Photography by Tim Anderson
falling into the hole or tipping sideways on the
irregular ground. When we untied the tree, it swung
to the right, so we blocked up one end of the 2× 4.
James filled around the tree as I lowered it into the
hole (Figure I). We leaned the dolly over the hole so
we could easily rotate the suspended tree.
Dig a bigger hole than you need. When the tree
1. Sombrero means “shade maker” in Spanish. The
inverted airfoil shape of the brim pushes it onto
your head in the wind. This technology enables
Mexicans to wear the biggest, shadiest hats in the
2. Root ball hook is set in the ground as
an anchor for the guy line to the top of the mast.
3. Kneepads. Digging a narrow trench with a
D-handle posthole spade is like paddling a canoe.
The kneeling posture used by Canadian Olympic
paddlers is more comfortable with kneepads.
4. Combat boots from my little stint in the Marines.
Their hard, nearly smooth soles are terrible for
charging uphill, and not much good for hiking. But
they are extremely good for digging holes. They
just feel really good on a shovel.
5. Trunk wrapped
with carpet scraps and inner tubes. A nylon tow
strap loop is tied around this padding with a lark’s
head hitch. 6. Root ball wrapped with carpet scraps
and inner tubes. There are always some roots you
didn’t manage to cut. When you hoist, they break
the root ball apart. Wrapping with inner tubes
makes the root ball strong enough that you can
hoist it a little and cut the remaining roots without
breaking the root ball and traumatizing the fine
feeder roots. 7. Ratcheting winch or “come-along”
lifts the tree. The hoist cable goes over a pulley
at the dolly’s masthead to lift the tree vertically.
8. Tow strap loop and lark’s head hitch. The come-
along attaches to this tow strap loop, which is
hitched to the dolly frame with a lark’s head hitch.
is standing upright in the hole, remove the padding
from the root ball. Plant the tree no deeper than the
bulge at the bottom of the trunk. Mulch over the
roots, water regularly, and if high winds or college
students are in the area, tie guy ropes to the trunk
so it doesn’t get knocked over. Happy tree moving!
Tim Anderson (
mit.edu/robot) is the co-founder of Z Corp.
See a hundred more of his projects at