The Woodsplitter

February 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm (Family, Mead Drinking, Mead Making, Roger, wood, Wood Splitter, Wood Splitting) (, , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

So much better then that olde wooden handled axe!

Well, it’s nice to have Brother John back from the throes of learning new Internet languages (do they have a Rosetta stone for that?) and able to post for us again. Let’s see what happened over the last month or so in the continuing adventures of Eydie and Sammy.

Nothing Left But Sticks and Twigs!

We realized about the end of January that the woodshed was nearly empty. What had seemed like a treasure trove of cut and stacked wood back in the fall had now become a puny pile of sticks and twigs and a couple of weeks worth of mouse nested middling sized pieces. I was puzzled, I’m usually pretty good at estimating how much wood will get us through a winter. And that’s with me stoking the stove enough to keep the house comfy and toasty warm even on the coldest of days. I blithely wander throughout the house in shorts even when the wind chill outside is -30 degrees (as it was a couple of weeks ago.) (Brother John here… but… but… I thought you ONLY wore pajamas when home. Perhaps it was just an urban myth?)

Hey Baby! It's COLD out there!!!

Sammy and I discussed the necessity of going over to our neighbors, who generously offered us all the fallen and standing deadwood we want in return for clearing it away. The only problem was that we had had several days of light snow alternating with ice, and we knew that cutting frozen wood with a chainsaw while standing on snow covered, ice coated, treacherous, stone and hole booby trapped ground was not really something we wanted to do.

And then I had the epiphany. Not the one where I realize that the cell phone I’ve been frantically looking for all over the house is the same one I’ve been talking on to my mother for the last hour, but the one where I realized that we have, neatly stacked against the woodshed wall, at least a month’s worth of beautiful huge chunks of cut wood. The only problem is that it was still in big pieces that needed to be split before they could go into the wood stove. That was where the rest of my wood calculations had gone!

Feel the POWER!!!

So, Sammy went into town to the local hardware/rental/landscaping/lumber store (behind the police station) and rented a wood splitter. We had to set the splitter up on the graveled flat part of the driveway, due to the ice and snow we couldn’t pull it up the hill to the woodshed. Neither could we get the farm truck up the hill, even in 4 wheel drive. Which meant someone had to bring that mountain of heavy, unsplit wood to Sammy Mohammad. Since we’re currently empty nesting with Rog trying life in his own apartment, that someone was me. So, I got ready to brave the cold, the ice and snow, and the wood pile. Picture Nancy Sinatra in white go-go boots, then change the boots to white rubber coated snow boots, and you get the picture. (Well, sort of. Put Nancy in red plaid flannel pajamas and an old gray chainsaw-oil stained sweat jacket with a bright orange knitted hat and work gloves layered over gardening gloves, and make her plump, 50ish, and wearing glasses. THEN you get the picture.)

Mead, Comic Relief...

I began schlepping the chunks down the hill to where Sammy was set up. At first I would carry each piece down to the splitter. I did that four or five times until my feet flew our from under me on the icy hill and me and my wood chunk slid down on our backsides. Then I had a scathingly brilliant idea. I loaded seven or eight chunks on the plastic tarp that had been covering the pile. I thought that if I dragged it over to the hill and got it started, that I could sort of sled it down the hill. And I still think it could have worked. (Brother John here… Uh Oh! I don’t think I like the sound of that… 🙂 ) IF I hadn’t accidentally stepped on the tarp, which was even more slippery than the icy ground, and fallen part way on the wood and part way on the ground, causing enough forward momentum to push me ahead of the loaded tarp as it went down the hill. We ended at the bottom with me backwards and my pajama bottoms full of snow. And I got a boo-boo on my elbow. Sammy was, wisely, silent. I don’t think though, that the tears in his eyes were either sorrow at my plight or from the cold. He just had a little sip of mead from the bottle we had stuck in the snow in the back of the farm truck, and kept on splitting.

