The Black Walnut Project, Part One
Earlier this summer, our area was hit with a colossal storm system called a derecho, a “widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm,” according to Wikipedia. Nobody knew the word until that night, or, more accurately, a week later when the power came back on and people started watching the news again.
The storm, which packed a punch of 90mph winds, knocked down, uprooted and broke so many large diameter trees on our property I was positive a tornado had come through. Most of them were deep in the woods way down the slope to the river, not even practical to haul as firewood up to the house. But one tree, a beautiful black walnut tree that was probably over 70 feet tall, broke in half tantalizingly close to level ground. If I could get the top half, which was still attached if only by a small sliver of bark, to separate completely, it seemed plausible to cut it down, cut it up and try to do something with the wood.
Well as luck would have it, Mother Nature took care of the first hurdle, blowing the top of the tree the rest of the way clear from the trunk in another summer storm.
My friend Ken, who has more experience at scary things like cutting down forty foot walnut trees without killing himself, cut the tree down without killing himself. While this was certainly a success, there was still a lot of hard work left to do. There was the task of getting five thousand pounds of log up a severe slope to get it to level ground where a sawyer with a portable mill could park and mill the logs.
So I cut it into manageable pieces and recruited another friend, Andrew, who has a big, powerful truck and eighty feet of chain, to help me get them up the hill. Here is the first one already at the top before I thought to take a picture.
By the time we got the fifth and last section up, the largest section measuring 10 feet long and just over 24″ in diameter, it finally occurred to me to take a video. This cool log weight calculator puts this log at about 1,750 pounds. The horn beep at the end of the video was Andrew getting jerked into the steering wheel when the log hit that last tree. we had to re-chain it from a different angle to pull it the rest of the way.
It was quite a sense of accomplishment to get a couple tons of wood up that steep hill and onto level ground. We celebrated with beer and barbecue.
The next day I sealed the ends of the logs with Anchorseal. This slows the rate of drying through the ends, and helps stabilize the log so it doesn’t split and crack in the ends from drying too quickly. I have a friend who turns wooden bowls, he is excited to work with some of this pretty wood. As for the rest, I’m going to have it milled. I might kiln dry enough to build a coffee table for the house, then the rest will go into the barn to dry slowly for some future projects!