Chainsaw Practice & Other Progress

Last week I shared my big list of shit to get done before it starts snowing, and while it may seem like I’ve just been sitting around being philosophical about chickens, I’ve actually been working pretty hard to make some pre-winter progress.

One of the things on my list was clearing all of the tree debris from the storm a couple of weeks ago, which meant taking my shiny new chainsaw out of the box it’s been sitting in for a year and a half.


Oh good, it comes with instructions.


All you ever need to know about operating a chainsaw right there, folks.

Actually, chainsaws make me a little nervous. I mean, technically anything that could remove one of my limbs without my consent makes me a little nervous… that’s healthy. But despite some of the really stupid shit I do, I’m pretty cautious about tools I’ve never used before, particularly ones that are completely freehand.

However, I’m far more stubborn than I am nervous, and luckily I know a dude who worked as a lumberjack for a few years and he gave me a proper tutorial on how not to maim myself with this thing.


After guiding me through a few practice cuts he went away and left me to my own devices, so I could get comfortable with the tool in my own way.

A lot of times when men teach women how to use a power tool, there’s a lot of “here is how you’re going to hurt yourself” and “you shouldn’t do this” and “you’re doing it wrong” and then they hover over your shoulder and give constant correction. Even when those guys mean well– and usually they do– that’s still basically the shittiest learning environment ever. I’ve been there dozens of times myself, and while I’m stubborn enough to teach myself in spite of those experiences, I still get irritated at the thought of needing to ask for help or instruction. I avoid it at almost all costs, and when I can’t avoid it, I get preemptively pissed that someone is going to try coddling me or treating me like I’ve only got half a brain. And then I have expend a lot of willpower trying not to throw my chainsaw at them.

All of that went through my head prior to asking for the chainsaw run-down, and while I should have given the guy more credit, I was still really surprised to have someone show me a new skill as if they actually respected my abilities. That’s pretty damn cool. And after an hour practicing by myself, I felt pretty good about my chainsawing skills.


There’s a tractor in that picture, if that gives you an idea of how many branches I cleared. My brush-burning was thwarted by intermittent downpours though…


Seriously. Look at the sky in that last picture. Does that look like I’m about to get soaked? No. I don’t know what the hell was up with the weather, but I feel like it was deliberately screwing with me… and it worked because while I got a lot of the pile cleared, it’s not quite done yet and I can’t check it off my list.

But, here’s one thing that does get a nice big checkmark next to it: Staining the outside of the propane fence.


Done, done, done, done, done. And that feels good.

I also got a good start on the deep-clean of the barn…


There was about four inches of hay and straw that had gathered on the floor over the last year, which I piled up and hauled off to the compost pile.


I found two extension cords I had no idea were still in the barn hidden under all that mess, and I was wondering how the hell they managed to get that deeply buried, when I looked over at the pile of straw I just made…




Already half un-piled. Nugs are so helpful.


While there’s hay in the barn, there will always be hay on the floor (and it does give the chickens something to do when they’re hanging out in the barn) so I let them spread a fresh coat around.

Looks pretty much exactly the same as where I started, but that’s farm work for you.

The good news for my list is that I’ve got 3 days off work next week to tackle a lot of the big things (and maybe some fun things too.)

17 Responses

  1. OK, I almost feel like a grownup. I’ve had a BRAND NEW chainsaw sitting in my basement workshop for a few years as well, too intimidated to test drive it. (Yes – they come with instructions printed right ON them. Who knew?) Anyway, asked a good friend to come over Friday for chainsaw lessons. Who took a similarly spectacular and respectful approach as well.
    finally used it “solo” for some serious stuff on Monday. Yeehaw!!!
    Note: when they tell you to adjust the chain tension after a few uses, they – mean – it. Not adjusting the chain leads to some scary shit. On the other hand, now I *also* know how to disassemble the clutch cover (that being the only way to get the chain ALL the way back on.) Chain saws rock!

