Scratchin’ at Ole’ Cuz

If you’ve spent much time on Longleaf Breeze, you already know that I hate stumps. So even though Amanda played me masterfully, she didn’t need to. She had me at “I wish there was something we could do about that stump.”


I knew the one she was talking about. Big, nasty, and right in the middle of the perfect rows of gorgeous vegetables we have read about endlessly and now envision on Veg Hill.

When I was young, my Daddy struggled, it seems to me the struggle continued for two or three years, with a  stump in the side yard of our lake cabin. The stump won the early skirmishes without breaking a sweat, and Daddy took to calling the stump “Ole’ Cuz.” My most vivid memory is the Clorox jug (Daddy believed that the solutions to all the great problems in the world lay somewhere inside a Clorox jug) he filled with mineral spirits and rigged upside down to drip onto a slow fire he hoped would consume the stump. The other part of my vivid memory is that the Clorox Jug Conflagration failed dismally. I honestly don’t remember what eventually happened; it’s possible that Daddy never defeated Ole’ Cuz and just decided to declare a truce and walk away. So in memory of Daddy, I christened our friend on Veg Hill Ole’ Cuz.

Sure, we could wait for my brother Dave Gray and his excavator to pull Ole’ Cuz out – a stump like this one probably would take him and his magnificent machine 7-9 minutes to remove. Seriously. But by then the deer fence would be up, and the garden would be planted.

If you want to remove a stump in Elmore County, this is the perfect time. Central Alabama is in the middle of one of the wettest seasons on record, so the soil is nice and soft. Veg Hill right now is a blank slate, making the stump approachable from 360 degrees. It was now or (perhaps) never.

The tools available to Amanda and me were a chain saw, a shovel, an axe, and Tractor, our John Deere 5310 with front-end loader. That made the decision easy. We decided to use Tractor for everything we could and to use the other tools only when there was no other choice.

Digging at a stump with a front-end loader is a delicate operation. You want to apply enough force to get the stump out, but if you throw too much torque at it, you could burst an hydraulic line. So my chosen strategy was to “scratch” at it. “Patience, patience,” I kept telling myself. “”Be content to scoop a little bit. Don’t get in a hurry.” As you can see in the video, we built quite a pile of dirt, Tractor and I, as we slowly dug out around the stump. The pile in the video was about 1/3 of the total material we had pulled out by the time things came to a head.

I’m estimating it took about five hours of  digging before the stump finally came loose. The video runs a little less than four minutes. Now she’s got her eye on another stump nearby. Oh yeah, she’s playing me.

2 thoughts on “Scratchin’ at Ole’ Cuz”

  1. Next time, after you’ve dug around the stump to expose some of the roots, try hooking a very sturdy chain or steel cable around your stump and pull with the tractor rather than push with the loader. You should be able to exert more power without risk of damage to the tractor.

  2. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the tip! Your suggestion worked like a charm on the next stump, a particularly stubborn sweetgum. You probably didn’t have sweetgum growing up in the Midwest, but you probably had something like them. A profusion of literally thousands of small roots, each harboring dirt and resisting Tractor’s bucket. After I dug out around it, the chain pulled it right out.

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