What Works

Because I was raised in the upper Midwest, I have a particular work ethic and approach to outdoor work during the decent weather months of the year. In Iowa, where I grew up, you only get about nine months of outdoor construction weather a year. Consequently, you use every available minute of daylight during the months you can work.

As a result, on most days of this relief effort I worked from first light to last light. On more than one day I made my first cut under the headlights of the tractor and was sharpening saw chains that night using my headlight (a small LED flashlight that straps to your head).

Because we only had a certain number of hours of daylight, I needed equipment that would work every time I needed it. I couldn’t waste an hour or half a day trying to get a piece of equipment to work. Every hour lost was a family we couldn’t help.

Of the gear we used, I can unequivocally recommend the following:

Stihl Chainsaws

We used the following models: 026 (20” bar) (borrowed from Gary’s son-in-law, also named Doug), two 440s, one with a 20” bar and one with a 25” bar, and a 361 with a 20” bar. These saws started every time and proved to be reliable workhorses.

We had a variety of people cycle through our cutting team, usually down for a few days to help us. Some of them brought other brands of saws. Many spent more time trying to get or keep their saws running than they did cutting. In work like this, with big trees and a pressing need to get as much work done and as many people helped in as little time as possible, production efficiency and tool reliability and capability are paramount. Household level brands such as Poulan are not even worth bringing. The only non-Stihl brand that made a dent in the work was Husqvarna, but even that saw’s screws started to rattle out during extended sawing.


Kubota Tractors

We used Angie DuBois’ Kubota L series 30 HP tractor during our month of work. It performed flawlessly and never failed to amaze us with its capabilities. It dragged out logs bigger than itself more than once. Angie’s Kubota has the hydrostatic transmission, which both Steph and I highly recommend.

About the only changes I would recommend would be to 1) replace the stock rubber hydraulic hoses at the front end of the bucket / loader assembly with armored hoses. The rubber sheathing quickly gets torn up in this type of work. 2) have a grapple arm assembly fabricated and installed on the bucket that provided two grapple arms to clamp down on the bucket with a thumb open/close control attached to the bucket control lever.

It would not be worth showing up for disaster relief tree work without a tractor of this type equipped with a bucket loader and a rear landscaping box/push blade.


Steel Toe Boots

Don’t show up for this type of work without steel toe boots. And don’t show up in new ones either, the blisters from new boots will kill you. Wear them around the house at night for a week if you have to, but find a way to break them in before you come down. Get at least ankle high boots, as snakes are a real concern.