A Bucket of Grit and a Broken Nose

Ask any business owner what their biggest issue is and I’ll bet a naked lap around Mizzou arena they say it’s finding help that they can trust.  For reasons we all know there is truth behind their concerns. Well today I’d like to share a story that proves there are still trust worthy hard workers out there and Resource Tree is lucky enough to have a couple.  This story involves an onsite work-related injury and of course it is taboo in today’s climate to talk about these types of things publicly.  But, I have permission to share and we have nothing to hide as far as safety standards.  The only way to learn is to share past experiences so here we are to talk about one.

This week we were doing a routine tree removal where in a matter of a seconds it turned into the first injury in our 7-year history.  No safety violations took place and all proper PPE was in use.  This line of work is not one for those lacking in grit and here’s why.  While chipping limbs, one took an out of norm jump and smacked Chris square in the nose.  I notice him walk off and rub his nose, his body language was that of a man that just got bit by a fly so I was not yet alarmed.  As he walked it off I approached him and asked if he was ok.  He said “yeah is it bleeding”?  He moved his hand and I said yeah buddy its bleeding pretty good, before I could continue with my description of his injury he said something that I will never forget. “Well shit lets finish this job this week has been going great”. I had to grab him and say Chris your nose appears to be broken, I can see it swelling!!!  Chris just says “my head does hurt”.  I finally convinced him to go set in the truck and clean up his cut while I made the jobsite safe to leave so we could take him to the ER.  Chris had a nose crooked enough to smell around corners and I still had to yell at him twice to get his butt back in the truck while I spent five minutes getting everything buttoned up and shut down.  Here is the type of guy you want in your corner. How much pride and heart does it take to handle yourself with such resolve and selflessness in a time of powerful pain?  Buddy you got buckets of grit even with a busted nose.

Chris is making a full recovery and no damage was done to his brain or sinuses – just a broken nose.

I’m sure someone reading this will want to raise some questions about safety and proper technique while chipping brush and maybe even cast some judgement.  I encourage it, there is only one way to learn and improve and that’s to talk about it.  Our motto while on the job is work with efficiency while never compromising safety.  Clearly a member of Resource Tree & Land got injured and I as the leader am here to own it and become better as a whole for it.  We are very thankful it wasn’t any worse and proud to have members with such grit and pride.

Becoming an Arborist: Embrace Struggle, Seek Challenge

How many parents send their kids off to school with high hopes of them one day growing up to be an arborist and work in the tree industry?   If any of you know of some please give me their contact information!  There is little encouragement for today’s youth to take interest in tree work and consider the career path of an arborist.  The stigma of backbreaking labor and mindless brush dragging is outdated and needs to change.  The lack of experience in the tree industry is staggering.  I see young men go out on the weekends and mountain climb, ride dirt bikes, heck, parkour is a thing????  But nobody wants to climb 80-foot Sycamores or help maintain a 100-year-old oak and get paid well to do it?

This is a trade that will never be outsourced overseas and is a profession to be proud of.  There is a large void in the market right now and it is a heck of a time for young people to learn a craft that can provide for them a very satisfying career.  The days of lifting back breaking logs for minimum wage are fast disappearing.  The safety technology and equipment availability have turned this job into a skilled position that should be held in the same regard as all the other skilled trades.

If I could just bottle the feeling of pride and accomplishment I have when I hit the ground after hours spent in the air swinging from limb to limb safely and properly maintaining a tree for a customer I would have applications flooding the mailbox.  People shy away because it is difficult, too physically taxing, and at times intimidating.  Yes, this line of work has challenges far outside the realm of everyday 9 to 5 jobs but with those unique challenges it has unique rewards.  Bear with me as I try to tie this all together with a quote

To live is to struggle, to survive is to find meaning in your struggle.

-Nietzsche

Today we have become very proficient in eliminating external struggle and discomfort, yet I think we will all agree that mental health does not enjoy the same modern comfort. Many people state that they feel sorry for those that must work out in the cold or the heat due to their exposure to discomfort.  I in turn feel sorry for them.  There is no bed softer and warmer than one climbed into after a day clearing storm damage after an ice storm.  For decades to come this will continue to be an ever growing, lucrative, and HEALTHY career choice for those who are able to see the human need for challenge and struggle.  Becoming an Arborist is a great way to assign meaning to it!

