2003-07 (JULY, 2003)

Wood Cutting Weekend At 'Dogwood' - NSW, Australia

I caught the train up to Taree and was collected by Dave. I got to meet John, Jenny's father - a man that defies description. John retired soon after my arrival and left Dave and I to sit out on the balcony, drink Coopers and solve the World's problems. By the time we had packed it in for the night it was after 03:00. Needless to say this did not lead to an early start the next morning.

After a damp-dog-nose alarm-call and a fine fry-up, we each set off to begin our jobs for the day - John to paint the house; Dave and I to clear a section of land on the border between the house and the rain-forest - phase one of the 'Build Dave A Shed' project. We started with the big stuff - Dave selecting a 12-metre high Paper Bark to fell, leaving me the 15-metre high Tallow Wood. Seeing as neither of us knew how to fell trees with a chainsaw, we made it up together. Dave's tree crashed satisfyingly to the ground about 20 seconds later. Nice. Because my tree was a little taller (and hence able to reach the water tank if felled incorrectly) we decided to rig up a rope for a little protection. Thank Christ we did! My final cut managed to jam the chainsaw in between the teetering trunk and the stump (I had neglected to be quite as precise in my cuts as I now know is required). I rapidly got out of the way and joined the boys in tugging on the rope to pull the tree towards us and away from the house. It was at this point that we realised that the tree might be taller than the length of our rope and that the now rapidly approaching tree might actually land on us. Cue a panicked run for it. John and Dave did the sensible "run to one side" whereas I did the not-so-sensible "run in the opposite direction" and thus almost got clobbered. I think my brain had taken a holiday that morning. With the big stuff down it was time to take the strimmer and chainsaw to anything left standing in the 12m x 12m section we were clearing (Dave's shed is going to be 10m x 7m, or 33' x 23' for the imperial among us, and two stories high - one munter of a shed). After a couple more hours we had built an extensive pile of rubbish to burn in the middle of the clearing. We dragged most off to one side and the set alight to the rest (comically aided by Dave and some white spirit - his turn to try for a Darwin Award). For the next 4-hours we tended the blaze, fortuitously aided by a light rain shower that kept the highly combustible waste in check. After a hard days work we retired early (for us).

I was last out of bed on Sunday and arose to find that Trevor had come over and that he and Dave were in deep discussion about our handy work the day before. The upshot was 10/10 for effort, 0/10 for achievement - we had cleared the wrong bit of land. What neither Dave nor I had recognised was that the bit we had cleared was completely sheltered from any sunlight and was thus a very damp and cold little corner - not a great place to build a shed-come-storage-area. A new area was selected in a patch of sunshine on the far side of the lower terrace of the garden. Phase two of 'Operation Uber Shed' was next - it was time to log some real trees (Dave wanted to use as much of his own timber in the construction of the shed). We decided to leave these babies to Trevor as he was less likely to kill anybody - and, boy, was he good! He dropped five 20m+ trees with unbelievable precision. Phase three involved taking the Crayola plans that Dave and I had drawn up and extracting some accurate measurements from them so that we could cut up the newly felled logs. This achieved we began the final phase for the day - dragging the logs up to the building site. For this we used Dave's tiny Suzuki Sierra with its tires half deflated, loads of rope and some homemade rollers. You should have seen the garden after we'd finished - freshly ploughed by Suzuki and logs. Doh! As soon as we were done it was time for me to go and catch my train home. I must say I'm looking forward to the next bits of 'Operation Uber Shed'!