Beginning Oct. 6, Shane LaBrake will lead a two-day workshop at Glynwood on the use and care of chain saws.
What’s the appeal for people who aren’t farmers or loggers?
The chain saw is probably the most dangerous handheld power tool. Sometimes I think no one should be able to buy one unless they’ve had training, but that’s not the way our culture works. I live in Maryland. We might get some damage from Hurricane Florence, and the highest rate of emergency-room visits for chain saw accidents is right after hurricanes. People buy chain saws and get an adrenaline rush. They want to clear trees from roads and driveways but they don’t have training or protective equipment. With trees, you’re dealing with two powerful forces — gravity and mass — which combined with the tool can lead to dangerous situations.
How do gravity and mass come into play?
With gravity, everything’s going to come down! Search on YouTube for “chain saw fails” and you’ll see a whole number of people who didn’t think about that. Nor did they think about mass. You have to be aware of where the weight is when you start to make your cuts, in terms of where the tree is going to fall.
When do you need to have a license to operate a chain saw?
The U.S. Forestry Service has a course you have to go through to work for them. I just went through training with the Tree Care Industry Association to become a chain saw specialist because I don’t have credentials to my name even though I’ve been doing this for 20 years.
You also teach “holistic tractor maintenance.” What’s that?
I was an organic vegetable farmer for many years and increasingly felt that we have to look at all the things we do from a holistic perspective. That means considering the components, what our intentions are and what the design is to fill those intentions. Intention and design are two things I focus on in all my classes. If your intention is to use a chain saw to cut a tree down, does your design include ways to keep yourself safe and prevent damage to your property or a bystander? It’s not just about firing up the saw and cutting something.
Are tractors becoming too complicated for farmers to repair?
That’s an issue with larger tractors. Fortunately, most of my audience works with smaller tractors, up to 120 horsepower, that aren’t as sophisticated. I work with a lot of beginner farmers and they don’t have the means to buy super-expensive tractors anyway. There’s an important distinction to make between repair and maintenance. If operators know how to use the machine, and how to care for the machine, and they’re safe and they’re mindful, then repair is reduced to an infrequent occurrence. There’s the holistic thing again!