I went in the house, changed into sweatpants, abandoned the tarp idea and instead would carry each chunk to the top of the hill, toss it down to roll as far as it would, and repeat that until I had a good sized pile at the bottom of the hill. Then I’d carry that pile, piece by piece, over to the splitter. Sammy, by this time, had a huge pile of split wood ready to be stacked under the deck. We have both split our share of wood using an axe (or my favorite, the maul and a wedge) but in four hours time the wood splitter had gone through enough wood to stack an eight foot wide by eight foot tall stack under the deck. I know because I stacked it. Sammy and I high-fived each other, tarped our afternoon’s labor, and went inside to stoke up the wood stove. As Sammy and I sat together on the downstairs couch, basking in a job well done, I heard the unmistakable sound of my woodpile falling over and crashing to the concrete. I took one look out under the deck and stormed upstairs, breaking my New Year’s resolution not to say: @*$^&#*@*$^&*@!!! By the time I got up the next morning Sammy had re-stacked my woodpile, made breakfast, and brought me coffee. Why I love the man.

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The Weekend (Part #1)

October 23, 2008 at 7:38 pm (Brother John, Family, Friends, GOD, Hiking, Hobbies, Religious, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Nice view of the Juniata River below.

It’s been awhile since I sat down to ramble (why does that feel like I should be saying, “Forgive me Blog Master, it’s been a over a week since my last blog session…”

Absolution

Your Blog Master and Father of
“The Adventures of Eydie and Sammy Wight”,
through sweat, labor, and eye for detail,
has reconciled all things blog worthy unto Himself,
and sends you forgiveness for posts delayed.
He forgives your acts of procrastination,
and through HTML and supreme coding, applies his technicality.
In the name of future posts joyfully awaited,
You are now absolved from guilt and shame.
In the name of Blog Masters who seek timely content.
Amen.

So many things, as always, have been going on. This time of year is when we “put the property to bed” for the dormant season, prepare to crank up the wood stove, and, in my case, take the time for the luxury of fall leaf rides.

Gary's Bridge Over The Creek.

Our last weekend off had been, until Sunday, very busy. Pleasantly so. Friday afternoon I had finally found time to take a long proposed hike with my friend Gary. I arrived at his house about 2:00 and we set off. Gary lives on the edge (literally) of a creek that comes down from the mountain. His bridge over the creek washed away in a flash flood that came a couple years back. His new bridge is actually the frame of a mobile home that was dropped over the creek. He has the creek edge lined with water shaped stones and the bordering trees make music with bamboo wind chimes he makes. It’s a lovely spot.

Nice view of the Juniata River below.
Royal Paulownia Tree. Scenic View!

We set off for our hike, across the creek, and started up an old logging road. We went up, and up, and then a fairly flat switchback, and then more up, another switchback, up again, switchback, up. I had to stop several times, making no pretense of stopping to look at the beautiful fall scenery (although I DID look at the beautiful fall scenery as I was panting and sweating) and then finally the road started to level out at the top. I was content with the conversation we were having about religion, spiritualism, and nature, and the different plants Gary was pointing out. Imagine my delight when the top of the mountain opened up to a large, grassy, cleared space that offered a vista of the Juniata River way down below. It was incredible. We sat on a couple of benches the owner had strategically placed and took in the view. Two hawks circled below us. A train, looking for all the world like a child’s toy, made its way down the tracks. We were above the world of the Friday rush hour traffic we could see on Rte. 322. We sat there, took some pictures of the view and of a flowering plant neither of us could identify, and started to make our way back down to civilization. I noticed a tree that I thought at first was a hickory, but when I examined one of the nuts I found an easily opened shell containing a multitude of whispery seeds. We took a picture and Gary later identified it as a “nuisance” import, a Royal Paulownia. Interesting.

Saturday we finally finished getting the wood stove ready for it’s first fire. We haven’t had that first fire yet, but we’re ready. I took the stove pipe off, scraped the creosote from the inside, and blacked the pipe with a rub on, buff off stove polish. Last year our insurance company had sent out a survey with the very casual question, among fifty others, of did we have a wood stove, fireplace, or pellet stove. I answered yes. It was TWO DAYS later that I got a call saying a representative had to come to our house to assess the safety of our stove. I managed to put that little visit off for about a month and then was informed that my homeowners insurance might be canceled without the visit.

