Lessons in Resilience/ Update Florim #3

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, I have been very absorbed by a number of pressing matters, with Florim’s situation looming large amongst these. Hopefully heading back towards a semblance of normality in the coming weeks…

Florim has spent the last week battling a persistent infection in the wound, which in the end required further surgery early Sunday morning. This time the doctors decided for a more aggressive procedure to sort out the infection once and for all. This involved drilling into the bone, causing Flo very severe pain.

Having said that, they seem to have successfully eliminated the infection. The results so far are very encouraging, here is keeping fingers crossed!

I was blown away when I went to see Flo today by how positive and balanced he was. We had a long chat about the accident and the immediate aftermath, which was tough, but at the same time it is good to see him working through what happened as a start of the process towards coming to terms with it. Seeing Flo rebound from this horrific incident in this fashion is a lesson in resilience indeed.

A big thank you to all of you who have been in touch or written to Florim. We were discussing how this sensation of being supported and carried by a community had an enormous positive impact, helping him navigate the first few very difficult days.

The next hurdle will be leaving hospital beginning of next week and reorientating himself in a new everyday life. But after what I encountered today, I have total faith in Flo that he is more that up to this task.

Up-date Florim

The days since Florim’s accident have been hard.

A rollercoaster ride, with one moment feeling normal, for the next to hurt badly. The accident has sent shock waves through the industry, the response has been overwhelming. Thank you all for your kind thoughts and messages, I know this means the world to Flo.

If you would like to send him something or write to him, please send here:

Jenna Ajda Milich
Rue de Grand Pré 41
Genève 1202

If you have written to him, please understand that if Florim does not answer, this is not meant in an unkind or rude fashion, he simply really needs to focus on the healing process.

He will remain in hospital the next couple of days, after a second operation on Monday evening. He has started physio to keep the arm supple and mobile.

I was heartened by what I encountered when I first saw him after the accident last Sunday. Florim remains the up-beat, positive person he always has been, obviously struggling at times, which is more than understandable in view of the circumstances, but he clearly says that he is not afraid of what the future may hold for him, is ready to confront it and feels very lucky, realising the accident could have been a lot worse. I am confident that he is going to work his way through the difficult and lengthy process ahead of him, with the help of all the people around him.

Heal fast, my friend.


I am deeply shocked.

Last Friday, our friend and colleague, Florim Ajda, had a terrible accident with a chipper. He lost his left hand and part of his lower arm. Apart from this he is uninjured. Thanks to the fast response by the people on site, he was quickly taken to hospital and was operated upon at once. There, he is receiving first-class care, is conscious and is surrounded by people who are close to him.

It is important for us – in agreement with Florim – to inform you directly and factually about this serious accident to prevent rumours from circulating. Florim is one of the most competent and professional arborists we know. For years he has promoted safe work practices and professionalism, in training as well as during his every-day work. His open and positive nature touches and inspires people around him. It is almost unimaginable that of all people this should have happened to him.

This accident painfully reminds us that during our work we can reduce the likelihood of such an accident occurring by applying safe work practices in a methodical and dilligent fashion – yet a residual risk will always remain.

Dear Florim, our thoughts are with you and we wish you lots of energy for your recovery and all which may come. We are thankful and glad that you are alive.

Pop go my resolutions

Three days into the new year and the first of my resolutions has already gone the way of the dodo… that one where I swore to myself to spend the first two weeks of 2018 pretty much in front of the wood stove? Well, after yesterday’s storm that one was knocked solidly on the head. Oh well.

Steer clear of trees, the met office said. 😳

The uprooted birch on this call-out was not very large or very challenging – except for the fact that it was hung up right on the edge of a building, over power lines. And it was wet. And there was a stupid amount of movement from the gusts of wind coming through. After having the power switched off and having guyed the tree in three directions, we stripped it down between two thunder cells.

Watching trees move in the wind is one thing, riding the storm on a tree is another. Really makes you appreciate the dynamic properties of a tree canopy.

A winter’s tale

It is more windy than cold today here, but talking to friends exposed to the momentary spell of cold weather in parts of the US reminded me of a story which happened years ago.

