Five Green Acres Mary Jo + Andrew Borchardt Poynette, WI
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Making (fire)wood

Making (fire)wood
January 4, 2011 Mary Jo

With that end-of-year thaw came an enormous opportunity – a much-needed chance to make some wood.

It always makes me smile when I hear the old-timey phrase.  In our carefully cultivated lexicon of folksy vocabulary, “making wood” is a newer addition for me.  Making wood – the cutting, splitting, and stacking of firewood, has become an integral part of our winter program here and this year more than ever before we’re faced with an increased sense of urgency.  There is, as you know, another hungry mouth to feed – that of the new living room woodstove.  A voracious hunger she has, that girl, but her warmth pays us great dividends as we lounge about in the living room or any of the adjacent rooms that were inhospitable in winters past.  It feels a little like gluttony, rocking by the fire, the thermostat registering a whopping 72 degrees.  Gluttonous, indeed, when compared to previous winters’ ambient temperature of 63 degrees and the requisite layers upon layers of clothing.

I have to say that I love every part of making wood.  It’s good, honest work that warms the soul as well as the body.  It is said that wood heats twice – once when making it and once when burning it, but I’d venture that it heats far more than that.  Loading the truck, unloading, splitting, stacking, filling the sled with a day’s load, unloading, restacking….I’d go so far as to say a piece of wood warms a body no less than a half a dozen times.  Good, honest work, I say.  Being comfortably warm while working outside on a winter’s day is a pleasure.  Breaking a sweat, even, while seeing an orderly wall of carefully-stacked firewood take shape is a satisfaction like no other.  Practical work, necessary work, with physically measurable achievement – it’s the kind of work people did much more of before health clubs and gyms became necessary.  I relish the chance to strengthen my muscles, to strengthen my heart, to make my lungs work a bit.  And cognitively, the opportunity to tone my spatial judgment while finding the best spot for each uniquely-shaped piece of wood is a fringe benefit.  It is good, honest work, but we are young and energetic and physically able to do that work.  It’s certainly not for everyone and we recognize that we’re lucky to be able to do it.

With the mountain of snow that had previously buried our working pile of wood, we had a grand opportunity to head out and process it.  Just in the nick of time, too, as our ready-to-burn stacks were dwindling.  We had much company among us while we worked – the chickens reveled in the absence of that which they abhor stepping on.  The sheep, I suspect, were feeling as overdressed and uncomfortable as I was, disproportionately bundled for the current temps.

The greatest accomplishment of the day was the mountainous task of splitting giant rounds of a dead oak tree that Andrew took down 3 years ago.  Knotted and gnarly and twisted, the oak gave quite a workout to our burly new log splitter.  But splitting them open was like cracking a geode and finding a surprising sparkling center – the magnificent grain and patterning found in some of the pieces was breathtaking.  I’m quite sure that the normal process of making wood does not include dropping everything to run for the camera to photograph the loveliness of the fresh-split oak, but when you’re married to a artist/designer/blogger, you’re accustomed to making such allowances and Andrew accepted it without the blink of an eyelash.  That grain, that crimp – I was struck by how that same pattern is echoed in the fleece of our new woolly friends.  Clever Mother Nature – she’s not afraid to pepper her good designs throughout the natural world, is she?


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