Hardball. The little gal arrived an hour earlier than she had arranged and I was (you guessed it) running around in my pajamas cleaning so that she would know I was conscientious and diligent. She had a little clipboard and she informed me that my stove was not allowed to set atop a potentially unstable platform of bricks, that it must have a firewall drywall behind it for a certain number of feet, and was I aware that I had no smoke alarm in place. Now, the smoke alarm point I agreed with and I was pleased to show her my TWO battery-less smoke alarms that were sitting on the work table. The stove had sat where it was for fifteen years and had never jumped from the bricks. Sigh. Establishment doing it’s job for the betterment and safety of us all. Last year, after her visit, we had bought the firewall. We just hadn’t installed it. So, Sammy did that, and went to the local hardware store and bought several wide flat concrete blocks to set the stove on. I started blacking the stove, but then son Roger came home and I sent him up on the roof with the chimney sweep (the device, not a soot blackened small boy we keep on hand) to clean out the chimney. I’m not so good with heights, so I stood on the lower rungs of the ladder so that the strength of my prayers that he wouldn’t slip and fall off the roof would wash over him in waves of maternal concern. At one point the chimney cap began to slide down the roof and even though my eyes were seeing a chimney cap, my heart was seeing a blond young man in shorts, tennis shoes, and a Zeiderelli’s pizza shirt skittering past me to certain death.

Let me just interject here that if Roger had eaten a salad before going up on the roof, I would have had no worries. We used to call our mother “the salad pusher”. She used to worry. A lot. She still does but modern medicine is a wonderful thing and she is more laid back in her worrying these days. She used to worry herself through a series of events that would always end in a death scenario. For example: “If you aren’t careful reading that book you’ll get a paper cut and then you’ll go out to play in the dirt and it will get infected and then you’ll become septic and you’ll die.” But, salad was the ultimate health food. Brother John and I can both remember not even wanting a salad, saying no when it was offered, and then somehow finding ourselves with a huge half eaten salad in front of us, fork in hand, and NO RECOLLECTION OF THE EVENT. To this day I respect the supernatural healing powers of my mother’s salad.

I also had Rog help me empty the large ash can from last year. We should have emptied it after the last fire last year when I should have also cleaned out the stove. (Conscientious and diligent, remember?) During the winter we empty the ash can onto the shady part of the driveway to help melt the ice that always accumulates there. Now we were ready for fire. Warm, toasty fire. Unfortunately the temperature was a balmy seventy degrees that weekend.

A road leading to an adventure.

I’m fairly sure I was a dog in a past life. (I’m also fairly sure I was a Native American medicine woman, the housekeeper of a large Scottish manor, the girlfriend of a traveling troubadour in the Middle Ages, and a fiddle playing Irish immigrant stonemason.) Stories for another time. (Brother John here… Most of my past lives ended in tragedy, but I know I was a majestic flying Eagle on at least one of them). But, as I said, I was a dog. Or maybe several dogs. I love to ride in the car. (And roll on the ground and have my head petted and probably some other stuff that dogs do that we don’t need to go into here.) One of my favorite things to do is to have a day when Sammy and I can take the cameras, a couple beers for me and a Coke or ginger ale for Sammy, some homemade Chex mix or pistachios, some tootsie roll pops, and my topographical map of Pennsylvania, and go for a ride. Often we go for a short ride in the evening and chase the sunset, or wind our way around back roads on the way to or from town for errands, but every once in a while we take an entire day and travel someplace we’ve never been before. I’m convinced that we could travel Pennsylvania roads for the rest of our lives and never see them all. We don’t have a destination other than “someplace we’ve never been before” or, in the case of our last Sunday off, “north and up”. The map is for when when it begins to get dark and we have no idea where we are but would like to head home. As of last Sunday, our local leaves had still not turned their glorious fall colors. Actually we may not have a glorious fall here. The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry and a great many leaves seem to be skipping color and going straight to brown.

Red Barn With Hay Storage.

