Empowering Partners

I was shocked to come round the shed on my way to the garden one day last summer to find that a huge limb had fallen.

It was not without tears that I started the clean up. I have to admit I felt a bit sorry for myself, as it was a task that I never would’ve had to do by myself if Bill were still alive. Had he been here, I would have cut the small limbs to help him and he would’ve done all the “heavy” work.

Many old saws hung in the shed, but at the time I didn’t know one from another. I hauled them out and tried them all. None of them made it easy, but I had to find way. I decided that every day before I did anything else I’d cut some on a large limb at least 30 minutes. (That would get me about 1/3 of the way through a 4 inch limb.)

Seeing Another Potential Problem

The more I worked on those big limbs, all I could think about was another big tree that seemed to be destined to fall on my garden fence when a future northeaster came. That would cause an even bigger problem for me since I wouldn’t know how to fix the fence. (I know it must sound like I don’t know how to do anything.)

Bill and I had talked about having the threatening part of that tree removed. Shortly after that, he was too sick for me to think about anything but taking care of him.

After Bill died my resources were close to nil. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough to have the work done. The tree folks we had had come every 5 years or so, were/are excellent. But their price for the one tree was beyond my reach.

I called a couple of others. Couldn’t afford any of them.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

In desperation I asked the last guy that gave me an estimate, how much to just cut out the part I wanted down and not haul it away. I had just enough funds.

Five men came. What a mess they made.

They left me with an enormous pile of big tree trunks that was over 10 feet tall and more than 20 feet across. That was in addition to their unearthing the plants in the side border and ruining a section of ground that use to be level.

When they were gone I was overwhelmed. I went inside, laid down for 4 hours, and cried. I hate to admit that I was so wimpy, but I was.

Now the Upswing

Feeling sorry for myself wasn’t helping very much, so I got over that.

With a nice pair of lopers (that I already had) and several saws that would’ve had a hard time cutting through an apple, I finally got the job done.  It took almost a month to get everything cut down and stacked.

When a young friend showed up unexpectedly and offered to haul it away – had it been physically possible for me – I would’ve jumped up and clicked my heels together.

I wish I had pictures of the pile before I started clean up, but I don’t. These are a few of the tree limbs as I got to the bottom of the more than 10 foot x 20 foot pile.

A Different Strategy

We’ve had a lot of hard wind lately.  And yep, you guessed it.  A tree came down.

The 35 foot tree that was on a neighbor’s property fell onto my property. (These folks are ones who own the lot with the invasive monster trees that I’ve mentioned in prior posts.)  Since they don’t tend to anything, I knew I’d have to move the tree myself.

The first thing I determined was to do some research on a saw that would allow me to do the job much more easily.

Although I did several hours of research, it really only took about 30 minutes of looking around to learn that the Silky Pocketboy Folding Saw made in Japan was probably THE best there is.  Not that others aren’t good, but even the videos made by people who have every type saw available – say that Silky – for one reason or the other – comes out a notch above the rest.

I knew it was what I wanted.  No more lugging around those big old hand saws that don’t cut anyway.

Folded Silky Pocketboy

Choices – Blade Length and Teeth

As the name indicates, these little saws can fit in your pocket.  I carry mine in my little garden basket with my gloves and other things I might need. (They come with a nice thick carrying case, but many reviewers found it easier to just carry the saw without the case in their pocket.)

The blades are available in two lengths: 5 inch (130mm) and 6 3/4 inch (170mm).  Both lengths are available in four teeth sizes: large (coarse), medium, fine, extra fine.

The handles are color coded for the teeth:

  • red for large;
  • black for medium;
  • yellow for fine;
  • purple for extra fine.

I wasn’t sure about the blade I needed so took a guess and ordered the 5 inch blade with medium teeth.

The same day the saw arrived, a friend showed me a saw blade similar to the one I would need to cut those 6 inch diameter logs.  One look and I knew that the 5 inch saw with medium teeth that sails through the 2 1/2 inch (or less) diameter branches, would not be the best to use on the larger logs.  (Would take longer to get the job done on the 6 inch logs.)