Native American Treasure and the History of the River Hills

Today we did a job at one of the most scenic properties I have ever had the pleasure of helping to maintain. We were outside of a tiny little river town in southern Boone County MO. If you live in Boone County and haven’t driven down River Road – by all means stop reading this and go do so. The views are one of a kind.

This house sat atop a bluff overlooking River Road and you could see the river for miles. We came to trim up and maintain trees around the property and left with an education in local history that turned me into a wide-eyed kid again! The owners of the property kindly thanked us and invited us into the house, so we could enjoy the view that we had help enhance.
As we admired the view Jack showed us Native American artifacts they had found around the property and began telling us the story of the burial mound located on the property. We looked at each other amazed and asked to see it. So, he explained where it was, and we checked it out.

On top of a bluff clearly picked by the builders for its view over the river was a perfectly rounded mound containing what archaeologists estimated was the remains of around 200 Osage Native Americans. We had spent the day working away not knowing we were 200 yards from such an amazing piece of history.

We are so thankful to the owners for preserving it with such respect and sharing it with us. The whole time we were talking with Jack he was sharing with us the history of the southern Boone river bottoms. Another cool take away was that all of the small river towns along the Katy Trail were created by the need of steam engines to stop and refill on water and wood. The reason all the hills along the Katy trail, which used to be the actual rail road, are void of many old growth hardwoods is because they were cut to fuel the steam engines.

That’s why today you see so many forested areas of cedar and softwoods around the small river towns instead of massive old oaks. Some of this info may be old news to those of you reading it, but to me it’s a whole new understanding and appreciation for the southern Boone river bottoms. All this information was given to me in a mere twenty minutes by a man wise enough to know and kind enough to share.

When Your Birthday? The Lesson of an Exceptional Young Man

Several years ago, I went to a Columbia, MO home to bid a rather large tree trimming and removal job. As I approached the door the most intriguing interaction of my adult life began, and it taught me a lot.  We had an appointment for 3:30 pm and not seeing any vehicles I was concerned the homeowners forgot about me. But before I reached the door it swung open with enthusiasm and there stood a very slight built twelve-year-old autistic boy.

He immediately asked me “when your birthday” I gave him the month and day, and with an aggravated look he invited me into the house.  Not seeing any adults, I did not come in and asked him if his parents were available.  He just said again when is your birthday.  I admit I was uncomfortable and told him I would check back later.  Not one minute after I left, the boy's mom called and said she just missed me, she was in the back yard.

So, I circled back around and met up with the mom and evaluated the tree work and we agreed that I would come back in 2 weeks and do the work. I had all but forgotten the odd interaction I had with the boy until we arrived two weeks later to do the tree work for his parents. As we prepared our tools he watched with great enthusiasm and curiosity.  I could tell he was looking for a chance to come talk to me again.

The opportunity arose as I walked around the corner of the house with my gear, preparing to climb a tree in the back yard.  I heard him run up behind trailed closely by his mom.  He looked at me with the same excited look as before and his mom said, “my son has a question for you.”  Hiding my discomfort, I said sure, fire away buddy.  There it was again “when your birthday?”  I said March 24th he looked aggravated again and said what yeeeeeaaaar!!? I told him and for about ten seconds he had a silent look of deep thought.

Then with a bright smile he said you were born on a Friday.   All at the same time my mind was blown, my heart was touched, and I was ashamed.  Through some avenue of incredible mental math this young man who I had written off as simple, figured out what day I was born on, well over twenty years ago.  The only reason I knew was because I was born on good Friday of that year, and still to this day my mom reminds me of it when we go to good Friday services at church before Easter.

The boy also knew every model of bobcat skid loader and exactly how much the one I had weighed.  His mom later told me he looked it up the minute we pulled in the drive with a skid on the trailer.  I myself never excelling at math especially mental math found out really quick that I was actually the simple one in the conversation.

If you have been reading these blogs, you have probably gathered that this is more of a platform for me to share what I have learned from you – my customers – as opposed to me teaching and sharing what I know about trees.  There is such a moving wealth of knowledge and perspective to be gained from everyone we get to meet and work for, and I cannot help but share.  Thank you again for everything we gain from each and every individual who calls on Resource Tree & Land.

Robots are Starting to Look a lot Like Folks and Folks Look a lot Like Robots

Google crazy technology of 2018…………….   Holy moly rock and rolly! Robots are starting to look a lot like folks and folks a lot like robots!!!!!!  If I can sleep in my car while it drives me to cryotherapy, all the while my robot vacuum cleans up my cryptocurrency, my tree company had better know the latest in tree care. So, in this blog I would like to shed light on a couple of common misconceptions in the care and planting of trees.

