eating all the trees in these creek bottoms of his, so losing them means losing the trees down a beavers throat.


  2. Beautiful. Like another blog reader, your writing reminds me of two of my favorite authors – Sigurd Olson and Aldo Leopold. If you can get a hold of Aldo Leopold’s classic “A Sand County Almanac”, be sure to read his chapter “Good Oak” where he eloquently describes the harvesting of a lightning damaged old oak tree – I think you will like it. I am really enjoying the display of craftmanship in the writing, videography and woodworking. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.


  3. charlierecyclist says:

    I cant help but fantasize one of your future videos being you and your wife sawing boards out with a pit saw. Any plans for such craziness? By the way, where did you get your crosscut saw? Ebay?


  4. Ria & Ian says:

    My wife and I just want to thank you for your videos and blog. We see a lot of parallels between you and us, we just bought a 30 acre piece of land in the mountains of upstate NY, and my wife Ria just immigrated to the US from Indonesia. It’s great to look at the pictures and read everything, gives us some great ideas for our land.


    • mrchickadee says:


      Thats great to hear! We believe in this lifestyle and are overjoyed to see anyone attempting this as well. I searched Upstate NY for a long time years ago, and almost bought a few places there, land was pretty and cheap. How are your summers there? Its been very hot and humid here this year, and rainy haha. We work when we can, but love every minute of it.

      If we can ever be of help, or just answer any query you may have please feel free to reach out to us!

      Josh and Maio


      • Ria & Ian says:

        Thanks so much! Summer has been pretty warm here but we live on a small plateau at 1400ft so that takes the edge off the heat, it hasn’t gotten over about 85 yet. It’s been pretty dry here though the past couple weeks actually.

        Right now our project is building some stone walls to retain garden terraces and rice paddies, but next year we would like to start on a house and we would love to have another location for my families brewpub also so that we can work from home. We are leaning toward timber frame with straw bale.

        We love the idea of the hand hewn timbers, there is plenty of straight white pine here which I’ve heard cuts like butter and is semi strong, I’ll be experimenting with that for our tool shed soon.

        We would love to keep in touch, our neighbor is a timber framer but watching your stuff has inspired me to try and use more hand tools wherever we can. Thanks.


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