Let's say that there's a huge old cedar, with a huge old branch drooping dangerously low (as in, too low to get the back-hoe underneath, if someone were, say, digging a grave nearby).
This is how NOT to deal with the situation.
1. Fetch a ladder
2. Lean ladder against part of branch closest to tree
3. Because the brush is so thick close to the trunk, rest the top end of the ladder 15-20 feet away from the trunk. This will still leave plenty of heavy branch to get rid of.
4. Start up the new chainsaw - lightweight and gas-powered, it is perfect for this job.
5. Send Bert, your favourite backhoe guy up the ladder with the chainsaw.
6. To be extra safe, brace yourself at the bottom of the ladder. You wouldn't want that ladder to slip.
7. Watch as Bert cuts away smaller side branches. Watch as they fall harmlessly to the ground. Admire how well Bert handles the chainsaw. Think just how smoothly this job is going.
8. Watch Bert cut a "V" up underneath the big, fat branch, which weighs as much as a small tree.
9. Watch Bert cut down through the top of the branch.
What happens next happens very fast. The part of the branch closest to the tree has now been relieved of a great deal of weight. It bounces straight up, well beyond the reach of the top end of the ladder. This means, of course, that for one odd second the ladder is suspended in midair. And then, gravity calls, and the ladder, Nikki, Bert, and chainsaw (still running) sail through the air. They land in a heap in this order: brambles, ladder, Nikki, Bert... Chainsaw lands some distance away, purring happily.
Amazingly, no major damage to anyone - even the ladder survived. I'll let the bruises on my arm blossom fully and then, if I remember, I'll post some technicolour photos. Nothing like a shot of adrenaline to liven up a dreary day of clearing brush.