Our goal was to head north where the weather has been a bit colder, and head up into some of the higher ridges. One nifty feature of our car is that it has a compass. We started out on back roads, trying to keep to a generally northern direction. Most of the roads we had been on, but we enjoyed seeing big red barns full of hay, soybean fields sun dried and ready for harvesting, Amish traveling in buggies on their way to church. We took an inviting side road that bordered Penns Creek and it was as if we had traveled back in time. Old stone houses with hand pumps still in the front yard, tobacco barns weathered to pink, a young horse rolling in the pasture to scratch his back, and a young Amish boy with a fishing pole leaning over a bridge. Then, as the afternoon started to wane, we reached the foothills of the Bald Eagle State forest. The leaves were so bright Sammy said it looked as if they were glowing. Reds, oranges, yellows. The yellows had outdone the others this year in my opinion. We traveled some one lane roads and some dirt roads and each ridge line was more spectacular. At one point we stopped at the intersection of a dirt road and a road that ran along the base of a huge ridge. I said, “GOD’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.” We started home, now heading south and west to follow the sun. I love “ridge skipping” as we drive. Pennsylvania has long ridges in many places instead of individual mountains. The only way to cross most of these is at “passes” which are natural breaks or dips in the ridge line. Early settlers and Native Americans would have crossed the ridges in the same way, knowing a “pass” would save time and energy. I’ll look along the ridge as we drive and say, “Head west toward that break, probably a road goes through there.” And it usually does.

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Preparing for the Dormant Season

September 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm (Authors, bee hive, Bees, Blackberry, Books, Carboy, honey, Mead Making, Plants, Rosina Lippi, Sara Donati, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Super Eydie

I woke up this afternoon to the sound of a steady, gentle, windless rain. I woke up this afternoon to the knowledge that we are off work for a week of vacation! Woohoo! (I hate that exclamation but sometimes if the woohoo fits you gotta go with it.) This is somewhat of a working vacation, a time to get the property ready for the change of seasons from the growing season, to the harvest season, to the dormant season. So, some seasonal things that are in the works this week if the weather cooperates: Wood. A priority. Last year we cut wood from our property and from the adjoining property of our new Amish neighbors. Last year they hadn’t built their home and weren’t yet living on the property so they hadn’t a need to cut firewood from there. Last year had some time consuming components occurred that resulted in the plain and simple fact that we didn’t cut enough wood to see us through. We were reduced to slogging out in mid-winter when the weather cleared enough to allow and cutting a truckload of wood here and there. On one memorable (but not pleasurably so) occasion I was clearing the snow off dead fall with my boot, then pounding the ice off with a stout branch so Sammy could take the chainsaw to it. The days worth of firewood had to be placed around the wood stove the day before it was used to thaw. Sammy developed the habit during those last winter weeks of slowing the car down whenever we saw a particularly abundant woodpile by someones home and drooling, “wood.” The same drooling word applied to tempting dead fall tantalizingly close to the roadsides. We did “liberate” a bit of this. One night as we were coming home from the movies (the nearest movie theaters are an hour away) Sammy put on the brakes, skidded to a stop, jumped out of the car and next thing I knew he was struggling with a frozen hulk of storm downed dead oak. I was not dressed for the weather (although we do carry emergency boots, tow rope, shovel, overalls, sleeping bag, water, granola bars, and in my case a steamy romantic novel stashed under the seat) and I found myself putting the back seats down and spreading an old blanket over cargo space as wet slushy snow filled my “good” shoes and my fingers froze to the chunk of wood as we levered it in.

Our Real Wood Burning Stove!

Another chore for the week is to prepare the wood stove for the season. I always try to hold off having the first fire until Halloween night. This week on the appointed day I will dismantle and carry outside the three pieces of stove pipe that connect the wood stove to the chimney and Sammy and I will carry the wood stove outside. I have two kinds of stove black, both leftovers my dad gave me from his stove. One is a paint on stove black and one is a rub on buff off product. I’ll use the paint on stuff this year because I didn’t black the stove last year and it’s a bit scaly. The stove first has to be gone over with a wire brush to remove scaly rust and accumulations of burned creosote from the last winter’s fires. Creosote forms from the sap contained in wood and from burning “green” wood or wood that still has a high moisture content. Pines and “soft” woods like soft maple contain a higher degree of creosote and as such are less desirable for wood stoves. These “soft” woods also burn faster, requiring more work and attention to keep a fire going. Once the stove is scraped clear I’ll paint the thing with the stove black and allow that to dry. After a stove is blacked and is “fired up” for the first time it will stink to high heaven and give off nasty fumes that will fill the house. That’s a project for a day when the windows can be opened. Also, the first fire should be run “hot” (the dampers opened to allow more oxygen in to cause a hotter fire) to season the new black.

Which brings me to the next chore. The chimney must be checked and cleaned. This is Sammy’s department because I am moderately not okay with heights. I CAN do heights if I have to, when I was widowed the first time (I’m a widow X 2, Sammy is a brave man of strong faith) my dad had me get up on the roof of my house at the time and help in the re-roofing. And I do fly these days without needing to drink heavily as I did my first couple of flights. Now I drink heavily merely for the pleasure (ha ha). The chimney for our house runs outside the east wall of the house. At the base of the chimney, outside the house, is a small metal door for the “clean out”. This is opened at the start of the wood burning season and several times throughout to scoop out the accumulated ash and creosote that falls to the bottom of the chimney. After this is cleaned out, (if I didn’t do it at the end of last year and I’m guessing I didn’t), I’ll take a hand held mirror and angle it up the chimney, if I see light reflected I know the chimney is at least patent. Sometimes during the summer birds will nest in the chimney. Come the start of a fire, any blockage, if not cleared, will not allow oxygen to reach the fire or the chimney to “draft”. In a clear, well functioning chimney, the air flowing over the top will entrain the rising warm air to cause it to be literally pulled out of the chimney. This decreases smoke, which will otherwise fill the house, and also allows the fire to burn more efficiently. A “cold” chimney (one in which a fire is just being started) will also smoke and refuse to draft. This is why a “cold” fire should be started with some quick, hot burning materials such as newspaper twists or pine needles. I find that the dried out stalks of my summer day Lilly’s work great. Once the chimney is checked with a mirror Sammy climbs the ladder to the roof and pushes down the chimney brush. (Go watch the movie “Mary Poppins” if you need to see what one looks like.) A rope is tied to the handle so he can pull it back up to brush out the chimney. After several passes I scoop out the “clean out” and we’re ready for fire!

A few other chores that are on the list for this week are: Bring in the house plants that have enjoyed the summer outside underneath the deck, bring down the fall (and winter) clothes from the attic and pack up the summer clothes, harvest the pears from the one tree in the “orchard” and make some pear butter, harvest flower seed from the sunflowers, Cleome, morning glory, etc. I discovered a few years ago that sunflowers, especially the giant sunflowers we like, make an excellent support for a variety of climbing flowers. I have a large flower bed Sammy named “the solstice bed” because not only does it have all day sunlight, but we grow beautiful sunflowers in it. I plant a few morning glory seeds with each sunflower seed in the spring and have a gorgeous “wall” of morning Glory’s that climb the sunflower stalks in the summer. I have read that the native Americans used the same technique with corn and beans that I will try next year. Another chore (well, I’m REALLY looking forward to this one so maybe chore isn’t the best word) is to get the base prepared for our future bee hive(s) next year.

But, all that’s in the future for now, tonight is an evening to anticipate, plan. and relax. We had some leftovers for supper: ham, green beans from the garden, and potatoes from dad’s garden for supper, a cinnamon raisin bagel topped with Minsi mountain honey for desert, and a look at our wines for entertainment will about fill the rain filled evening hours. The blackberry wine is about ready to bottle and has become a clear ruby red. The elderberry, in puberty to its pathway to the sublime, is still cloudy and will need to be racked soon, and the mead, still fermenting slowly, has just begun to clear somewhat. I did watch a introduction to beekeeping video tonight. The result of the video was that my “Santa” list now includes a bee veil, smoker, and hive tool.

Sammy and I would like to proudly show off our “Girls”. Please click on any of the images to get a larger, clearer view. Aren’t they just beautiful?

Mead Image #1 Mead Image #2 Mead Image #3 Mead Image #4
Wine Image #1 Wine Image #2 Wine Image #3 Wine Image #4

And now, a self indulgent gluttony of the second Sara Donati book, Dawn on a Distant Shore. I wish I had some of our wine, alas, it’s not ready yet. I’ll have to settle for a beer. Sammy, being a southern boy, drinks “red eye beer”, which is beer with tomato juice. My dad has a conniption fit about using good canned tomato juice to “pervert” good beer. But Brother John and Sammy like it. Who am I to say? I eat stuff I pick out of the yard each spring.

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How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck?

September 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm (Authors, Books, Dogs, Jasper, Recipes, Rosina Lippi, Sara Donati, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Life is but a dream...

Sammy and I had come home from our long weekend of night shifts and slept the sleep of the deep and dreamless. Well, not dreamless. September is always a strange month for me. It is the month when I feel the change of the seasons pull me most strongly. When I was younger and first out on my own I used to change apartments every September. In these later years I roam far afield, collecting flower seeds and odd pods, watching leaves turn and grasses brown. I write more, create more, and dream more in September. So, the dream I had was typical for the month. I always dream in color, and usually in great detail. In the dream I was on top of a ridge admiring the long grasses that moved with the breeze and sloped down to the woods line. An old woman was standing with me, her white hair down to her waist. I asked her, “What must I do?” She told me that I must build a fence of green branches and she swept her arm across what seemed an impossible expanse of space. I started the work, taking only a branch or two from each tree, knowing I could strip the tree and take all its branches as some would do to shorten and ease the task, but choosing instead to roam further and further to find my branches. As I went, I would collect plants and seeds to plant along the fence as it took shape. When I stripped the branches I would fashion bird houses, and baskets that I filled with earth and seeds until the fence became a living thing. Sometimes as I returned I would see the old woman. She became younger as the time passed. And so did I. All the middle age weight came off as I walked and worked and my arms and legs grew muscular again and my own hair grew out long and beautiful. I woke up when I realized in the dream that I really had to pee. I kept looking for a place to pee but kept thinking, “Not here, I can’t pee here.” It’s good I didn’t find a place or Sammy might have had a rude awakening!

Warm hands, warm heart!

A few days ago I had called one of neighbor Dot’s sons who has a hundred acre farm about a mile from us. For the past umpteen years he has allowed us to cut firewood from this, his mom’s, or other properties he owns. He explained a long time ago that a good land steward will judiciously cut standing dead trees, fallen trees, and encroaching trees from field borders. This encourages straight growing timber and lets in more sunlight to field edges. What is culled is firewood. We heat primarily with a wood stove in the winter, using our heat pump only when we are going to be away for more than 24 hours. Our wood stove is a handmade affair my dad had made. The body will accommodate a sixteen inch chunk of wood. Let me just say that I’ve had all kinds of heating systems in my life (gas, oil, coal, electric, hot water baseboard) and wood beats them all in my opinion. With the wood stove going in the basement the floors are warm to the feet and the heat finds every nook of the house. I can stay barefoot inside in the winter and be comfortable.

Pickup that needs a 'Pick-me-up!'

Well, this was the day we had designated as our first day of woodcutting. It was late afternoon by the time we got up and we wanted to get one truck load cut and brought home before dark. We have an old Nissan truck that we use as a farm truck. It has a crunched in front end, more rust than paint, an acrylic driver’s side window and back window that are caulked in place (Sammy is so proud of THAT fix) and a tailgate that will fall off on your foot if you aren’t careful opening it. The gas gauge hasn’t worked in years so we pour a few gallons from the gas can in it each time we use it.

Best to be prepared...

Sammy and I “dressed for the occasion”. Long sleeves, pants, and sturdy shoes. Cutting wood this early in the season has a few considerations. Primarily, until the first hard frost, the poison ivy is still full of juice and vengeful. Until I wised up I used to miss a day or two of work every fall due to oozing, blistered, itchy, raw poison ivy on my forearms from carrying wood chunks to throw in the truck. Secondly, there are still copperheads around while the days are warm and the rocks offer heat and shelter. I’ve never (knock on the woodpile) come across one but it is very much a possibility. A copperhead bite is rarely fatal or even all that serious for an adult but it is frightening, unpleasant, and something I don’t want to have to tell a story about! As the day’s temperature was in the 80’s, humid, and breezeless (not the ideal day to run a chainsaw and heft chunks of wood) we also donned headbands so the sweat wouldn’t drip into our eyes. I know what you’re thinking and yes, of course, we ARE old hippies and we sure do look the part. Sammy has long hair past his shoulders and his headband was a rolled handkerchief. It was also pink and had dancing unicorns and rainbows on it. Mine was a rugged red bandanna. What can I say, real men wear whatever the hell they want and my man likes dancing unicorns and pretty rainbows. Have a problem with that and I’ll beat you up… 🙂

We loaded up the truck with the chainsaw, 2 cycle oil, gas can, chainsaw tool, bottles of water, bug spray, toilet paper, our dog Jasper, and we headed out. Our friend had called us to say he had trimmed and cut down trees that had grown along the fields on his property and we were welcome to the wood. We headed out. The property isn’t too far from home and the short drive led us on a dirt road through Frog Hollow. This is a still wild area where I’ve seen deer, fox, a huge blacksnake hanging from a tree, skunk, raccoon, groundhog, red-tailed hawks, mink, and sometimes fairies and other enchanted folk. One of my favorite poems, “Verbena” (written by my alter ego September Butterfly) came from my wanderings in this area.

