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Life In Tennessee - Clearing the Way

Updated on January 31, 2016

Ahhhh, life in Tennessee.

After growing up and spending numerous years of my adult life in the rather long and harsh winters of Michigan, my wife and I (mostly at her prompting) picked up and moved to S. Florida. I thought I wanted to live in the environment of perpetual sunshine, but after spending 17 years there, I discovered that too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. While I got tired of the oppressive heat and humidity, not to mention the constantly heavy traffic, my wife got tired of me.

Long story short, after a divorce and getting my son through school, I decided it best to leave Florida behind and head to a place more suited to my country boy upbringing. After visiting family in Tennessee, I decided I kind of liked the place and became what the locals here refer to as a “halfback”. (Started in Michigan, moved to Florida, then moved halfway back).

I had bought a piece of land in TN while I was still sweating it out (literally) in Florida and planned on building a house after I made the move. I had also bought an investment property there and had it rented out. I didn’t really intend it as a rental property. I was going to fix it up and resell it, but getting stranded in S. Florida for a few extra years sort of decided for me. Better to rent it rather than have it sitting vacant waiting for me to get there to fix it up.

This worked well enough for a while, but then my tenant started having problems making the rent. Without going into the details, suffice it to say I ultimately had to do an eviction. I then moved into the rental property to do the rehab on it and that’s where I am now, working on that house while also working on the land, prepping it for the house build.

So, the first steps before building are to get a septic permit and also a temporary power pole to have electricity on site for construction. In my case, both of these steps proved to be somewhat troublesome.

The most obvious problem at my property location is that there are no power poles out front. My location is about a mile and a half from the main roads in both directions and naturally the power comes in from each direction and ends about equidistant from my land. So, I knew I would have to have the lines extended, but I had no real idea what I would end up doing...

I made the appointment with the local electric company engineer and met him out on the site. He measured and told me pretty much what I already knew, that it was about the same distance from either direction and they would have to install 4 poles to get to me. He marked out the pole locations and then came to tell me the procedures. Running the power would be no problem, but I had a little work to do before they would install the poles and extend the lines. Hmmm…

He then proceeded to tell me that when a customer has the line extended, the customer is responsible for clearing the right-of-way. Huh??? Oh boy... That means that from pole location to pole location is the wire line. On either side of the wire line for 15 feet (30’ right-of-way), all substantial vegetation has to be cleared, from the ground up to the heavens. “Substantial vegetation” means anything that is a tree or could be a tree and all branches hanging from trees outside of the 15 foot area that encroach into the r-o-w. So, there could be a tree 35’ away, but if the branches hang out into the r-o-w, either the branches have to be cut or the tree cut down. Wow... He then said to give him a call when it was all cleared and he would come back and take a look. OK...

People, let me tell ya, this is country. I mean, this is a country road and there’s nothing BUT trees along both sides of the road. I’m now faced with making a decision on what to do next. I could either hire someone to do it, which would no doubt cost me an arm and a leg, or I could do my best Paul Bunyan imitation and do the work myself. Hmmmm... which way to go. Yea, you already know which way I went don’t you? Well, since I grew up on a farm and I knew how to run a chainsaw and I can’t see paying good money to someone else for something I can do myself, I decided on Paul Bunyan.

So, off I went with my chainsaw.

And I started cutting trees and brush from along the road right-or-way.
And I started cutting trees and brush from along the road right-or-way.

I didn't just have to cut down the trees. I needed to clean up the mess too, so I had to drag out or carry everything of any size out from along the road. Let me tell you, it was no small task. Most of the smaller stuff, I loaded onto my trailer while the big trees I dragged with the tractor, up to my property, where I either put it in a burn pile or cut it up for fireplace wood.

The terrain could be a little challenging. Those are the trailer ramps up on the road...
The terrain could be a little challenging. Those are the trailer ramps up on the road...
It's a little like cutting trees on the side of a cliff...
It's a little like cutting trees on the side of a cliff...
Quite a bit to go to get to the top of the hill.
Quite a bit to go to get to the top of the hill.

I basically spent all summer cutting down trees, hauling them up to my property, cutting them up and burning brush piles. Most of it I did on my own, but I also had to get some help from my neighbor and his bulldozer (before I got mine) to cut and drag out the big ones that I knew would fall across the road. I didn’t want to try to cut them alone. Even though there’s not much traffic on my road, I couldn’t watch for traffic and cut at the same time.

My neighbor and his friend dropping one across the road

Dragging them out

Sometimes you just need a pro

I also had to hire a professional tree cutter to take care of a few trees that were just too big to cut from the ground. They were on such a steep slope that there was no safe escape route. Even he didn’t cut them from the ground. He took them down from the top, using a bucket truck to get as high as he could to top them and then cut them down in sections. That bucket goes to about 70-75 feet, so that shows you how tall that tree is.

The professional tree cutter topping the big one

I went through about 3 pairs of these...
I went through about 3 pairs of these...

So finally, after cutting down countless trees, clearing and burning loads of brush, wearing out 3 pairs of leather work gloves and 1 pair of work boots, I finally got it to a point where I thought it was clear enough for the lines to be run. Now, I was almost ready. One more thing to do - buy and install a temporary power pole. Luckily, there was a local hardware store that had ready made poles build with all the equipment required by the electric utility company. I bought one and installed it to the standards specified.

Temporary power pole installed and braced as required.
Temporary power pole installed and braced as required.

I called out the engineer again and even though I was mentally prepared for him to say I had to do something more or different, he took a look at the wire line and my power pole and proclaimed I was good to go. Blessed! He put me in the system for having the poles set and lines run and sure enough, within a week or so, they were out there running me electricity. Mission accomplished! Well, at least the first step in the mission...

Bringing in the juice
Bringing in the juice

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