I ordered another saw with coarse (large) teeth.  And I decided to try the longer 6 3/4 inch blade. My choice was perfect.  It took me about 10 minutes to cut through the 6 inch thick log. Quite a difference than when I used those older large handsaws last summer.

I’m confident that a stronger person would cut through it much more quickly than I.

My two Silky Pocketboy Folding Hand Saws

Blades can also be positioned and locked at this angle when need be.

How It Cuts

My research indicated that most American saws cut on the push action.  These little Japanese Silky saws cut when you pull. You don’t need to expend a lot energy on the push action – and I find the pull action is easy.

Cleaning the Blade

The wood of the fallen tree was totally dry.  Left the blade as clean as brand new!

When cutting up limbs that are “green”, sap builds up on the blade.  If you had lots to cut the sap build up would slow things down and make it harder.  I’m usually finishing up, just about the time that happens.

A brush is good for removing the wood bits from the teeth before you clean the blade.

You can buy a special solvent for cleaning, but I used kerosene (or rubbing alcohol) since that was the solvent(s) on hand.  At first I didn’t think it was working.  By chance I ran water over the blade about 5 minutes later and found that the sap instantly became removable. (Remember – I’m new to all this stuff.)

I wiped the blade clean and then coated it with a drop of honing oil Bill had.  Wiped off the excess; folded it and returned it to its case in my basket.

Do Not Sharpen

The teeth on these saws are “impulse-hardened”, a proprietary technology by Silky. This is said to allow the teeth to stay sharper about 3 times longer than non-hardened teeth.

You cannot sharpen impulse hardened teeth. But if your saw ever does become dull, you can buy new blades.   From the reviews I read, it’ll probably be a long time in the future before that happens.

An Empowering Partner

Last summer, even if I had known about these little saws I wouldn’t have been able to get one.  But by going through the situation in the worst of conditions I

  • learned that I could do the job in the worst of circumstances if I had to and
  • decided that when I finally did make enough income, I would put a tool on the priority list that would make this type of job more easily “doable” for me.

Probably sounds absurd to those who can’t relate to this story, but having these little saws in my garden basket has made me feel empowered.

I don’t particularly look forward to still cutting up fallen trees when I’m 80 and 90 years old, but with my two little empowering partners in my basket, it’s possible.


Shop Silk Saws here.


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  • Wow, didn’t you feel like you’d accomplished something when you were finished! I really admire your pluck. I have lived alone much of my life and have learned how to do these kinds of things too. It isn’t a pretty picture, but the job usually gets done.

    I learned 2 things that help:
    –your “little by little” approach. It really is amazing what you can get done if you just get started, quit when you’re tired, and do a little more the next day and the next.
    The other thing is that all men aren’t big and burly, but they all seem to learn how to do “heavy” work. The smaller ones learn ways to compensate for not having as much muscle. Women can do that too. We just need to use our heads more because we don’t have as much muscle. The right tools, as you just learned, and the use of pulleys and levers and a lot of thinking and planning can get a job done and keep you from getting injured. Good on you, Theresa!

  • Theresa, you are amazing. Here’s a tool I have found so very helpful in pruning—a cordless reciprocating saw. Save your money up and treat yourself to one of these. They are the best for getting into tight places to prune, cut through tough roots when dividing, or cutting through tree branches up to about 4 inches. Mine isn’t too heavy, so that helps too. If you know someone who has one of these (and lives closer than I do in Illinois), ask to try it out. You will be amazed at what it can do.

  • Theresa! I feel terrible for you! I admire how you pushed through to a solution though. AND I want to share that I have one of those folding saws and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! It makes me feel (almost) invincible! LOL! I used it for trimming shrubs and cutting down stalky things in the garden, like mature lambsquarters, which are akin to small trees.

    Love to you!