First and foremost, the planting of trees; Every newly planted tree does not need to be staked and tied off.  In fact, whenever possible do not stake your newly planted tree.  As a tree grows it adapts to its surroundings. The prevailing winds blow across it and as it sways an actual biochemical change happens within the newly forming wood making the tree better suited for the site.  The newly formed wood is called flexion wood because it grows as it is flexing. If you leave the tree staked up as it grows, the over support of the ropes will give it no chance to adapt to its new surroundings.  As an overprotective father the correlation is all too real.

Never, ever top your tree!!! This subject has been beat to death so I assume it is general knowledge but just the other day I saw a truck advertising tree topping, and I still see from time to time trees that have been topped.  Topping a tree is to reduce the size of a tree, making cuts on the limbs of the tree without care for leaving a proper amount of foliage. Trees do not grow limbs like the hair on our heads or if you’re my buddy Roger, back! If you cut off twenty years of growth on a tree in one day it is not going to grow back at the same rate or fashion at all. The tree relies on the canopy it lost to support the rest of its structure. So, the tree goes into hyper drive growing branches at many times the rate of natural growth, so it can get the foliage back to photosynthesize and provide nutrition to the rest of the tree.  This new growth is weak and soft because it could not naturally grow along with the rest of the tree.  By making your tree much smaller by topping it, in a matter of five years you actually made it bigger and less stable.

Much like today’s robots you should keep an eye on your trees.  They are much smarter than you think and will react in their best interest not yours. I’m going to unplug my Roomba and un-stake my trees as soon as I hit save on this.

The Fixer Upper & the ‘Small’ Fire

Resource Tree & Land has been working on a fixer upper property in Jeff City that we purchased in early December with the plan of working on remodeling the inside of the house on the bad weather days of winter and cleaning up the completely over grown vegetation on the outside in our spare time. Just when I thought going from a Stihl chainsaw to a Wooster paint brush was humbling enough, I received a phone call from the Jeff City Fire Department!

“Is this Mr. uh uuuuuh Tyemon?” I laughed and said yes fully expecting it to be a telemarketer on the other end because my name is pronounced tee men.  The smile from my face disappeared when the caller followed with “this is Jefferson City Joint Communications – the fire department is at your property on Johnson St. putting out a brush fire, when can you get there?”  Already in route I said 10 minutes.  I had run home to get more diesel for the skid loader and left a small fire at the property in Jeff confident it was perfectly safe to leave unattended for an hour.

 So, as I’m speeding down 63 budgeting the thousands of dollars in fines I am expecting, one of the neighbors to the property called me saying “hey man the fire department is over here putting out your fire!” This only ratcheted up the suspense. As I rounded the corner there it was, the fire truck in all its glory lights flashing and gushing water onto what I considered a harmless burn pile.  As I got out of my vehicle a distinguished looking fire fighter of what I figure to be 45 walked up and said, “are you uh uuugh Matt Tyeemon?” With no laugh this time I said yes. He said Sir we have a big problem. With even more anxiety I said I’m sorry sir what do I have to do to fix it? The moment I said that the expression on his face softened and he kindly explained the problem I had caused. 

While it is perfectly fine to have a small yard waste fire within the city limits of Jeff City during the winter months you have to extinguish it at sunset. I missed the extinguish it at sunset part. The devil is certainly in the details and I learned the hard way on that one. I told him honestly that I planned to work on the house all night and feeding the fire throughout. He smiled and said he was glad he got called out there at 6 p.m. and not 3 a.m. Keep in mind it was 10 degrees last night while these guys had to come put out my mistake.  

With kindness and understanding the official didn’t write me a ticket when the cost could have been substantial. He wasn’t there to make my life miserable or meet some fine writing quota, he was simply there to keep Jeff City safe and maintain some form of order. This man deals with life and death situations on the daily and is disrespected and given every excuse in the book.  Yet he still has the patience to kindly explain to me why they had to put out the fire and why I was in the wrong, and then listen to my side of the story and understand that my intent was good just my research was poor. That I felt was worth sharing.

Owner Operated: The Small Business Sweet Spot

There is a sweet spot in business that, in my observation, is entered into and left all too fast.  The point at which your craft is honed to a razors point, your passion is still on full tank, and your profit margins beat your competitors. All the while, somehow your prices stay lower. Resource Tree & Land at this moment in our journey can, with great pride, admit to being exactly at that point.  

