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…you know what we’ll be doing.

Winter chores.  Which usually involves a lot of Snow.

Here’s a synopsis of our outdoor life from November through April or May each year:

Early early in the morning--time to go to work. Boots are preferred for dry feet at work.

Then there is the challenge of scraping the car.  Seems like I even wrote a blog about it back last winter.  Let’s see if it can be found.  Yes, here  it is if you would vicariously like to experience the thrill.

A very kind husband sometimes offers to scrape & brush the car!

This morning proved a very lucky morning.  My dear husband offered to open the door and walk outside to take pre-dawn photography shots.  Wasn’t he kind?  (HE didn’t have to go to work this morning…)  He even scraped and brushed the car after the photo shoot.  Of course, I do believe I scraped HIS car yesterday morning, so perhaps now we’re even. 

As of the last daylight check, it seems like it gets light around here somewhere around 8:15 a.m.  Dark around 5:45 p.m.  Our daylight hours are a little skewed compared to most folks on Eastern time because we’re so close to the Central Time Zone. (Morning observation:  forget the specifics.  It’s hard to determine when it gets light.  Let’s revise to say anywhere between 7:45-8:15 a.m. in the morning.  Or you can click here to get the official time.)

Yours truly shoveling the wood pile

In the afternoon we opted to fill the wood room.  You need to get the wood inside for a couple days before you burn it in the woodstove for prime burning.  Even though we have our wood pile nicely tarped, it still needs to dry out completely.  First, you have to shovel the snow off the tarps.  (This is usually not my job.)  Then one of us stands inside in the wood room while the other hauls logs to the door.  The inside-worker stacks the logs in nice even rows in the woodroom.  Because the inside worker has a cushier job (unless they are putting the logs up high) one must trade off.  I let Barry stack the higher logs and then jump inside to stack the lower logs while he carries the wood in.  Got that convoluted lesson in wood hauling and stacking?

Nothing like building a new garage addition in the snow!

This winter looks extra-challenging for chores because a certain Garage Addition Builder has not yet finished his project.  In fact, it looks like February might be the finishing date.  You never know.  The metal roof is in at the lumber yard.  He’ll drive his ’49 Studebaker in to pick up supplies on Friday.  Before he begins to work on his daily building project, he must shovel the snow off the rafters.  It makes building a garage addition in the summertime look like a piece of cake!

Another very important winter chore involves plowing the driveway with our tractor.  I suggested today that he uncover the tractor and re-plow the driveway for a photo shoot.  He declined.  So you will have to imagine what the tractor and plowing job looks like.  Or, if you’re really bored and missing this blog during the winter, re-read all the entries.  Somewhere in the archives there is a picture or two of the tractor.  I promise you.

My jobs are shoveling the deck and sometimes the front porch.  And…oh yes…we mustn’t forget…emptying the ash buckets.  After you burn enough wood in the woodstove, it fills up with ash which must then be dumped out in the woods.  And now you can visualize this exciting chore:

Emptying the ash buckets

Yep, that’s our winter chores.  I’ve probably forgotten at least ten of them.  So you can see, even if I decide to shut the door and stay inside all winter, it’s not going to happen!  Those outdoor chores will simply have to be done…

By the way, if I eventually start another blog, I am looking forward to being able to post indoor photographs.  For example…looking around furtively…no one is noticing this isn’t an outdoor photograph, are they?…don’t you think this statue of Abraham Lincoln with the cactus growing out of his head looks cool?  (Barry just raised his eyes and did not seem to agree…)  I did not even position that cactus.  Life is amazing, isn’t it?

Mr. Lincoln with a Christmas cactus growing out of his head.

The wood splitter in action

The wood splitter in action

The used wood splitter we bought a couple months ago is finally ready to split up our humongous pile of wood lying in the driveway.  We bought the splitter for $250 and Barry has labored on it faithfully to get it in working condition.  Today was the day for its maiden voyage to the wood pile.

Except.  The weather has been just frightful.  It’s truly bi-polar these days.  Yesterday it was in the 70’s and lovely and sunny and we planted garden seeds.  Today the wind howls fiercely, spits snow, and features temperatures in the 30’s.  Not pleasant.  I did not want to go outside.  Did not want to split wood.  Almost wanted to whine… (well, only for a few minutes, mind you, before straightening the old backbone and opening the door and walking outside bundled up with two pair of pants, hooded sweatshirt, old flannel jacket, winter hat, boots and gloves.)

Oh look at all that wood we need to split...

Oh look at all that wood we need to split...

I guess one of the reasons it was acceptable to go outside was that we had lost our power around 11 a.m.  The electricity has been going out a lot this spring.  One minute you’re sitting cozy at the computer or washing dishes or listening to the woodstove hum…and the next minute the lights flicker out and you’re planned activity needs to be altered.  You never know when it will start working again, although two to three hours is a good guess.

Here’s what you do:  Start the splitter motor.  If it’s a maiden event, this might involve a little smoke when the oil overflows.  Never mind.  Put on your ear protection.  The stronger of the partners lifts the heavy logs onto the splitter.  The weaker…no, the person with more manual dexterity…handles the lever.  That would be me.  I pull the lever to the right until it connects with the log and pushes it against the splitting wedge.  The wedge cuts the log into two chunks.  If you want to cut it into four chunks, you feed it through again.  The lever-operator must push the lever to the left to return it to its starting position.

Both the lever-operator and the log-carrier throw the finished pieces of split wood into another pile.  Which eventually must be loaded into the ’49 Studebaker pickup truck, driven around to the wood pile, and stacked in even rows.