  • Hi!
    I have been reading your blog for about 6 months and love it! I live in Greeneville TN, write a garden column for our local paper, and am a lifetime “dirtgirl”…so I can relate to your stories so well! And I understand not knowing how to use a saw and being alone to do big jobs. My hubby is a long haul trucker. It’s nice to know there are other nice “dirtfolks”!
    Keep up the good work, and know you’re touching many lives in a good way!

  • This is a wonderful post: profoundly touching, honest and practical, all at once. Thank you so much for writing it, I’m going to save it for future reference.

    I’m very fortunate that I still have my beloved husband (and a yard full of trees) but I have often wondered how I would cope if he should predecease me. Your vivid description of what you have gone through is pretty much what I have imagined I would experience as well. So thank you for your courageous example, I will remember it (and the Silky Pocketboy hand saws too)!

    Best regards,

  • Theresa,

    I can so understand your frustration and feeling of vulnerability. Oh how I wish we lived closer so we could help you.
    I am absolutely amazed you could saw up large limbs and tree trunks with those little saws and not give yourself a heart attack. You are one tough girl! Thank you so much for being such an inspiration to so many of us.


  • Betty, I can’t tell you how many times over the past year I’ve thought of you and all you have to do!
    You’ve been an inspiration to me!
    I’m glad that my “little by little” approach has help you as well. It sure keeps me going at times.

    Years ago I read a book — I think the title was Wilderness Woman. It was significant to me because it told about how this woman who lived by herself in the wilderness, learned to do things — as you said – with pulleys and levers, etc. I don’t think I’m mechanically inclined enough to figure things like that out – but I’m working on it.

    Mary, I enjoyed your input. Even googled that power tool you spoke of. I especially noted that you said it was good for cutting through tough roots. (That made me think of those invasive tree roots that go into my garden.)

    I’ve always been apprehensive about using power tools, so I doubt that I will ever get one. Part of my hesitancy is because I don’t have normal balance and have to watch every step so that I don’t fall.

    Pat, I totally relate to that little saw making you feel invincible!!! That’s how I feel too! I’m ready to cut down a forest! Love to you too.

    Sherrie, it’s so nice to have you as a reader. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed TMG. Your comment lifted my spirits, because I feel that I’ve not offered as much as I should in the past few years because of Bill being sick and then his death. Although I’ll always greive for him, I’d like to get to the point that the grief does not disable me. It’s nice to hear that I’m helping and touching people in a good way in spite of that, although sometimes it doesn’t seem like that to me. Hugs back.

    Kathryn, I sure needed to hear your comments. I was so in hopes that the post would encourage others to push forward through some difficult times they might be experiencing or will experience in the future. Thanks so much for letting me know your feelings.

    Toni, “vulnerable” is definitely the right word. I felt totally that way!
    I never think of myself as being tough, but I do make an effort to always keep on keeping on. At the same time, I try to remember that we’re all capable of a lot more than we think we are. (And those little saws are an amazing help!)

    Thanks for letting me know the post inspired! Love to you too.

    My dear readers, over the years I’ve been convinced that I have the best readers in the world. You are so important to me and I look forward to hearing what you have to say about what I write and appreciate all your great input. THANK YOU for taking time to let me know how you feel.

  • I really enjoy everything written here. The aritcles make me think I can be a great organic gardner. 🙂

  • Hi Theresa, thank you for sharing your story and those great little saws. I also wish I lived near by you so I could help you. I have endless energy and I am used to doing most of the “heavy lifting” jobs both in and outside. I do know what I am going to ask for for Mother’s Day! LOL

    I know it must be a blessing for you to know just how many people you have touched and helped throughout your life. That’s what it’s all about.

    Thank you so much!


  • You have always inspired me to keep going Theresa. I love how you didn’t just gloss over the despair you felt when you first saw the mess. The difference comes after you blow your nose and wipe your eyes – you get going. And the power of a little moves mountains – of branches.

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