Last year, my dad pulled out all of the dead wood out of the side of the tree that hangs mostly over our yard; the remaining branch fluffed out and looks somewhat better than the rest of the tree. This new growth actually fruited this year too -- the first time I've seen that since we moved into the house almost 10 years ago. Now the rest of the tall part of the tree hanging over the neighbors' yard is full of dead wood; clearly that had to go too. Tree carnage, ho!
But how to do it without making a mess for the neighbors? The first step was to climb into the tree with the loppers I got pretty good at controlling the direction of fall either by flicking the loppers to the side as the branches started to fall, or by bracing one side of the loppers against my chest, using one hand to pull them shut and the other to hold onto what would become the loose end of the branch. All while sitting in the tree or standing on the top of the fence. Given that I climb a lot these days and am accustomed to much more precarious footholds, that wasn't as sketchy as it sounds.
After pulling out all of the truly dead wood, things were looking pretty pathetic and unbalanced,
so I kept lopping off smaller branches in preparation for topping the tree all to the same height. This particular tree has fairly dense wood, so I tried to take things off in small enough chunks to handle. It all has to be small enough to fit into the yard waste bin anyway!
At this point, the remaining branches were big enough to require the chainsaw, so I took a break. Best not to be chainsawing while standing on the fence with no one home...
Finally, the weekend rolled around and I pulled out the chainsaw. Muahahaha!
That bare stub that remains should fluff out like the other side next spring, if past patterns hold.
In case you are wondering why there is a rope tied to the tree trunk -- I had the other end tied to the last heavy chunk I took off in case it fell over the fence. Good thing too, since I did need to use it to fish the branch back over to our side after it fell the wrong way. (And yes, I did apprise the neighbors of my plan; they had no problem if some branches dropped on their side, but I still felt obligated to keep the mess on our side.)
The poor truncated tree gets one more chance; if it continues to ail I'm taking it completely out and letting the orange tree next to it grow to the height that it wants to. I like oranges :) And the chainsaw...