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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Firewood: Feel the burn

Lately there was a sprinkling of fresh snow on Mount Olympus.
It’s not be the first sign that summer is over and fall is here.
The great flights of geese and sandhill cranes heading south are another clue that winter is on its way. Causing questions to be asked like, if the birds are leaving why are we staying here, to endure yet another winter in a frozen rainforest?
Be assured this winter will not be as hard as the last. This initial forecast is based on the incidence of spider webs and may require further research.
For that we’ll have to measure the fat on a big buck’s back. 
Skinning a buck to predict the weather is a long lost art that is misunderstood by many, including the game warden, so it we'll have to wait for deer season to open to collect more data.
If I had to bet on it though, I'd say this winter will be cold and wet and dark. You may need a big pile of wood to get through until spring.
There are few things I enjoy more than cutting firewood, especially if I don't have any.
In a perfect world we would all cut our wood in the spring so it would have time to dry in the summer to burn in the fall. Unfortunately this is not a perfect world.
I blame the government. They would rather let our public timber rot in the woods than let a taxpayer salvage some downed trees to heat their home. 
Toughest thing about getting firewood these days is finding some place to cut it. Whoever said, cutting firewood warms you twice, once in the cutting and once in the burning, was a real greenhorn.
Cutting firewood warms you in more ways than you can shake a stick at:
First, you must start your chain saw, if you have one. Those of us who have tried to cut a winter's worth of wood with a hand saw quickly find out why they are called misery whips.
Starting a chainsaw can be plenty miserable too.
There’s nothing like jerking a pull cord on a chainsaw to warm you up. After five or 10 minutes you may want to check for fuel. Got gas?
Then you may have to get creative. Take out the spark plug and give it a few pulls. Put the spark plug back in.
Continue pulling.
Drag the saw back to the road. Tangle in a mess of blackberry vines. Step into a mountain beaver hole and go down in a pile of limbs, land where a hidden stump catches you in the unmentionables.
You should be plenty warm by now. 
This is before you have cut even a single stick of firewood.
It's once you get your chainsaw started that the real fun starts. With a good sharp chain pulling into the wood, the sawdust pours out of the log like water from a hose. The smell of the pitch, the roar of the saw and the ache in the lower back takes me back to an earlier simpler time when loggers ruled the Earth.
Splitting, loading, unloading and stacking the wood to dry, allows you to become intimately familiar with each piece until you could almost name them all. These are often bad names, given after you bark your shin or smash your toe.
Toughen up, cutting firewood is a contact sport.
It is all worthwhile at the end of the day when you have your first chimney fire.
This is yet another one of the many ways that firewood can warm you. 

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