Underextended, Overextended, Ah…..Just Right

Just another snowy April day here in Minnesota, so thought it was time to write another post.  We’ve been attempting to get caught up on outdoor tasks including pruning, which is normally finished here by the end of March, but we were waiting for deep snows to melt to make maneuvering a bit easier.  Everything reachable from the ground was pruned in January, but the rest was beyond reach requiring either a ladder, an extend-able pole pruner, or both.  We already had a telescoping pole pruner, the kind with a removable saw blade and a bypass shear with a levered rope mechanism.  It’s tall enough to reach the tops of our trees but it’s hard to position when fully extended for a couple of reasons:  1) it’s a bit unwieldy weight-wise and the fiberglass pole has a little flex in it, and 2) the pole extension locking handle, rope, pulley and lever mechanism all get caught on nearly everything and inflict a considerable amount of collateral damage to buds and twigs.  Even if one manages to get it correctly positioned, when the rope is pulled the lever angles out away from the shear and does additional damage to adjacent areas.  Without this tool the only other way to get into higher branches is with a ladder, and getting a body up through branches is even more damaging to the tree.  There had to be a better way.

Commercial orchards have many types of pneumatic tools, including pole pruners, but they are much too pricey for the home orchard.  We looked for an alternative and found the Barnel Ultra Reach Telescopic Lopper from Forestry Suppliers, Inc.   It extends from 6′ to 8′, rotates through 270 degrees, and the mechanism for the bypass shear is an internal rod in the pole.  It’s streamlined design is much easier to position and operate than the old tool we owned, and it can be operated from the ground or from a free-standing ladder.  Although fairly light weight at first inspection, it seems sturdily built.  But as with most hand tools, even this seemingly light tool becomes awkward when working with ones arms overhead for an extended period of time.  A short break after each tree is advised, or maybe a few weeks of arm workouts before taking on tree pruning in the spring.  So far we’ve removed a few larger branches, around 1″ diameter, with no problem.  It’s advertised to cut up to 1-1/2″ but we don’t want to push that.  Like all new tools, it did take a little while to get the hang of using this.  For one, it comes with a strap that seemed more of a hindrance than a help, especially when holding the tool above your head.  Ditching the strap was liberating.  The second trick is that the pole part of the handle can be braced against your body which helps to stabilize it when positioning and cutting.  Being able to thread this tool up through branches from either the ground or on a ladder makes it possible to remove small branches or to head back branch tips to an outward facing bud with great precision.  This extension pruning tool is helping us get caught up quickly, leaving us feeling less overextended.

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