  2. You are a braver girl than I. All other machinery – no probs. Chainsaw – scares the utter crap out of me. I’ve got about 12 trees that need to come down currently not to mention a barn full of wooden beams and trees I got felled last year that need to be chopped if I want any heat this winter, but I just can’t bring myself to handle a chainsaw. I went shopping for one with a bloke (100% in agreement about the differences in ‘learning environment’ that creates), and even just trying to lift one was a nightmare – and I’m no 90lb weakling (who was it who hauled those felled trees into the barn in the first place!).
    Looks like I shall again be hiring a man who can for a day or two methinks.
    Kudos to you!

  3. It’s good to stay a little bit scared when you’re running a chainsaw…I do it by keeping in mind the image of the ghastly scar on my brothers shoulder from a kick back incident as I’m tuning things up before pulling that starter cord….it keeps me careful.

    There’s lots to warn against, my biggest warning would be: when you get tired, STOP, that’s when accidents happen….but you know that, cause it goes for all power tools, right? Especially for spinning saws.

    Biggest Tip: Learning to use it ambidextrously can really help even out the fatigue, with my back issues it is essential.

    A chainsaw is a great tool, you’re gonna love it!! Vroom, Vroom!

  4. Yay for chainsaws! I was given a small electric one and it was great to clear out the saplings and a good starter model for me. Now I want a bigger one…just because! Unfortunately, my house sits in the middle of trees about 60′-70′ tall and I need to find someone that can take about 15-20 down without landing them on the house!

  5. “They actually respected my abilities”. Yes! That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out how to express for YEARS. Anytime my husband tries to teach me anything, he talks like he’s teaching a child to tie their shoe. I have abilities, damn it! R-E-S-P-E-C-T them!

    End of rant.

  6. LOL @ “preemptively pissed”! SO glad I’m not the only one who gets like that! Awesome chainsaw power 🙂

  7. I love my little electric chainsaw. It’s about the handiest thing in the world. I like being able to turn it on, cut the limb, it turns off, move the limb, rinse, repeat. It makes it so much easier when you are doing brush trimming/clearing. I’ve cleared about 10 truckloads full of privet bushes. I hate those things. I’ve busted out the big chainsaw for large jobs, but it’s not near as fun as the little one!

  8. Every time I got “nicked” with a chain saw it was always the same issue – I was tired, rushing, and trying to maneuver about limbs/brush. The folks at the E-room got to know me by my first name – and I’m sure the word “schmuck” was buried in there somewhere.

    Now – the chaps, eyewear/ear protection/gloves, etc are always on, and I plan my cuts beforehand. A timberjack to pick up the trunk off the ground is a big plus. So now – when I put a tree on the ground – the game plan is to first limb the tree and clear and move all that brush and limbs, and then move on to the trunk for firewood.

  9. I think even professionals are fearful of the chainsaw. A good youtube guy on chainsaws, forest management, homesteading is wranglerstar. Crap ton of videos, but lots of good ones on chainsaw maintenance, technique, tools, etc. I believe Sthil has some good videos on their website as well on how to fell trees in the direction you want them to go.

    I have been contemplating getting an electric one because it seems like every time I need a chainsaw, it’s out of gas, the carb or something is out of wack, dull chain, or the 2 cycle gods hate me on that particular day an not amount of replacement parts will keep it running.

    Try and get NON-Ethanol fuel for that thing with some stabil in the fuel can as well. Seems all my problems can go back to water/gas issues.

  10. Nugs are REALLY helpful if you have a pile of something you want spread out!

    I totally feel what you said about getting help from men. Some are cool (like your guy) but some can be so discouraging, even when they are trying to be “helpful.” Sometimes you get the look like, “you want to do WHAT yourself? You’re a woman.” Never said out loud of course, but you can see it in their face.

    The other day I was at the Big Orange box store, and I needed a slip fit PVC fitting to replace a section I had to cut out when I cracked the pipe (long story). The guy in plumbing was trying to sell me glue, explain how to cement the fittings, explain that I needed to dig it out completely, cut the ends straight, get off the burs. ALL STUFF I KNOW. I have used PVC a hundred times and have sweated copper pipe and used steel pipe and you name it. But he wanted to talk to me like I was a noob. I kept saying, “Yes I know that, I just need that extending part to span the gap I cut out.” ARRGGHHHH!!!! It’s so maddening. Sometimes I think I want to disguise myself as a man when I go to the hardware store to bypass all that crap.

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.