Article: Speak Easy

No Stump  Can Stump Me with Michael BoturNo Stump Can Stump Me with Michael Botur

If you are selling your house, a leftover stump will indicate to prospective buyers that they are inheriting a messy nuisance which will cost time and sweat and probably money to fix. Stumps take up space where many other useful things could go. You can’t build on them, they may sprout ugly little suckers and they’ll blunt your lawnmower blade. Stumps must die.

Only today, as I write this on a Sunday in August, can I announce that – like Captain Ahab - I have finally slain the white whale of cabbage tree stumps. I’ll tell the story of the epic battle against the stump which wouldn’t die shortly.

Stump Dos and Don’ts

• Pay for a stump grinder from a tool hire centre, obviously.

• Cut as deeply into the heart of the stump as you can and let water or chemicals rot/dessicate/dissolve the wood

• Slice at the dry parts of the stump regularly with a chainsaw, if you have one

• People on the internet claim you can drill a penetration hole in a stump, add
another hole to allow air inflow, pour a fire accelerant like kerosene down there
and set a fire to burn the stump until it’s ash. Seems challenging, so good luck

• Epsom salts and rock salts are supposed to soften or decay the wood, that is if
you can bore deeply enough into the stump to get the poisons right in there.
Also Stump Stop products.

• Don’t let a prying bar/digging bar whack you in the face if you do manage to jam
one under the stump

• Don’t let your chainsaw touch soil or saturated wood. I ruined three chainsaw
blades trying to cut the cabbage tree out with a chainsaw. The soil, the stones in
the soil and the wet wood will all blunt, clog and rust your chainsaw blade
quickly, rendering it soft and useless

• Don’t use a metal grinder on wood. The wood juices will rust your grinder

• Don’t waste your time expecting your axe to cut much wood off the core of
the stump. While an axe is good for severing roots one by one, you will likely
hurt yourself when your axe meets resistance in the heart of the stump

• Don’t try to tie something from the stump to your vehicle and pull it out. There
are many videos on YouTube of people wrecking their cars trying to do this.

And now, without further ado, the epic saga of my battle to hack a cubic metre of cabbage tree stump out of my garden:
While cabbage trees were an important food source for our first people, today’s cabbage tree flesh is only good for clogging and rusting your tools. For 20 months I chainsawed off small pieces of flesh from my enemy stump, ruining repeated chainsaw blades, until a breakthrough a few months ago: all the incisions had let enough rain soak into the stump that it rotted from the inside. Last weekend I sacrificed one more chainsaw blade, easily shearing away the last gooey rotten wood, until voila: ruined chainsaw, but ruined stump, too. A chain blade is worth $30-$50 to replace, but the stump-free patch of garden is priceless.

Generally most councils rules protect trees which are over 4m tall, have a significant girth, are on the local Heritage Trees Register, are on an ecological site, are rare or threatened, or which protect waterways. If in doubt, give your council a shout.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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