Growing up on the family farm, I’d often go over to my grandparents’ house, a mere 200 feet away (somehow, my mother never objected to living this close to her mother-in-law). One of the fixtures in their house was the kitchen stove. The “Home Comfort” was an old fashion wood cook stove, complete with oven, cooktop, warming boxes, and hot water heater. This stove continued to be used into the 1970’s, my father dutifully splitting wood and carrying it into the wood, box, which sat on the back porch.
I learned a bit about splitting wood from my father. How to drive a wedge, use a maul and an axe, and about working with the tree’s grain. Oak splits great and burns well; while gum may burn well, you’ll be all day splitting it. Poplar isn’t worth the trouble unless you need a quick fire and are willing to deal with a lot of ash. Hickory’s reputation is well earned.
When the energy crisis occurred in the seventies, Dad gave up on the electric baseboard heat in our brick rancher and put in a fireplace insert. He cut a lot of wood and we wore a lot of sweaters. For some reason, the house never felt warm that winter. I don’t know whether it was the wood or the stove, but there was a bit of grumbling among the ranks that season.
These many years later, I still heat primarily with wood. I have a wood burning forced air furnace in the basement, several excellent chainsaws (one of which I found at the county dump), and now, a brand-new log splitter. This is the second one I’ve owned – I literally wore the first one out. I’d replaced the engine years ago, put a new pump on it, the works. And it worked well. For twenty years, I’d used it. Some years more, some years less. The last five years I’ve been using wood pellets. Convenient, but there’s really no romance there. There is romance in a forest.
I love wood. I love my woods. All eighty acres of them. I’ve worked in them most of my adult life. Hunted in them, escaped to them, found respite because of them. For firewood, I harvest the trees that are dying or otherwise not healthy. Trees overgrow the edges into the fields, conspiring with sinister forces to pull me off the tractor as I cut hay.
I enjoy using a chainsaw. Because I work in the woods on a regular basis, I’ve no need of rollercoasters and the like. Running from a tree doing the unexpected is the best near death experience you can have. Cutting a tree almost thru and having it settle back on the stump and pinch the chainsaw – priceless. “Why did I leave the felling wedges at the barn?!”
I figure the cost incurred in a new log splitter is offset by the savings in my electric bill, as well as the good exercise I get. No need for a gym membership here. Twenty degrees outside? Just about right to split firewood. And right now – I’m figuring out a way to open some windows to get a bit of the heat from the fire out of the house. Home comfort…
Jan. 3, 2018