The Roundup -

Move Over Paul Bunyan


A half cord of wood. cut and stacked onto our little buggy to haul home, where we can split and stack it for winter use.

Nothing beats the warmth provided by chunks of wood lazily burning in a wood stove. The heat radiates throughout the dwelling, quickly chasing the damp chill out of the air and replacing it with total comfort. I love wood heat, prefer it to any other method of keeping my house warm.

People who say wood heat warms a person twice have never cut wood. It warms multiple times considering the fact that either my husband or I have cut that wood. It warms us when we cut it, warms once again as we load it on the truck, warms us a third time when we unload the wood at home, it warms us yet again as we split and stack it, and then it finally warms us for the last time as we burn those logs in the stove.

The bonus point to this already win-win situation lies in the fact that both my husband and I enjoy going after wood and watching our stockpile of fuel grow ever higher and longer as we collect, split, and stack the fruit of our labors. The crisp air, the exercise involved, the peacefulness of the wooded hills, the buzz of the saws as they munch their way through log after log, the satisfying sight of chunks of wood waiting for loading and transport home, all combine to provide for an outing we both enjoy.

I must admit that we do not cut as much wood during one of these forays as we did in our younger years. In earlier times when our bodies didn't remind us that we could no longer claim spring chicken status, when shoulders didn't protest strenuously if they felt we overworked them, and backs didn't groan loudly after a few hours of work, we would cut wood all day long, stack a pickup full and make multiple trips to and from our wood cutting spot. Paul Bunyan, you had nothing on us.

However, our Paul Bunyan days have ended forever. We use our little Suzuki mini truck for our wood hauling excursions. It works as well for us as Babe the blue ox worked for Paul. When outfitted with the frame my husband has made for the purpose of hauling wood, that little workhorse of a truck will carry a half cord of wood. If all goes well and we have a good trip, we can make two trips a day if we choose, but generally we figure a half cord a day works for us. Our bodies certainly appreciate the fact that we make one trip a day. Besides, we do have other interests and activities to keep us busy, and only going for wood a few times a week gives us numerous outings over the course of the summer and fall to collect wood for the winter.

Since our bodies delight in pointing out our many physical deficiencies when it comes to increasing our stash of wood, we take our time when we go to the forest to play lumberjack. We live amidst acres and acres of forest service land, and a permit allows us to cut cords of wood for only a few dollars. My husband has found a terrific spot about five miles from our house chock full of dead standing trees just the right size for us to cut and handle.

My husband fells the trees, I limb them and begin the process of cutting them into suitable lengths for burning in our stove. When my husband has several trees on the ground, or what we think will fill our little buggy as we affectionately call the Suzuki beast, he chips in and helps me complete the job of cutting our wood into proper lengths. Once we've completed the cutting, we load the buggy, clean the debris and mess we may have made on the rutted trail, and transport our bounty home. The roads we use to get in and out of our wood collection spot are little more than rutted trails at times, so once the snow flies, we better have more than enough wood for the winter as we will not return again until the following spring and summer.

Unloading our future heat in the yard constitutes about half the process of preparing the wood for the actual burning. We still need to split and stack it in accessible spots. Fortunately we've got a hydraulic splitter that makes quick work of this chore, but we do have mauls that we've also used for the splitting process.

I find the task of splitting wood very soothing and peaceful, although after a few hours working the splitter my back rudely points out that it has had about enough for the day. I enjoy watching each chunk of wood break apart into usable pieces as the wedge relentlessly pushes its way through the log. The sharp crack a chunk of wood makes as it splits apart sounds like winter warmth to my ears, and I can envision a cold evening with harsh winter wind blowing outside, while I sit in total comfort in my easy chair in front of the fire, holding a thick mug full of piping hot cocoa. We may be older, we may be a bit slower, but we still get the task done and have abundant wood heat for the winter.

We also enjoy some great side benefits from our wood stove. I have used my stove to cook; we have made tea, boiled eggs, and cooked a huge variety of food items on our Blaze King princess. I have concocted chicken dishes, biscuits, and soups; I've fried hamburger and scrambled eggs, and baked meatloaf and chili to name just a few of the delicious meals we can prepare at zero energy cost to us.

Getting ready to start felling, limbing, and chopping trees into useable lengths of firewood.

When we moved to this community last November, our house did not have a wood stove and I thought we would freeze to death before spring finally arrived. We made sure to rectify that little situation as the installation of a wood stove sat at the top of our to-do list. We got the stove installed in early spring, and enjoyed many excursions into the mountains this past summer to gather sufficient fuel to keep that stove busy this winter.

I have a delightful fire going as I write this. I can hear the snap of the wood every so often, and I can feel the heat settle around my shoulders. We expect to see a cold night tonight, but we will not notice. Our wood will warm us throughout the evening and for many evenings to come.

Lumberjacking pays off in so many ways. We can spend quality time together gathering our fuel, we exercise muscles during the entire process, and we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors with wonderful, much appreciated heat during the long dark winter months of the year.


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