Introduction: Remove Bushes and Stumps the Easy Way With a Farm Jack (AKA Hi-Lift Jack)
We recently bought a 100 year old house, and the previous owners loved unruly bushes and trees. We had quite a few that were touching the roof of the house or spilling over onto the neighbors driveway, so we decided to get rid of the bushes and trees we didn't want.
If you have ever dug up even a modest sized bush you know how back breaking it can be, and how slow it is to try to remove them. Even if you have a truck and chain, it's not a great idea to just start by pulling it out with your truck before digging up the roots, and it isn't a sure bet your truck will be able to do it (if you have the time search youtube for "truck pulls tree fail" and you'll see what I mean). The amount of force you need to pull the tree out sideways instead of up out of the ground can tax even the beefiest of trucks.
To fix this problem, I decided to make a simple "tripod" mount for my Farm Jack (also called a Hi-Lift Jack). This allowed me to pull the bushes and stumps UP instead of SIDEWAYS, and once I loosened them up, I could yank them out of the ground (even with my old 2 wheel drive pickup).
There is a commercial product available that uses some metal legs, it looks very nice, but they also want around $150 for it. I didn't pay that much for my Farm Jack, so I couldn't justify spending that much on the metal legs. With a cheap 2x4 and a few odds and ends from the hardware store, I was able to make my own tripod system that worked fantastic!
Step 1: Making the Tripod Legs
- 1 Farm Jack (also known as Hi-Lift Jack)
- 8' long 2x4
- 9" long 1/2" bolt
- 4 large washers to fit bolt
- 1 wingnut to fit bolt
This was very simple to make. I simply cut my 8 foot 2x4 in half. Then towards the top of the 2x4s, I drilled a hole with a 3/4" spade bit (just has to be larger than the 1/2" bolt so the boards can move around). To assemble, just slip a washer onto the bolt, then thread through the first 2x4, then another washer, then through the top hole on your farm jack, then a washer, then thread through the other 2x4, then the final washer, and then the wingnut to hold it all together.
I bought my jack from Harbor Freight for around $50. Some tools from Harbor Freight are iffy, but this jack is pretty rock solid, and I have no complaints at all. You can get it even cheaper if you wait for one of their regular coupons or parking lot sales, but I've also seen similar deals online for these types of jacks, and I'm sure they are all great.
We're now ready to attach it to the bush/stump and get removing!
Step 2: Setting It Up and Using It
To prepare the bush or stump, all you have to do is to trim it down low enough that you can fit the tripod over it (but not too low that you can't wrap a chain around it). The idea is that you wrap your chain around the base (as low as you can) of the stump or bush, and then attach it to the arm on the Farm Jack. I used a little metal hook I bought at the hardware store to attach the chain to a hole in the arm of the jack, but again, this may vary depending on how your jack is constructed.
Once it's all attached, I start raising the jack arm up with the lever. There were a few times that the first time lifting the stump would only pull it up half way, and I would have to release the jack, and then reattach the chains lower (often it would pull part of the roots out of the ground, and I could loop the chain under the exposed roots system), then I would reattach the jack and lift it up again, and it would pull it the rest of the way out. But often times it will pull it right out of the ground the first time like it did with the video on the first step.
Once it's pulled up and "loosened", you can attach the chain to a truck or vehicle to pull it the rest of the way out. You could do this by hand, but it's usually pretty heavy as the roots have all of the dirt attached and it can be pretty unwieldy. As it was mentioned earlier, it is best to pull it UP first with the jack, and then you can pull it SIDEWAYS with your vehicle.
Step 3: All Done
Here you can see the bush in that corner step is gone and I'm starting to work on the stump of a lilac tree I cut down using the same method. We removed 8 bushes and tree stumps that day all about the size of the one in the video (including that big one in the background against the fence in the picture), and every one worked great! This is a great method of removing small and medium sized bushes and tree stumps that will save your back. We have a bunch more in the backyard that we will tackle in the spring, and we have had neighbors ask if they could borrow the jack once they saw how easy it was.