Daily Grit: Stump Removal Workout

Recently, we posted about the importance of functional fitness – for homesteaders and non-homesteaders, alike. Here’s another example (and don’t forget this one): pulling out several yew tree root balls.

Multiple yew trees had been planted many years ago near the house and they matured into huge bushes. I’d like to think that they were small and shrub-like when originally planted…but they became huge, bushy trees that were too close to the house. And yew is very toxic – including the roots.

Future projects: these yews (one is dead already) will have to go, too

We began by chopping the bushes down. Two near the kitchen were over six feet tall. You can probably imagine the size of the roots that had grown from them. Removal of the stump required using a pickaxe, a hatchet, shovel, pole saw (occasionally) and, finally, the tractor. It was neither easy nor straightforward.

A chainsaw would have helped make short work of the take-down, but we made do with a pole saw and shears (and it still didn’t take long). When only the stump remained, the roots had to be dug up and cut…and that was the worst part of the job. Just when you think all the roots had been identified and the heavy clay soil dug out from around them, you push on it to see if it’s actually looseand nothing. It doesn’t budge! More digging, more roots.

Once the root ball/stump was disconnected, the tractor earned its keep by pushing and pulling the stump to break off any connections that weren’t possible to see under the root ball. Let’s just say that the root balls were so heavy (partly from the soil) that I’d guess they weighed more than 100 pounds.

Oh, and the tractor was mighty handy for the haul-away!

Admittedly, one of us was mostly supervisory (me) – after all, it would be ill-advised to have two people swinging pick axes (or hatchets or other sharp instruments) in such close quarters, right? Instead, I got to spend quality time pulling ivy off the rock wall and prying it out of cracks. I also cut down several old holly bushes and miscellaneous shrubs that had grown in front of the house…and hauled the brush to the back of the property where it was added to an existing brush pile that serves as a home for wild rabbits and other animals, in addition to being a good spot for honeysuckle harvesting.

At the end of the day, four stumps were out and no major injuries had occurred (just a blood blister from the pick axe). The last stump was in an unfortunate position, near a bay window bump out…the tractor’s bucket got a bit too close and damaged the siding a little. Tight spaces and heavy equipment is generally not a good combination, but you do what you have to do.

Now, with a blank slate, we’ll have to figure out what to do with these areas. I’m envisioning wooden planters, perhaps, full of mint and lemon balm, maybe some flowers in the front (sunnier) areas edible flowers, of course! The side of the house where the largest yew trees came out is pretty shady most of the day, though, so options may be limited. One thing I know for certain, though: no bushes or trees will be planted there!