Native-Art-in-Canada has affiliate relationships with some businesses and may receive a commission if readers choose to make a purchase.
If you want to fell a tree with fire be darn sure you've near a supply of water and keep the fire under control...or expect a big bill from your local Forestry Service!
Not to worry.
Here's what you do.
Choose a tree that is close to a source of water. Half fill a pail with dirt...not sand. Add only enough water to make a thick blob of mud that sticks together in a ball when you squeeze it in your hand. Clay is great for this project.
Pat the mud onto the tree about three feet from the ground. Continue making mud and patting it onto the tree until you've girdled it to a height of about six feet with mud that is at least two inches thick and isn't showing any signs of falling off.
Remove underbrush, dry leaves, etc from around the tree and build a fire right up close to the trunk on the side that you have chosen to be the 'fall' side. Before you start the fire, pack spruce gum onto the base of the tree on the fire side. If you've used the brains that God gave you, you've probably figured out that if you insist upon felling a tree with this method, it's probably best to choose a tree that's growing on a hill and will fall down same hill when you've finished your labours.
I'm sure you knew that.
Each time the fire burns down chip away at the tree with a sharp rock or stick. The idea of course is to burn a wedge into the tree that takes the place of the axe cut you'd make if you weren't trying to 'go native'. Make this burn deep and right across the diameter of the tree. The flames will burn much higher than a real axe cut so keep your eye on the mud girdle. If it needs to be refreshed..do it. You don't want the tree to catch fire.
When the fire has begun to de-stabilize the tree, rebuild your fire so that it's burning around the entire base of the trunk. Keep gouging away at the burnt wood but be very conscious that any moment you may have to run...uphill.
Felling a tree with fire isn't as predictable as the good ol' axe method so as soon as you hear the wood begin to split..GET OUT OF THE WAY!
As soon as the tree is down put out all traces of the fire with water from your trusty pail.
Return to Ojibwa Food
Return to Building a Birchbark Canoe - Peeling the Bark