This was back in the days when I was training with Alan, a friend from Ireland who owned a tree care company in Basel. Back then it was just the two of us, which was great, certainly gave me the best foundation I could ever have wished for. But when you are working as such a small unit, you really get to know each others quirks. One of Alan’s was that he loved to chat with clients. And chat, and chat…

One day we worked in a elderly customer’s garden, pruned her plane trees, the birch and some other bits and pieces. It was cold and getting dark by the time we finished, I was glad when I had the van all packed up and was more than ready to pack it in and call it a day. Cold fingers, chilly wind blowing… Alan, meanwhile had been chatting with the customer for what felt like a geological age.

He then popped his head out of a window, to tell me we still needed to clear the gutters.


This sent me into an instant grump! So back down to the van, fiddle the ladder off the back, lug it back into the garden, set it up against the side of the house and get up there. It was only then that I realised that the leaves and gunk were frozen in the gutter. This was getting worse and worse! So I decided it was time for drastic measures if I was ever to get off work that day. I got some secateurs and hacked the ice away, diligently working my way along the roof and round the corner. As the layer of ice was quite thick this required quite a bit of effort… when I finished, I took down the ladder, loaded it back on the van, cleared the gunk up off the ground – and was (again) good to go.

I rounded the corner to bump into Alan, who looked less than happy. WTF? He then pointed out how you could see the dusk sky though the gutter, punctured along its whole length by many, many secateur-size holes. What can I say, my alibi was not exactly water-proof, as in The holes were there already, honest, guv. The proof was stacked quite heavily against me, to a degree that denying it did not really make sense.

This situation had a number of immediate and longer-term consequences:

  • The gutter had to be replaced,
  • I did not have to clear any more gutters for quite some time, and
  • Alan will never let me forget.

I do not like winter, roll on spring!


Picking up on the theme from yesterday, here was one that really surprised me…

One point where the harness a reviewer was comparing to the treeMOTION scored, was that you have to customise the latter. Errrr, say what? You have to customise it? And here was me thinking that being able to customise a harness or a tool to your ergonomic requirements, the work you do, the structures you work on and your level of skill was a good thing. But apparently not, according to this guy.


Which just goes to prove that if you search long enough, there is no opinion too outlandish or skewed that you cannot find somebody peddling it out there.

Yes, mixing facts and opinion like this annoys me. Done grumbling now…

Ach, (s)he is just a competition climber!

This is one that has puzzled me for a while…

A reoccurring theme in forums and videos seems to be a perceived difference between competition and production climbers – and how you are either one or the other. I was watching a guy rubbishing the treeMOTION harness, insinuating that it was unfairly hyped due to Beddes’ competition successes – and that as Beddes was a competition climber it cannot possibly be a harness which can be put to use by a production climber.


Actually, I get part of it.

Competitions and work environments are not the same thing, I will grant you that. But at the same time, some of the finest climbers I have had the privilege of meeting at competitions are first and foremost highly skilled and efficient producing climbers, engaged in practical tree work on a daily basis. After all, this daily work is what made them good in the first place and allowed them to excell in competitions. This is true of Beddes, as well as it is of folk such as Johan Pihl, James Kilpatrick, Anja Erni, Peter Vergote or Gregor Hansch, to name but a few. Anja once said that she is not prepared to train for comps beyond the climbing that she does on a daily basis at work – so she pushes herself very hard at work.

To be clear: You do not have to compete to be a good worker in the field. I can think of any number of highly proficient arborists who have never even been close to a competition. Just not their thing, understandable and fine. But on the other hand, some people compete – yet are also a good production climber. The two are by no means mutually exclusive.

It is important that we do not stylise climbing competitions to be more than they are. Ultimately they are a showcase for techniques used in tree care. Not more, not less. Should this one day cease to be the case, in my opinion they would lose their validity and relevance. For the time being, I and a group of like-minded people have for years invested considerable time and effort to ensure that competitions remain an industrial skills showcase, not identical to a job site, but close enough to be meaningful

That aside, one thing is for sure: you cannot live off being a competition climber, like a pro tour tennis player or something like that. Suggesting that someone is a full-time competition climber is therefore nonsense.

