We lost several of our beautiful big pine trees during an ice storm when the weight of two days of freezing rain literally broke off the tops of the trees. One especially large tree (actually, three trees that had at some time grown together) at the edge of one of our gardens was totally destroyed and had to be cut down, leaving an enormous (and ugly) stump that was easily eight feet across. We have removed a lot of smaller stumps, but probably nothing larger than three or four feet in diameter. Removing a stump this large without specialized machinery seemed somewhat physically impossible, but we decided to give it a try.
First we dug a trench all around the stump to a depth of about two and a half feet. Each time a new root was exposed, we cut through the root close to the stump. Because our soil is so rocky, digging the trench also involved digging up and removing a number of fairly large rocks that were wedged in around the roots, and much of that digging had to be done with a hand trowel, but eventually the tree stump had a deep trench all around it and all of the exposed roots had been severed. After cutting a few more roots that were growing from out of the bottom of the stump, the stump was free. It was, however, way too heavy to be moved… even with our small tractor pulling, the stump wouldn’t budge. The next logical step seemed to be to lessen the weight of the stump by cutting off portions from the sides. When each cut became too deep for the saw, a wedge and sledge hammer helped a lot, but it was still a very slow process.
Finally, after the stump’s diameter had been reduced by about half and it could be rocked slightly in its hole, we decided to try moving it again. We estimated that the stump’s weight had been reduced to about five or six hundred pounds, which is the maximum limit for the hand truck we have, so we used nylon rope to lash the stump to the hand truck. After several unsuccessful attempts, we were able to pull the hand truck over into an upright position, which effectively hauled the stump out of the hole. For a few anxious minutes, it looked like the stump was still too heavy for only us and a hand truck to handle, but with a combination of pushing and pulling, we eventually managed to move the stump away from the garden and into an open area where we can now cut it into even smaller pieces.
A professional tree service would not have dug up the stump and its roots, but instead would have ground the stump into small chips with a special machine called a stump grinder that grinds downward through the top of the stump. In our area, the price for this service is an almost five dollar charge for each inch of the stump’s diameter, with the stump measurements being taken at soil level. Since our stump exceeded eight feet in diameter, the cost for the grinding would have been at least four hundred and eighty dollars. Removing the grinding debris, we were told, is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process which doubles the grinding fee… so the total cost of having this stump professionally removed would have been almost a thousand dollars, and all of the outreaching roots would still be left in the soil! Not that we would have ever actually paid that much to have a stump removed, but it’s still satisfying to know that our two days of digging the trench, removing rocks and cutting and pulling out roots… and lots of physical exertion and sweat…. represented such a huge do-it-yourself savings.