Two weeks later the takedown team arrived. "You can't cut trees off at the base, because even if they don't hit the house or fall on somebody, they'll damage the yard," says Wiggers. A climber began with a large tree near the garage. He shimmied up its trunk using shoe and hand spikes, tied a rope to a large branch, then looped the free end of the rope over a larger branch above it and lowered the end to a man on the ground, creating a pulley system. The climber cut off the first branch, while the second man gave the rope enough slack to lower it safely to the ground. The two men repeated the process, cutting off branches and chunks of the trunk, until the tree was a mere stump.

Next, what to do with the stumps? Wiggers insisted they go, because they would still absorb water and disrupt the growth of the lawn. He hired a contractor to pulverize them into sawdust with a grinding machine.

With the five trees gone and the wood hauled away, the yard was bright and sunny, but the lawn was uneven where the roots and stumps had been. Wiggers brought in topsoil and a Bobcat to excavate and flatten it out, returning later with grass seed.

The Aftermath
"What a relief to know the dead trees are gone," says Herbert. "Plus, I never realized how many shadows the trees had been casting." She and her husband are enjoying their new yard so much they just built a stone ­patio so they can spend more time outside.

The Bill
Two days of tree removal: $3,600
Topsoil: $900
One day of excavation and grading (including equipment rental): $1,200
Total: $5,700
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