All this reminds me of a situation with a guy I knew, call him Pete. Pete was a crust punk who lived in a squat and liked to party. One day he was talking about some lads he went to school with who went on to become pro football players. “Huh”, slurred Pete, “if I had trained as much as they had, I could be a pro footballer too”. Errr. Yes, the fact is though, he did not, so he is not. He’s a crusty. The following statement, in some respects sounds suspiciously like a Pete-ism to me: “Well, if I chose to be a competition climber, I would do this differently – but I work in the real world”. Really?

Having worked with Beddes, I would have to say that it does not come much more real than that in regards to speed and efficiency in production climbing. So the good news is, you do not need to choose between one, or the other: over the years there have been many examples of cross pollination between  these two facets of climbers’ culture.

More viewing

Hopefully what you are doing over the Christmas and New Year period will be similar to what I am: kicking back, taking it easy, spending plenty of time in front of the fireplace, reading some books and watching a couple of films.

Here is one that comes highly recommended… Filmage – The Story of Descendents/ All. After having a bit of whinge about crowdfunding projects the other day, I have to say that this is a very fine product to have emerged out of exactly that kind of process. This documentary tells the story of the Descendents, a seminal west coast punk band who started playing in the early eighties whose influence to this day cannot be overstated.

Loud music not your thing? That is fine and does not really matter, as it is not really what the documentary is about. The doc ticks many boxes, it is at times quirky, funny, serious and profound – it will make you laugh, but also think about big decisions you make in life and living with their consequences.

One of the things I feel strongly about when presenting or putting myself in front of a class is to establish that the relationship I am striving to build with the attendees is not based upon power, but rather upon trust and respect. After all, how sad would it be to travel all that way to teach that class to hoist myself up onto a guru pedestal – because as a guru I cannot be taught anything, as supposedly I already know it all! Not my cup of tea. I go to places to expand my horizon and to learn. I also think that being authentic is essential… trying to be something that I am not strikes me as being a surefire recipe to end up looking like a bit of a fool.

Bill, Milo and the rest of the Descendents/ All crew certainly score high on the non-power trip and authenticity scale, they remained humble and approachable throughout. These boys simply did what they enjoyed doing, were committed and sincere – and did not forget to have a laugh on the way.

Ok, it’s five bucks, but believe me, that is money well spent. You can thank me later.

Digging in the archives

Here is some easy viewing for you over the Christmas period. I was looking for this video on YouTube, but apparently it had been removed, which is a pity as it is probably of the most viewed feats showcasing arborist techniques.

Back in 2004 Beddes took part at what at that time was one of the most watched game shows on TV, “Wetten, dass…”, which consisted of people submitting bets, which celebrities (well, more or less) then placed wagers upon. Beddes’ offering was that he reckoned that he could footlock 100 meters in five minutes.

The event was set up on the Sony building on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, with Knut taking care of the rigging aloft.

I have embedded the video below. I considered subtitling the video, but ran out of steam – and frankly, the dialogue is not going to win anybody a Pulitzer Prize, you will get the general gist of it, event without any knowledge of German. Or in Beddes’ case, Swabish.

What can I say?

For me this remains a highly memorable moment of modern tree care. The sheer audacity of running up the line, dropping bits every 30 meters, live, on prime time TV? That takes some nerves! Did Beddes train for it? Well, apart from being Beddes… not really, he just reckoned he could do it. In hindsight I cannot help but feel if instead of faffing around dropping the lines they would have done better to lift up the line in a u-shape, keeping the piece below him at a consistent length and weight. This would have probably made the difference. Still, jolly impressive!

That Saturday there was an in-house event at Drayer’s place, a vendor of arb equipment, in the Black Forest. The whole crowd there watched the nail-biting finale… I remember Hubert from ART going absolutely bananas, firing Beddes on! Hell, we were all going bananas! Riveting stuff and good times.

And hey, so much for footlocking not being efficient. Being proficient in any technique makes it appear easy, but getting there requires effort, practice… and talent. Beddes brought plenty of this to the table. Not to mention attitude.