Monday, June 1, 2015

Moving a giant palm tree

In my typical attention deficit disorder (ADD) fashion, instead of doing all the things on my todo list I instead started thinking about how to dig up a large palm tree in our backyard that was growing into our giant oak tree.  Even though I knew it was too large for me, I kept thinking about how to engineer a method to dig it up.   After that I would consider options for moving it.

The one challenge involved with this task is the tree is about 8 feet in front of the bee hive in our backyard.  I had to use a pic axe and saws as well as construct a large wooden structure around the tree.  Fortunately these beautiful laid back bees paid me no attention and let me do whatever I wanted to without any guard bees chasing me off.  They are the best bees one could ask for.

So eventually I got the tree down and it was massive and even more intimidating after it was down.  I couldn't budge it at all it was so heavy.  Couldn't even pull on the top of it.  So now what ?????  After realizing this was way more than I could handle, I called someone to move it for us.  But it was $200.00 which in retrospect seems like a bargain.   After talking it over with the wife we decided to save our money and I would have to cut it up.  Not something I wanted to do.

That's about the time my brain became preoccupied with how I could move this tree.  After all, the ancient Egyptians moved giant stones with human power and built pyramids so why couldn't I employ some engineering techniques to move this 40 foot 1000 - 1500 pound palm tree?   Our son had a crazy plan that involved taking our rear fence down and dragging the tree out into the middle of a busy road and then chain hoisting it to a tree.  It would have involved shutting down a busy road and causing a traffic jam of people watching us wrestle with this massive tree on the side of the road.  He had to go out of town and told me to wait for him ....  I had to do something quick before he returned from his trip.

My plan kept formulating but I never thought I could complete the task.  My plan of attack was to move the tree a a few feet at a time and if it got too impossible I would get the chainsaw out and cut the tree up for trash day.

The first task was to get the palm tree out of the hole it was in.  A structure of 4x4 wood and 2x4's and a heavy duty metal crossbar held the chain hoist as the palm tree was hoisted up.  Several times the assembly snapped due to incorrectly sized screws and the structure collapsed.  The third try worked and the tree was hoisted out of the hole suspended by the chain hoist.  But now what ?
root ball dangling over the hole.... now what?

Two heavy duty ramps were placed over the hole and a large wagon was placed under the root ball and then the chain hoist lowered it onto the wagon.  The wagon's tires compressed completely due to the weight of the root ball and the wagon looked like it was going to roll over on it's side due to the hill it was on.  At this point I thought that this project was near impossible but we'll try to get it at least away from the hive so I can use a chainsaw to cut it up.  To lift the top part of the tree needed a floor jack to get it off the ground.   Then a large rolling home made floor cart was placed underneath so the top of the tree wouldn't drag in the dirt.  Chain hoist was used to advance the tree forward.  Fortunately there were always just enough places to attach the chain hoist.
Supported by wagon and cart
Supervised by Curious George from his perch on the giraffe
One step at a time.  If the wagon doesn't tip over on this hill we might be able to get it away from the hive.  And then we realize we made it to the first 90 degree turn.  Now this will be challenging.  Especially since you can't really turn the wagon as the axles and wheels are almost non functional.  And the front cart's wheels keep digging into the dirt.  But slowly and methodically we keep pulling this large tree forward and slowly use a chain hoist to turn the corner.  When we turned the corner I was in disbelief.  It seemed impossible, especially considering the length of the tree.  Now I was becoming more optimistic.  If we could squeeze down the narrow path and make it to the pavers we might even be able to get it to the next turn.

So on and on this went all day and we were drenched in sweat.  Eventually we made it to the front of the house but the biggest challenge remained.  How to get this monster to the bee farm.  A 40' tree in the back of a pickup is more redneck than I want to be.  A friend said that it was impossible to use a truck to move it and offered his trailer.  I have a massively cool crane that attaches to my hitch so if I used a trailer I would lose access to my hitch and crane.  Oh and the weight limit of the crane was around 700-800 pounds ... less than half of what I really needed.
Keeping Yvonne busy operating the hoist ....
A big advantage at this point was the wagon was no longer on the verge of tipping over on the uneven ground.  Now the wagon was level.   Fortunately we kept finding places to attach the chain hoist and dragging this monster to the front of the house actually worked.  The one big turn in front of the garage was challenging and I made sure I had plenty of chocks ready to deploy in case the weight and the wagon on the driveway's hill decided to make a run for it and roll out into the road.  The front of the palm was actually quite ready to start rolling and it took a lot to keep it from following the natural path of gravity.  The last step before nightfall was to see if we even could get this monster into the back of my truck and if so how ridiculous would this look.
Almost to the driveway ...
In the driveway - look at those poor tires
As I never thought we would make it this far, the newest challenge of loading a 40' palm tree into the bed of a pickup was overwhelming.  But I just kept telling myself that worst case scenario is we cut the palm up and chalk it up to an interesting day : )  Once I hooked up the crane and attached it to the root ball, I realize how heavy this thing was.  The crane was very very taxed and I worried about something snapping.  There was easily over a thousand pounds being lifted.  Possibly up to 1500 pounds I estimated by considering other things I've easily lifted with the crane. 
Up but not enough room to swing the palm straight
Once the palm was in the air I realized there was not enough room to swing the palm around straight.  This meant I had to pull the truck up about 2 feet.  The only problem was the crane's stabilizer was firmly on the pavement.  So I chanced dragging it several feet on the driveway and it worked with no problems.  Whew .... that was stressful while the heaviest part of the palm dangled over my tailgate which I unwisely forgot to remove before this complicated operation.   The final step was to swing the palm around and gently lay the root ball in the back of the truck bed.  No problem.  I also used a heavy steel piece I had to hold the palm up so it didn't touch the tailgate at all.
Safely in the bed of the truck. "Crazy" I think
And the obvious sets in.  This is way too long for a pickup truck.  But then again, this IS Florida where things like this are more common than you would think.   The plan was to wake up early on Sunday morning before any traffic was on the road.
Keeping it off the tailgate

Sunday morning was beautiful and we got going around 5:30am.  The end of the palm tree had green leaves which could be cut and save about 10 feet from our payload length.  But having green leaves will help the plant survive the shock of the move and that's not something I want to do.  Yvonne had a great idea to wrap the palm fronds in a plastic wrap I had and that would make the end more manageable and keep the leaves safe from hitting the road.  As long as the plastic is only on for a short period it will work.   So we wrapped it up and pulled the leaves toward the truck to shorten the load somewhat.  Securely strapping the palm down so it's not going anywhere took some time and then we were ready to roll.  Yvonne followed in her car and had her cell phone ready if the load shifted.  I'm sure if the palm wasn't securely fastened a bump in the road could have the palm standing straight up in the bed of my truck.  Or even worse, hitting the brakes it would stand straight up and then going over smashing the cab !  But the trip was uneventful since it was tied down secure.
Palm ready for a road trip

Once we got to the bee farm a large hole was dug after determining where to transplant it.  Now the trick was to get the root ball perfectly lined up in the hole.  Not at all an easy challenge.  But we got it pretty close and used the crane and truck to shift it just right.
After stabilizing the tree I realized I need to build a supporting structure or it would fall over in the first good wind.  Unfortunately my tools were at home so Yvonne went home to get what was needed.  I had the required lumber at the bee farm for this task.  Once we finished up the structure and the tree was planted I just sat back and couldn't believe we actually moved this from our back yard.  It's amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.  A fun challenge and some interesting exercise was had by all.  Plus I proudly received my official "Redneck" membership badge today.
clap clap clap clap clap clap clap !!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment