Adventure on the edge of the wilderness can take shape in different ways…
Winter has been dragging on, albeit the weather this season has been mild. Nevertheless, cold and snowy days have taken their toll on our woodpile due to our having to fill the wood stove twice a day in order to keep the house warm. To live in this self-sustainable fashion, collecting wood for fuel is necessary, but our initial fascination of gathering it has been waning; especially in the middle of winter. It’s cold outside and no one wants to cut wood that is covered with snow and has to be hauled by sled out of the forest. However, we’ve all pulled together and have done a fine job of collecting wood for the stove. Our gas furnace has only come on once or twice this year. The savings that we’ve realized from heating with wood instead of natural gas is remarkable. Everyone we tell seems to be impressed with our 6 dollar and 35 cent heating bill.
My daughters have been doing most of the cutting of wood and it’s become a job like any other household chore that they would prefer to ignore. I encourage them to get the job done by telling them to think of their efforts as money in the bank and also as a way of doing their share in providing for the family. They’ve been cutting logs when needed and my husband David has also felled a couple of dead trees to use for fuel.
This will be a never-ending job until our “Montana” winter is over. Come late spring, probably sometime in May, we can take a short break until we begin to store up wood over summer for next winter. Recently, I saw that our woodpile was getting smaller and promised to cut wood myself in order to have a decent supply for when our relatives visit in March. I am a firm believer in the work ethic of the Little Red Hen, so last week and again this week I spent the day cutting and hauling wood with my girls.
A Day of Cutting Wood with Mallory
Sunrise is still a little late and Mallory and I started our day outdoors at about 9:00 a.m. It was not a bad day, although typical of a Montana winter, cold and cloudy. We had to change the chain on the chainsaw before we started. It went smoothly now that we have had practice, and also know how to untangle a chainsaw chain with ease. After that, Mallory started the saw and let it run for a few minutes before we were off to the woods in search of fuel.
We walked to the rear of the yard and down the hill past the patchy areas of grass where the deer have been foraging through the snow. The trail was littered with deer scat as we made our way to a spot that looked promising. The house was always in sight but being down in the woods gave me a sense of being far away. I mentioned this to Mallory and also about the fact of how easily it would be to get lost if one were unfamiliar with the property. I agreed with her that when our guests arrive and go exploring we should always make sure the little ones use the buddy system.
Mallory and I picked out some logs that looked suitable as firewood for the stove. I suggested that we take turns with one person limbing and then the other one doing the cutting. I also said that we would haul the cut logs up to the woodpile after cutting instead of waiting until the end of the day . I thought these methods would give us each a break from continuous cutting and relieve stress to our shoulders and arms. I had a long day planned.
Mallory started the saw and we got to work. I came to appreciate why Mallory and Eileen hate limbing downed trees. Branches stick out every which way and you have to maneuver the chainsaw at different angles to effectively remove all of the limbs – not to mention the debris that sometimes hits your face during cutting. You do not want to do this without wearing a pair of safety glasses.
We cut and hauled wood via the sled up to the woodpile several times until running into a problem. I was cutting and realized the chain continued to move around the bar when it wasn’t supposed to after releasing my hand from the trigger-switch. It was an unpleasant thought thinking about going up to the garage and fixing the problem. I knew the idle needed to be adjusted and was thankful when my husband came along and took care of it. He is very good with machines. They always behave for him, but are known to act-up for me. Mallory and I went back down into the forest and cut more wood until hunger pangs filled our stomachs and it was time to stop for lunch. From 12:45 to 1:30 we enjoyed a respite.
When we returned to work that afternoon, the sun peeked out for a few minutes. The warmth felt good and it brought a smile to our faces. Mallory was moved to lie on the ground and look skyward as if to say thanks for shining. The joy was short-lived as the clouds returned and we got back to work. Mallory and I worked together for another 3 hours.
During the course of the day I began to think of all of the men and women, including those I love, who work or have worked outdoors in all kinds of weather in order to put food on the table for their families. They deserve to be appreciated.
Bucking wood all day and pushing a sled filled with cut logs through the snow is no easy task, but there was no preferential treatment for either of my daughter or me. We took turns, fair and square. We were simply two human beings who happened to be mother and daughter spending 6 hours of our day providing fuel for the wood stove.
At the end of the day my daughter said she enjoyed cutting the wood with me, which was pure sweetness to my ears. It was a good day. We headed out of the forest and to the house. All was quiet except for the sound of the lonesome whistle of the passing train.
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