1. SAFETY FIRST: This goes without saying, but is worth emphasizing. Always wear steel-toe work boots, gloves, ear protection, eye protection and a hard hat when using a chainsaw. Safety chaps are also a good idea. Even if the trees seem straightforward, put your safety first.
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2. TAKE YOUR TIME: It is tempting to fell a bunch of trees all at once, but make sure to examine every new tree thoroughly before you cut it, to ensure that you are positive of the direction it will fall. The goal is to limit the amount of work you have to do. Take your time planning where to cut so the trees will fall where you want them and don’t need to be moved.
3. DON’T FORCE IT: Unless you are a very experienced logger, never force a tree in any direction it absolutely doesn’t want to go. It is always safer to drop any “uncooperative” tree where it wants to fall, cut the logs off and move the treetops by hand to where you want them. If you are uncertain of which way a tree will fall, ask for a second opinion.
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4. STAY SHARP: Keep your chainsaw blade sharpened so you don’t wear you or your chainsaw out. Getting tired leads to mistakes, and mistakes with chainsaws lead to the hospital.
5. CUT IT CLEAN: Cut your trees as flush with the ground as possible. This will help the stump break down faster in the soil, but it will also help keep the stump from getting caught in your goat and pig fencing.
6. DON’T GO IT ALONE: It’s good to let someone know where you are planning to cut trees before you set out. And if you get cell service, bring your phone along. Heaven forbid something happens to you, but always be prepared. My wife and I have a rule: If she doesn’t hear the chainsaw for more than an hour, she comes and checks on me.
7. PACK YOUR TOOLS: Bring a small tank of gas with you, your chainsaw tool, bar oil and a jug of water. Maybe a snack, too. Again, it’s about not wasting energy, and traveling back and forth to maintain your body or your equipment can rapidly exhaust you.
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This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Winter 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.