Wednesday, October 31, 2012


     It's a Franklin, thirty years old. Made of cast iron, she's a beast, inefficient, requires maintenance and will outlast me by quite a bit. On its face is a profile of the inventor, said by Mad Magazine to have invented everything that Jefferson and Edison didn't. Seeing as how the wheel didn't as yet have rubber on it back in Franklin's day there were a lot of holes yet to be filled. Opportunity galore.
     Hmmm. These silk stockings just ain't doin' the job anymore. My dogs are freezin'. Shoulda built a fireplace in the workshop. Maybe if I built me an iron box, got it up off the floor so's it wouldn't burn the place down, I could build a fire in it and warm these tootsies up.
     Or something like that.
     Oak, birch, aspen and pine. That's about it. Don't much care for the pine. Burns fast and gunks up the pipe. The pipe's triple walled from the loft floor on up. A straight eighteen foot run from stove vent to bonnet. A match, five sheets of newsprint, kindling and it takes off like a jet plane. And also will burn down to coals in two and a half hours. Not the most efficient wood burner but it's attractive in a black metal box kinda way.
     When I'm up north by myself I sleep on the window seat, cold nose beneath cracked window. Seeing the light from Ben flicker on the ceiling is a warming sight. Also gets me thinking of how close I am to becoming a crispy critter. The building's all thirty year old wood. Pine, cedar, redwood and fir. A little oak and ash on the walls and floor that'd burn way too slow if it wasn't oiled for both shine and explosiveness. A few thousand hours labor would turn into a pile of ash in minutes. And there I lay with a mid-sized inferno blazing away in the next room.
     I'm a hard head. Can't think of any other reason why I gather fire wood the way I do. All of which comes from the seven plus above water acres around me. Each log dead before I had my way with it. Oak usually comes from downed trees, snapped off or leveled by wind. There's a couple ready for the taking as I write this. One looks to have been lightning struck. Not that I'd know what that looks like. But this one if twenty feet of trunk topped by a three way split bent to the ground. Not sure how to drop it as the tree could fall any which way.
     The other had been dead for a few years. No idea how or why its trunk and branches turned a smooth, shiny black, like it had been creosoted, after its bark fell off. Another mystery of life in a life full of them.
     Birch takes a bit of watching. Like me, they tend to die from the top down. When the leaves are no longer there but the tiniest of branches remain, if I want the wood, now's the time to harvest. If not it rots on the stump quickly. A year and it's pulp. Five or so and it's bark and peat on the ground.
     The hard head part of the process, the part I love like a brother, comes in my manner of gather. The second of the above oaks lays a winding three hundred feet from where it'll be dismembered and stacked. Gettin' it there is the fun part. Cut to lengths it gets lobbed enough times to reach a path where the wheelbarrow awaits. Then the wood's carted and piled in the splitting area. Split by hand with a six pound maul of course. I prefer a hickory handle for its feel when the wood pops open but a fiberglass will do. My favorite maul head is on its third wood shaft. What I lack in accuracy I make up for in profanity. My love of swearing does a job to handles. Sometimes I miss on purpose. That's why the fiberglass sits nearby knowing its time will come.
     I think Lois loves the process. Especially the stacking part. Kinda like organizing drawers except for the inevitable split fingernails at the wood pile. She stacks elegantly. Nice, trim rows with the occasional rick to break up the monotony. She's a great help and a bit of a slave driver. Gets me goin' at a pace I can't sustain at age sixty-five. And I do love to split wood but there's only so much need. Gettin' 'er done too fast is like shootin' your wad two minutes into love makin' when you'd like it to last all night. Wonder if they make a wood splittin' viagra, the kind where if you're at it for more than four hours you should contact a forester?

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