Sunday, January 22, 2017

Splitting your own wood

Time: Summer 1991
Location: "Old Maintenance", Grant Grove, Sequoia National Park

I furtively lifted the maul. The hazard tree crew were lurking about somewhere, and I didn't want them to laugh at my attempt to split some rounds. I had been fortunate enough to score a cabin for my seasonal job, and it was only heated with wood. Since we lived at about 7,000 feet, it was either learn to split wood or freeze.

Since then, I have split a lot of wood. In this county, I have yet to find a woman who splits her own, though I am sure they exist. It would be easy to defer this task to a partner, but I feel like if I give up all the chores I don't want to do, because they're hard, I lose something in the process. And there's something satisfying about lugging an enormous round (or rolling it, because it's so big) to the chopping block and seeing it split in several pieces.

Wood, split by moi
I feel like every woman without health limitations should be able to a) split her own wood, b) deal with frozen pipes, and c) not freak out skiing alone below zero. At least, those are a few things that I won't give up doing myself. Last week I had all three of these situations. The bitter cold that allowed us to play on the lake also created some impressive scenery (the pipes thawed after I crawled under the house with a heater)

Hurricane creek, with puppy in the distance

Looking down at the frozen lake from the East Fork trail

The first fat bike on Wallowa Lake. Those are my ski tracks

Our winters here are long and I have to laugh when I hear people wishing for spring. That's at least two months away, folks, and most likely three this year. My cabin is small, and I usually go through about four cords a winter. I do sometimes get help. But most often, every piece I burn is split by me. I could probably get a different form of heat, but this way it ties me to the source. I can't just flick a switch. I have to wake up cold, trundle outside to get more wood, crumple up paper, and light a match. I like that.

21 comments:

  1. I was able to view the first 2 pictures with my phone but they won't display on my computer, in 2 different browsers, which leads me to believe it is tied to my operating system (windows 7). ah well.
    Splitting wood! I split a lot of wood, always have. I have always enjoyed it. I enjoy wood fires and firewood so much that R got me the book 'Norwegian wood' and I am really enjoying it.
    Last winter I worked on starting all my fires by using a bow-drill and tinder bundle. I aspired to that this year too, but so far have been resorting to fatwood sticks (just can't make myself use paper) and my collection of kindling types and sizes. Being too busy, or too late, or too cold, to start a fire with a bowdrill tells me I"m not prioritizing my life the way I want too. Winter should be a slower time. It hasn't been that way this year. I need to work on that, plenty of winter left :-)

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    1. Wow Bowdrill!:I'd like to learn that. I admit I use paper, junk mail without plastic. Fatwas is great too if you can get it. Years of starting beach fires in rain have taught me to be persistent. We didn't have fires often but when we did they were necessary

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  2. As for me . . . I've hauled and stacked plenty of wood in my life, but never split. Not really sure how that happened but guess having three brothers, my dad decided it was more important they have that chore.

    My arms would be a lot more buff if I used this for necessity cross training. My neighbor has a pile of rounds that need to be split. Maybe I should offer. NOT! I'd probably chop my leg off.

    I have a horror story about being forced under the house as a child throwing a temper tantrum . . . and my brother's matchbox cars. Let's just say I now have spider phobia. That place was full of black widows. I cried a lot, and have had plenty of nightmares since. I'll pay for a plumber. I think my brother was feeling the same after spending a few days under the house repairing broken pipes after a recent freeze.

    I'll stay with the cold weather adventures!

    You the woman; hear her roar.

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    1. It can substitute as a gym workout! I also do not care for spiders. Luckily it's too cold right now....I think? That bring forced under the house story sounds horrible!

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  3. Enjoyed the photos of all the options: Snowshoeing, puppy trailing, skiing, fat tire biking on a frozen lake...bet J. was stoked about that. That's an impressive woodpile of split wood..admire your homesteading skills and physical abilities!

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    1. I'm embracing winter. Though, it could be a little warmer than zero...I wouldn't mind.

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    2. That is an impressive snowshoe hike to get to the place to take a photo of the lake from the East Fork Trail!!

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  4. On the farm we all took turns chopping the wood for the combustion stove,[no power then] but those days are long gone.

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    1. Is a combustion stove the same thing as a wood stove over here?

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    2. Not sure. A wood stove needed to be fed all the time and were cheaper to buy.
      The combustion stove could be controlled more re amount of wood used and its temperature.
      Both had ovens and stove top plates.
      When I was first married, we had a potbelly wood stove just for heating the house.

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  6. I love the thought of living in a cabin, living a more rustic life. As for splitting wood, haven't done that since I was a child but maybe I'll find myself in a cabin in the woods someday...

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    1. There's a whole level of rustic that I wonder if I could do, like those dry cabins in Fairbanks in winter, or in the bush even. Not sure...maybe?

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  7. Wow, I feel like a lazy city-dweller..... :)

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  8. I don't split my own wood, but I do all the stacking and hauling, even with one bum arm. :) It's a good workout, for my right side anyways.

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    1. I think you get a pass on splitting. That would be pretty hard with your arm. Impressive work with the other stuff though.

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  9. Hi Mary, splitting wood is something I really enjoy and I am happy to still be doing it at 69 years old. Out in the Bush, it is enjoyable to go to the woods, find the right tree and drag it back to the cabin. Go inside and have a cup of hot tea or coffee, a little rest and then back out to buck it up. This is what I will be doing in a few days.

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    1. That sounds a lot more fun than driving to the woods, cutting trees, hauling the rounds to the truck, and driving home to unload them! Good for you.

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  10. I am actually grateful to have been put in the situation where J has been laid up and I have to do a lot of the work myself. It feels liberating. This is good practice with a handicap (we do have an electric baseboard heater as a backup--although the school told us we cut their electricity bill in half compared with past caretakers, so we are clearly not relying on it). Someday I would like to live more rustic and be entirely dependent on the wood stove. But for now I am just happy for the practice.

    Happy to have you as an inspiration!!!

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    1. I saw you had been chopping wood. I actually didn't expect any less!

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