Keeping the roads clear

Neatness certainly counts around here, as I wrote in my post “Shave and a fauchage, two bits” on October 11. You may remember that fauchage means “cutting” or “trimming,” and is used to describe the clearing of grass, weeds and small branches from the sides of roads.

In summer, it’s commonplace to see two, three or even four tractors and trucks out on the road in convoys, moving slowly and trimming the shoulders of roads as they go.

Now it turns out that fauchage has a big cousin: élagage, or pruning. Recently the road into Gourdon was the scene of a serious élagage project — involving several work crews, a tractor mounted with rotating saw blades, a truck with a huge chipper, and more trucks to haul away the chipped wood. Vehicles had to deal with alternating one-way traffic patterns, so at times there were relatively long back-ups.

The whole procession looked like this:

Photo of tree-cutting.

It's a major operation, from cutting to chipping.

Naturally, we tried to figure out what was behind all the activity. One reasonable theory was that the road into Gourdon is being widened, and that élagage is just the first step. But I think it’s more likely that this is just a late-fall, early winter operation to trim back branches so that when the leaves come out in the spring, drivers will have a better view.

And make no mistake that élagage is serious business. Not only can the saw-equipped tractor trim branches high up in trees, it can actually take out a whole tree. Quite quickly. And once you see the blades involved, you’ll understand:

Saw blades

Seriously: don't get too close!

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