Saturday, December 13, 2008

A good day

I decided to get out early this morning and get some chores done while it was still cold. Remembering back to how I used to do it in the old days, I layered up plenty and left it to my bare hands to keep things in equilibrium.

By the time I stepped outside, it had warmed up to 22° and the early morning sun was driving the frost off the grass. I tinkered a bit with the chainsaw, checking the tension on the blade and topping off the tanks, and got down to business by bucking a pile of miscellaneous logs we had stacked near the house.

This year I have been experimenting with bucking felled trees into four-foot sections and letting those season in place. When I need stove wood, two quick cuts give me three perfect lengths of ready-to-burn wood. It seems to work pretty well as far as I can tell--at least today it did.

Once that little pile was bucked, split and stacked, I started on the mass of fungus-encrusted oak my brother and I hauled up from alongside the lane last weekend. Some bucking, a whole lot of splitting, and then some more bucking. All in all, by late afternoon I had bucked, split, moved and stacked about 3/10 cord of mostly hardwood--about 38 cubic feet or so.

The split wood fascinates me. The texture of freshly split oak often looks like white meat of a chicken, and today, it smelled richly of wintergreen. Often split oak smells unbelievable fruity, like ripe peaches or oranges--so strongly you want to taste it just to see how that can be. Other times it smells, well, oaky--the rich smell associated with chardonnay. It's the smell of chardonnay without the grapes.

A bunch of what I split today was well-aged cedar. It's beautiful in its own way. When you cut it, it send showers of bright pink confetti all over the place; the color can be so vivid as to defy belief. The interplay of colors on the split face of a chunk of cedar is fantastic, and what it so often calls to mind above all else is the unnaturally fluorescent shade of port-wine cheese. Again, the resemblance is so uncanny one is tempted to taste it just to see...

It seems to make perfect sense to me to describe these pieces of wood in terms of foods; it is a reasonable simile. This wood, in a short while, will be taken into the house. It will warm us and sustain us, cheer us and bring us together, give us energy and help us through the bright days and the cold dark nights. We will consume it as surely as we consume our meals, though not internally. But as food is to sustaining our bodies and spirits, so these pieces of cord wood are to sustaining and nourishing our hearth and home.

For all my troubles, I am very stiff and sore. My back hurts. By shoulders and elbows ache from hefting the 8-lb splitting maul again and again, crashing it down on log after log, reaching, lifting, twisting, throwing, bending, stacking the countless sticks of firewood.

Maybe I'll find a glass of nice, oaky chardonnay. I think it's time to go sit by the fire.

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