I stayed up late one night watching a documentary about a book called the secret. I started thinking positively about things I want and wham bam thank you ma’am Resource is in the sweet spot!  Just kidding! I can honestly go right back to the moment that started the ball rolling to make Resource the tree service company it is today.  I had just got hired onto the right of way department at Boone Electric and Richard the right of way coordinator arranged for tree climbing champion Noel Boyer and a tree service business owner from Springfield, MO to come give a demonstration. Up until Noel opened my mind to what a true arborist was all about, my only goal was to move fast, work hard, seem smart, and get a promotion to move into the lineman department – which is what I had went to school for.  That day Noel gave a climbing demonstration that set my world on fire. I got off work at 3:30 that day and by 5 I had made a $650 dollar order from Sherril Tree (most of my savings). It was a starter kit to learn all the rope climbing techniques Noel had demonstrated for us.

I came home to my apartment at Forest Village off of S. Providence in Columbia, MO and there it was, the starter kit that took tree work from an entry level physical labor job to a craft and profession of pride. I immediately went outside set my rope and started climbing the Oak tree outside my apartment at Forrest Village.  I was surely considered a crazy person by all my neighbors, I’m not arguing that they were wrong. But from that point forward tree work became a craft to me.

Resource Tree & Land has become the tree service it is today by treating tree work as a craft. Now that we have grown to a point to be in that sweet spot I mentioned before the gravity of our next steps weighs greatly on us.  We are big enough to provide the best of service but still small enough to provide the detail and craftsmanship the homeowners of Columbia deserve every time we do a job. Going forward I hope to stay in this sweet spot as long as possible, having healthy growth while never compromising our craftsmanship.  We are not the biggest tree service in Columbia and may never be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be one of the best. Logboat Brewery will probably never sell more Snappers than Coors sells Coors Light, but that doesn’t stop them from providing excellent service.

Whoops: Sunday Work At a Preachers House

As I hopped out of my beloved ‘97 4runner to go meet the Curry family and talk about their trees I immediately dropped all worry of them judging the fact that my vehicle was more on the practical side than the shiny side, and just felt right at home with two of the kindest people I had ever met.

I spent 30 minutes there gathering an understanding of their property goals and getting to know them as a family.  I left the meeting with a large project to do in three weeks, and a brightened mood due to their demeanor and kindness.  We arrived a few weeks later and took out several large trees, all the while in close communication with Mr. and Mrs. Curry.

In our dealing with the Curries we found out that Mrs. Curry was battling lung cancer. Her and her husband could not have been more accommodating and kind all the while dealing with issues far bigger than us taking out their trees. I came back later the next week to grind out the stumps and got a razzing from Mr. Curry.

We were blessed with a lot to do that week and it ended up that I showed up to grind the Curry’s stumps on a Sunday.  Well, until then I had no idea Mr. Curry is a retired preacher.  He jokingly gave me trouble and then said as I finished get your butt home and spend some time with your family.  I brushed it off and rushed on to my next job.

Three weeks later we came back to plant a tree. We had talked about the general location of where the tree was to be planted but had not placed a stake. They were not home when I got there, and I went ahead and planted the tree – fairly comfortable it was in the right spot. They got there as I was finishing up and I could tell were not overly excited about the placement of the tree, but were trying to hide it.

They were too kind to ask me to move it.  Finally, I convinced them I didn’t mind moving it if they wanted. Having the equipment out already it was only a matter of 30 minutes work.  As I moved the tree into its new location Mr. Curry helped me and shared some of his life story. His father was orphaned early in life and struck out on his own at the age of 12 from his closest known family member; a stepfather who cared little for him.  He worked from Illinois to Iowa on farms for little more than food, where he eventually settled, married, and acquired farm land of his own. This struck me hard, because I got my first job at 13, as a farm hand and often have thought I was tough because of it. Yet I had a family to go home to every night, was still in school, and was a year older.

Mr. Curry also shared that his wife did not have a long time to live but they were hopeful for as much time as possible.  We finished up our work and thanked him for his business.  As I drove home it dawned on me just how kind and knowledgeable this family was. Throughout our work for them they were more concerned with our comfort, offering glasses of water, and breaks while telling me their work can wait till after a Sunday, and being ok with me having planted a tree in a unsuitable spot.  All the while fighting a much larger battle.