Fear the Chiggers!

We drove up the dirt drive and across the fields up to the top of the ridge to park the truck. Despite the high humidity the view here was still breathtaking. We could just see the tip of Buffalo Mountain, seven miles away! And, if we had remembered the binoculars, we could have just made out the clearing that is our own modest homestead two ridges over. Before we got started we sprayed each other down with enough bug spray to have the pesticide environmentalists paying us a visit. This is a fairly recent anointing following our experience when we harvested elderberries for our elderberry wine. We had, on that occasion, neglected to wear suitable clothing or any bug spray and suffered the ravages of chiggers. Chiggers, for those who have never experienced them, are microscopic insects that burrow under your skin and emit an enzyme to liquefy the surrounding tissue which they then feed on. The area becomes red and unbearably itchy. The little bastards are self limiting in about three days but it is a miserable three days. Along with my elderberries I got about a dozen or so bites but Sammy became a metropolis of chiggers. They had condos and apartments and went jogging in the park. He must have had 40 or 50 bites. We now have a borderline irrational fear and hatred of them.

Eydie and Sammy stock up on firewood for the winter.

Anyway, Sammy fired up the chainsaw and I began loading up the truck. The small brush that remained I stacked into piles that our friend will later use his backhoe to push into a huge mound in the field. Come this winter and a good snowfall he will have a magnificent bonfire. The pieces we cut this first load were all small enough that they would not have to be split. Pieces that have too big a circumference have to have the axe taken to them. Our sons are good at splitting wood. One mighty well aimed blow and a chunk is split. Me, I have to use a wedge. And use a wimpy little thunk for fear of missing and chopping into my leg. It isn’t pretty and I generate more heat getting a piece split than I do burning it! We got a truck load of wood cut and we were done in for the day. Cutting wood when the fall air is crisp and clod and the leaves are falling in little dances as you work and the sweat cools as it forms is delightful. Cutting wood when there is no air moving and the sweat soaks into every crevice of your body and the wood chips as they fly stick and itch and make you look like you have a fired chicken coating is a CHORE. And all the poison ivy sits there with a smirk on its leaves and waits to ambush any exposed skin.

We filled up the back of the truck and packed all our gear and started for home. Jasper had to sit half on my feet and half on my lap but with his head hanging out the window he was content. As we drove home with the last of the day’s light we agreed that we would NOT unload the truck that night. I was ready for a shower. We striped off our poison ivy contaminated clothes and hung them outside until wash time. As I padded upstairs to the shower in the clothes God gave me I was glad I live in an area where I have no visible neighbors. And the neighbors would be glad I wasn’t visible just then either!

After we got cleaned up I was “whupped”. Hungry. Cranky. I knew before Sammy even opened his mouth that he would suggest we snap the huge bag of green beans we had picked a few days ago and cook them with some potatoes and ham. And make some of Granny’s homemade cornbread. I was whining, opting for some cheese and pretzels and a beer. But, and chant along with us, Brother John, NO PRODUCE MUST BE WASTED! So, for the next 45 minutes, Sammy sat in the big brown chair and I sat on the floor and we companionably snapped beans and watched politics on TV. Sammy watched politics. I kibitzed until Sammy told me to be quiet so he could hear. I cooked up the ham, green beans, and potatoes in a little chicken broth and made up a pan of cornbread in the big black iron skillet. (Granny’s Cornbread Recipe is in our Food and Wine Recipes section). We put on some corn to boil and Sammy cut up a few ripe tomatoes. I felt much better after we ate. I felt so much better that since I was already in my pajamas I climbed into bed and read an hour or so of Into the Wilderness.

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