Lumberjacking With The Neighbors


My husband loves to spend time in the woods. He’ll travel several miles to reach our BLM ‘big timber’ country, where he enjoys the scenery, the hushed solitude of the forest, and the search for firewood. Logging puts him in a good mood as well, whether he fells standing dead trees or cuts up deadfall. He enjoys chopping trees into manageable pieces, loading the chunks on the pickup, and hauling them home for future winter use. When he takes a cruise in the side-by-side, he always carries a chainsaw, gas, oil, and assorted tools with him on the off chance that he will discover a suitable tree for turning into firewood. He regularly returns from these little excursions with the side-by-side loaded to the maximum with blocks of firewood ready for splitting and stacking.

The neighbors also have a wood stove, but they don’t use theirs for primary heat as we do. Before this winter they spent very little time here during the cold winter months, so they thought our large supply of firewood was overkill. However, this winter they were here for several weeks in southwestern Montana during the frigid late winter months and they rapidly realized how quickly wood can disappear on a cold February day.

So, this spring they wanted to go on a wood cutting adventure with us. We chose a day in early April for our little trip, and since we wanted the neighbors to enjoy the outing my husband went on a scouting expedition the day before. He found several excellent trees, felled one of them right beside a tree that already lay on the ground just waiting to be chosen for firewood, and limbed the tree he had fallen in preparation for the lumberjacking event. He came home well satisfied with himself.

The scheduled day dawned gray and chilly. The forecast predicted showers, so we consulted with the neighbors to see if they wanted to postpone the trip. We all agreed a few clouds ought not to deter us, so we packed assorted snacks, water, and the logging equipment into two vehicles, so we would have more cargo room to bring home the fruits of our labor, and set out for forest country.

We had a pleasurable drive in spite of the overcast skies. We reached the spot where my husband had felled the tree, we climbed out of the vehicles, collected our saws, and allowed our neighbor to spray us with bug repellent even though I didn’t see any sign of bugs as yet. As she pointed out, mosquitoes can come from out of the blue and it is best to be prepared. I didn’t see much blue while glancing at the dreary cloud cover, but she had a point. Bugs can attack with no notice. We enjoyed the solitude for a few minutes and exclaimed how much snow still lay on the ground at that elevation.

About that time, it began to drizzle. Oh well, what is a little moisture in the scheme of things, especially since I had brought along my raincoat and could keep most of the dampness away. The others had assorted jackets, so we happily began to work.

Before we had made ten cuts into one of the logs, the drizzle turned into light rain, then moments later the rain changed into sleet, and a few minutes later the sleet turned to heavy wet snow. The men worked quickly to cut the log into chunks, and we ladies loaded the chunks into the backs of the two vehicles.

The snow fell heavier and began to accumulate on the rutted, gravel road. Because we were in a thick stand of trees up in the mountains, we experienced true Alpine snow, with no wind and the huge heavy flakes falling straight down to the ground an onto us. Of course, this meant a lot of snow landed, melted, then slid down the necks and backs of the two men, who did not have hoods on their jackets. Those of us who had dressed properly had to listen to the complaints of those who had not as the icy water penetrated their shirts and drawers.

Wimps that we are, we finally decided to sit in our respective vehicles for a few minutes to see if the snow would abate. A rest in the vehicles also allowed us to warm up our fingers and hopefully partially thaw out other parts of our bodies. A few minutes of waiting in the trucks turned into twenty minutes, and the snow kept falling. The gravel road turned white with a thick coating of heavy, slushy spring snow. We held a quick conference and all agreed that no way would we leave behind the large log still waiting to be cut up. We piled out of the vehicles, and set to work, rapidly completing our woodcutting project.

By the time we loaded the last slab of wood into the truck, packed all the gear and were ready to head home, we were all soaked. I could still smell the bug spray my neighbor had used earlier. I told her the spray worked wonderfully, as I had not seen one bug the entire time we were gathering wood.

In spite of the snow, we made it back home with a sizeable amount of wood ready for splitting and stacking. By the time we headed down the mountain, the snow had turned back to rain, and when we reached home, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. We returned to our respective abodes, built large, hot fires in our wood stoves to warm up and defrost. We hadn’t even touched our snacks, so we met up again with the neighbors after we had all changed into dry clothing, and enjoyed tasty treats and hot drinks.

It maybe was not as comfortable an outing as we had first anticipated, but we had fun anyway, we collected some wood for winter that my neighbor and I split the next day, and we agreed that a little dampness never hurt anyone.

We do plan another logging trip. However, we will wait until all danger of mountain snow has passed. With our luck, whatever day we select for our next outing will most certainly be the most miserable day of the week.

I think for sure the next trip; we will need the neighbor’s good bug spray.


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