How to Cut Down a Tree For $30

It seems wrong to cut down a tree for any reason in the concrete jungle but we had a fir tree in the backyard that was leaning, with dead branches and was smack in the middle of the yard.  Our neighbor did not like it either so he offered to lend us his chain saw.  The first step was cutting the top off.

backyard

We won’t go into details on this part, just know that it involved a ladder, a chain saw, and some rope (to make sure the top fell where we wanted it to) and a bit of luck.

We cut off the top of the tree leaving about 8 feet of the trunk so we could pull it out later. This left us with a bunch of large tree branches that we now had to deal with.  Enter, NYC and its new organics recycling program.  Thanks to the new program, we were able to cut up the branches and separate them into tied bundles and then set them out on the curb (a few at a time) to be picked up by the city.  We also received two new brown bins where we could put all our garden clippings, leaves and sticks for the program to recycle.  Brilliant.

Oh and in case you were wondering, you can’t burn fir tree wood in your fireplace because it has too high a moisture content.  If you were cutting down a tree whose wood you could burn, you would have to let it dry out for a significant period of time before you could burn it in a fireplace.  You cannot burn wood in a fire pit in your backyard–despite what our neighbor says.

Now, for the trunk.  One day, our other neighbor had gardeners in her yard so we asked them how much to remove the trunk and roots.  He told us $300 not including taking the stump away.  That was not in our budget.  In our previous apartment, we had watched a tree stump being removed and they used a large truck and some chains.  We could not use this method because our backyard butts up to private property all around.  Because we are cheap and always up for a challenge, we purchased a 2 ton cable winch from Harbor Freight for 20 bucks and some chain. The winch works by attaching a chain around the stump and another around a solid object (in this case our other much larger tree) then you crack away on the winch and watch it pull the tree down.

IMG_4747 We had to tighten up the chains several times (as the winch only provides about 6 feet of cable) and dig around the root system a bunch but we got the tree down.

pulling_tree_downAfter the tree was down we cut up the trunk with the chainsaw and wrapped the chains around he stump and cranked more until all of the roots were out.

pulling_stump_outIn the end we had just this big hole in the ground but no worries because the contractor left us a giant mound of dirt when the extension was created.

IMG_4760 Afterwards, there was some more digging and cutting with an axe to get out the roots out but we are now stump-free.

 

NYC to Ban Wood Burning Fireplaces in Historic Brownstones?

finished - kitchenIf you are thinking about putting in a new wood burning fireplace or restoring that old fireplace, will the new Mayor’s proposal affect you?  Bill de Blasio recently announced proposed updates to New York City’s Air Pollution Control Code that might affect your decision to not wait.

Now, de Blasio already has mixed review in this household.  Forcing certain 10 year olds to go to school in a snow storm and then cancelling after school programs so that their first Valentine’s Day dance was cancelled, did not go over too well.  We are conflicted on the horse carriage in Central Park ban (couldn’t proper regulations fix it such as only owner-driven horses) and positive about bringing the fireworks back to the East River.

When we first heard this news we were panicked because we spent a tidy little sum on reconstructing our fireplaces and the thought of not using them was quite distressing, not to mention we counted on them being a factor in our home’s resale value.

According to various news media websites (not always so reliable) the proposed changes would include banning new fireplaces from being in built in residential homes. If you are like us, a wood burning fireplace was high on our list of must-haves when we were purchasing our home.  Long snowy winter nights just wouldn’t have been the same without being able to curl up by the fire.

It is unclear how the new rules would affect homes that already have fireplaces that require reconstruction.   Would it make a difference if there is a chimney in existence but no smoke boxes?  Ours were really decorative heat conduits that pumped heat from the coal burner through the house.  From what we’ve read it looks like as long as the chimney is there that you might be ok.

For those who already have reconstructed fireplaces, the proposed codes say you can still use them but the regulations would require that home owners only burn wood with a low moisture content.  We are fine with that.  How they are going to enforce it is another question.  Are they going to hire wood police?  I hope retailers who sell wood only sell approved wood because I can’t tell the difference.

Apparently, it has only a handful of sponsors so we shall see where it goes.

**and for those who read the NY Times article that made us look like total douches,  the point I made was that, like stairs, the novelty will wear off and we will probably only use it a few times a year and we would of course follow the law on what to burn.

 

Dreaming of spring: flowers, fences and fun

Today seemed like the perfect day to write a blog post about plans for the backyard.  After living in a condo for many years our new home brought with it dreams of summer barbecues, lilac bushes, shading trees, tall glasses of lemonade and cool green grass.  Our reality is that there is still a lot of work to do to finish the house and get our new certificate of occupancy.  Still, a family can dream…

Our backyard today.

Our backyard today.

Although we moved into our house months ago, we are still working on the punch list with the contractor.  Unfortunately, the GC put us on the back burner, then the weather turned cold and what with the constant rain and freezing temperatures, we could not finish the back deck.  Thankfully, the railings and stairs were completed and only the stone deck surface needs to be installed.

In the fall we met with landscape designer, Dan Silverstein, whose services we “won” at our daughter’s school auction last winter.  He came out to see our yard and we discussed ideas for the space.  He took some measurements and we showed him some photos of backyards we liked.  Below is the yard before construction on the house.  We hacked down that tree closest to the building but need to remove the stump in the spring.

Back Yard Shot From Roof

Back Yard Shot From Roof

When looking at outdoor areas we tended to like clean modern spaces but we (I) definitely want an area with some wild flowers and an English garden feel.  We already know the design of fence we want but are worried about how much sun it will block out.

The inspiration photos:

fence

The narrow slats and wider spacing at the top allow for more light to get through.

flowers

We are going to have to use plantings that work well in shade and half sun, especially if we put wooden fence up.

We are going to have to use plantings that work well in shade and half sun, especially if we put wooden fence up.

And this one is a little on the dreaming side but not impossible (no TV just pool or hot/cold tub). hot tub

Our designer came back with a plan that we liked.  We were open to completely re-arranging the space but decided that our budget was not so we are planning to keep the basic bones but clean it up.

backyard plan

As weary urban dwellers, we definitely wanted to keep some grass.  In the long area with the plantings, we hope we have enough sunlight to have a small kitchen garden and some flowers.  In the back, we will probably go with bushes for privacy and to greenify things back there.  These plans are a good start and we liked the way Dan blended modern with natural elements like gravel around the tree and green plantings in the brick walkway.  When spring finally starts to bloom we will fine tune the plans and hopefully, if the rest of the house is done (remember we still have that rental unit to fix up), we will get to start on it.