Chatham County Lines

My apologies to the local bluegrass group of almost the same name…this is a bit of an unusual post in that it doesn’t highlight some interesting natural phenomenon I have stumbled across in my wanderings. Instead, I just wanted to share something I found amazing that has come calling to the edge of the land I call home.

power line after clearing

Power line adjacent to my home in Chatham County (click photos to enlarge)

If you have followed this blog for very long you have heard me mention the large power line corridor that runs at the edge of this property. It is a bit strange living near such a thing, but the habitat it provides, in contrast to the heavily forested surroundings, has helped me appreciate it. It also doesn’t hurt that it is where my garden is located, a source of a lot of good eats and interesting natural happenings. Well, as anyone who lives near any type of power line easement knows, they require periodic maintenance to keep trees from growing up and creating potential problems with the lines. And so it was a little over a week ago that a Duke Energy representative came by the house to explain what was going to be happening to all those trees that had suddenly grown a bright neon orange mark on their trunks. They would be clearing the edges of the right of way of trees that might pose a hazard to the transmission lines. This typically includes trees in the corridor that mature at a height of greater than 15 feet; and trees outside the corridor that either now, or before the next maintenance cycle, could fall or otherwise endanger structures and equipment. He explained these trees would be ground up using a large machine. After discussing with the vegetation specialist, I decided to cut the hardwood trees along the line on this property and use them for firewood (although it certainly isn’t something I like doing this time of year). That still left a number of large pines that were marked.

old-fashioned clearing

Clearing the line the old-fashioned way

So, after a couple of hot mornings cutting trees and limbing them up, I saw “the machine” down the power line. I could hear the grinding sound even though it was well over a half mile away. I figured it might take a couple of days to reach me.

The ProGrind at rest

The ProGrind at rest

Boy, was I wrong. The next morning when I looked out, there it was, parked up the hill on the power line. It had magically appeared during the evening or early morning. Two guys showed up a little while later and it was ready to go to work. They had skipped way up the line because of a creek down where I had last seen them…they decided to come up to this access and work their way back to the creek. If you look in the top photo, you can see the tracks of the machine through the edge of the right of way.

the grinding tool, a rotating drum with "teeth"

The business end of the grinder, a rotating drum on an arm

I was surprised to see no large blades on the rotating drum…it looks more like dull teeth. But the force of this tool when it hits a tree is unbelievable. They soon fired it up and, I must say, the operator was very skilled at avoiding nearby trees (in most cases). A short video clip will better explain how this tree-eating machine works.

The tree in the video was probably about a foot or a little more in diameter. When doing larger trees, he usually pulled them down into the power line and then ground up the log and limbs where they laid. I walked down the line afterwards and looked at what was left.

cleared forest edge

Cleared edge of right of way

The answer – not much, but a pile of chips and some branches.

stump after grinding

Large pine stump after grinding

The machine took the stumps down to just above the ground. In talking with the workers, I discovered that another crew will follow behind to clean up and take down trees in “maintained” areas like mine, so the tree-cutting I helped with might not have been necessary after all. But, getting the firewood, leaving as little a trace as possible, and some peace of mind, was probably worth it. I must say, I am glad this was happening after most birds have finished nesting. But, I suppose it is a necessary process, and this incredible hulk of a machine certainly seems an efficient way to get the job done.

 

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