Mr. Curry’s father was a 12-Year-old who struck out on his own with nothing and worked his way to stability and his efforts are still being felt today all the way down to the guys who work in his son’s yard, by the strength and kindness he instilled in his family.

A Knot is a Knot Until it’s Not a Knot

A knot is a knot until it is not a knot and then it is a huge problem. The understanding of the proper use of ropes is at the top of the list when it comes to tree work.  A knot inappropriately tied can cause rope failure leading to damages as far as your imagination can take them. This is why knot tying is a key part of advancement within Resource Tree & Land. There are five fundamental knots that, when understood well, open up a world of options when it comes to tree work and rigging in general. I pride myself on being able to teach these knots on the simplest and fastest way to tie them. If you can tie them fast behind your back in practice, you can always tie them slow and correct in any situation.  A motto I repeat probably too often while teaching. 

This week it was Chris’s deadline for showing proficiency in the fifth and most complicated knots of the five – the Bowline on the bight.  I love this knot and have a variation of tying it that has yet to be bested in years of tying and discussing knots with qualified peers. I’ll say it for you, I am a knot dork. I had shown Chris my way of tying it and he took it in but had not mastered it yet. This is a little more than bunny ears or lope swoop and pull. Monday rolled around and Chris beat me to it and said let me show you my bowline on a bight. With certainty he couldn’t produce it since he never mastered my guidelines I watched. He tied what I assumed to be an incomplete knot and with a grin handed it to me. I inspected it and had already starting my spiel on why it was wrong when I could find no fault. I had him show me his steps to tie it again and again, realizing that he had come up with a new, more efficient and easily taught process to tying the bowline on the bight.

Chris is left-handed, I teach all of my knot tying from a right-handed point of view making it hard for lefties to follow my steps exactly. Chris spent the weekend devising his own left-handed form of the bowline on the bight and while doing so created a better way to do it and teach it, a very valuable tool going forward for all new hires. 

A few hours away from preconceived notions of what is the best way, and an unstoppable determination to master a task at hand and Chris came back with a product better than I asked him to produce. Chris taught himself how to tie a bowline on the bight and taught me something just as valuable. I don’t know why people would ever skin a cat, but just know if you do there are lots of options. Your way will sooner or later be bested.

What I Learned from my Wife and the Missouri Army National Guard

This past weekend was my monthly dose of perspective handed down directly from the top. The United States military itself. My wife is in the Missouri Army National Guard. So, one weekend a month and two weeks a year I have to figure out how to take care of myself and our little boy! By the end of every drill weekend, I feel like I deserve some type of special commendation from Uncle Sam himself.  Declan our 1-year-old little boy and I have every type of fun and bond well over the two days but little else is accomplished. The house is generally a mess and I feel like a battle-worn foot soldier.

The only difference in this drill weekend than the others is that on Sunday it was family day. Family day is the one day a year the families of the Guard members come together and recognize their loved ones. It started out just like any other group function when you are there as a guest. I was clinging to the few people I knew and awkwardly shaking hands of the people I didn’t. It was the usual running of kids and paper plate potluck-style meals we have all been to. Then, in an instant, it became something I had never been a part of. The awards ceremony began. The soldiers instantly came to attention and a feeling of importance and pride swept over the room. Kids stopped in their tracks and those that didn’t were swept away by red-faced parents.

The first name called up for recognition was SPC Tiemann. Having my last name called out in front of a crowd shot a squeeze of anxiety through my stomach as I looked over surprised at my wife.  This was a large group of over two hundred people. To be honest, I was not expecting our last name to be called out over the speaker. Caitlin walked to the front of her commanding officer and in front of the crowd and was there cited for completing tasks of her own and tasks of ranks much higher than hers, and was given a federal medal of commendation. There were only two others called up that day and they both received lesser awards. The National Guard doesn’t pass these out like merit badges at girl scouts or blue belts in your local karate dojo.

I am bragging on my wife clearly, but the lessons learned from this I hope to carry with me long into life and as a leader for Resource Tree and Land. It’s so easy to build a disconnect between our own task importance and that of others. Blinded by my own busy schedule I had no clue as to the efforts my wife was putting forth while I so valiantly stayed at home with Declan haha!  Also, blinded by my own task I always forget how hard it is to accomplish anything while taking care of a one yr old until I do it myself for two days a month. As an owner-operator, it is easy to become mired by the many hats worn daily and be blind to the efforts and accomplishments of those nearest by. Thank you to my family and to the members of Resource Tree and Land for everything you do.