Yep.  That’s the fun we go through here in the North Woods.  Today we worked on load number one.  We split it all.  And loaded half the truck.  However, due to various time restraints and other constrictions, we haven’t even loaded the second half of the truck and stacked it in the pile.  Alas.  This is going to be a long season, isn’t it?

Wood splitter attached to tractor as we prepare to tackle small pile & throw in Studebaker

Wood splitter attached to tractor as we prepare to tackle small pile & throw in Studebaker

Strangely enough, by the time we finished for the day (about an hour and fifteen minutes after starting) I was having a lovely time.  Felt like a good work-out.  It didn’t even feel the slightest bit cold.  Barry even threw off his jacket. 

And this is what the split wood looks like, for anyone unfamiliar with it.

And this is what the split wood looks like, for anyone unfamiliar with it.

Nothing like spring chore season.  It must almost be time to go on another trip…  🙂

Unloading the log truck

Unloading the log truck

Guess what I did outdoors today? 

Stood around for a half hour and watched a log truck delivery of next year’s wood.  My husband inquired, “THIS is your outdoor adventure?”

Answer:  Yes.

For many years Barry has scrounged in the woods, cutting and chainsawing and skidding out logs.  This year we’ve chosen the “easy” route.  We’ve paid for the delivery of wood. 

The one hundred inch long logs now need to be chainsawed to appropriate length and eventually split.  We’re pondering buying or making a splitter.  (I will not be making the splitter.)

As we watched the deft operator handling and stacking the logs, I felt somewhat melancholy.  An elderly neighbor’s funeral was this morning.  She was a woman who loved the woods, spending hours exploring the thickets and ridges.  We met twenty seven years ago when she served coffee and goodies to a young mother with a brand new baby boy.  She shared hundreds of stories about this area before paved roads existed.  She worked at a logging camp.  I truly admired her humor, her wit, her fortitude.  It was sad to say goodbye today, although it’s been many years since she recognized friends and family.

Snow, rain and freezing rain fell today.  A foggy mist rose from the snowbanks at times.  I’m feeling simultaneously happy about our new load of logs, and sad for the loss of an old friend.

Heat for next winter

Heat for next winter

In goes the wood!  From woodpile to woodroom....

In goes the wood! From woodpile to wood room....

OK, what do you need to fill the wood room?  A)  A bunch of logs cut up into appropriate lengths for the wood stove,  B)  Big trees from which to cut logs and C)  camera to take picture of two people who have filled the wood room for nigh onto 30 years now.

Sigh.  Let’s get serious now and explain this process for all of you citified folks who have never burned wood.  I’ll bet some of you even indulge in the luxury of turning a thermostat to, say, 72 degrees and allowing natural gas, electricity or propane to warm your bodies to a comfortable temperature. 

I can relate to you all.  In the olden days, when I was growing up, we used that thermostat.  A mysterious family bill-payer sent checks to the gas company who ran lines into our house.  At least that’s my memory; maybe we had electricity?  (Just tried to call my folks for verification; the phone gods say their number doesn’t exist.  Hmmmmm….)

We never thought much about the heating process in those days.  Maybe kids never think much about it, anyway.  Heat just magically appeared from the radiators, filling our house with just the right amount of desired warmth.  It was lovely.

Soon after we moved to the North Woods, however, a new agenda emerged.  We would burn wood.  Wood means:  trees.  We would begin a very cumbersome and complicated process of buying a chainsaw, finding downed trees (or logging them, in some lean years), cutting them into lengths, loading them in our truck, driving them home, unloading the truck, splitting the log-fellows into appropriate lengths and stacking them in woodpiles covered with tarps. 

Then you waited for the sun and wind to cure the logs, to dry them properly, to wither the sap.  All during the long summer months, the wood pile baked.  About the time it baked properly, the cold descended, and now it was time to carry in the wood.  About once a month, like it or not, you bundled up in winter garb and stacked all the pre-split logs in rows in the basement wood room. 

Do you think you’re done after all of that?  Don’t be silly.  Then comes the “fun” of stoking the fire.  Daily.  Hourly sometimes.  The woodstove is a hungry creature, demanding choice morsels throughout the hours.  The colder it is outside, the more logs it gobbles.  It eats poplar like candy, and thus most of us refuse to burn that particular species.  Instead, hard maple and oak provide the steadiest most reliable nourishment and the woodstove hums merrily for hours after digesting these tasty whole food meals.

Barry is the go-getter who finds, cuts and delivers the wood.  I am primarily the wood-stoker.  (Except after 10 p.m., at which time he loads the stove up for evening burning.)  But together we’ve always filled the wood room.  Yes, I can see us doing this particular chore until we’re too old to lift another log. 

Shoveling off the wood pile before hauling the logs inside

Shoveling off the wood pile before hauling the logs inside

Ooops!  I forgot to tell you….before you can even begin to fill the wood room, you notice that at least a foot of snow has fallen upon the top of the pile.  So you find a shovel and clear off the heavy white stuff.  Then you turn towards your partner and say, “Are you ready?” and hand him or her the first six logs. 

It isn’t hard.  It’s almost fun.  I swear it.  You get used to this rhythm.  And there’s NOTHING in the world more glorious than wood heat.  It warms you beyond the bones.  It doubles the appreciation of living in the woods.  It does.  Really.

  (And it’s also nice to have back-up propane in the basement just in case it’s needed….)

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