By Jeff Woodburn
This wet weather and the rush to finish writing articles that range from birth order to dangerous swimming holes has caused me to get behind on my cord wood.
Last year, I had it done by Memorial Day. So is the life of a struggling freelance writer, I spend half my time chasing stories and people who may publish them, and the rest trying to live up to those promised deadlines. Along the way, I try not consider the hours it takes me to get it right, not just done. In the meantime, my wood pile remains a shadow of what I’ll need to keep us warm this winter.
I like being in the woods, although I’m an awkward, but cautious logger. I pick smaller trees with natural leans. I respect and am begrudgingly awed by the power of a chain saw. I find it unfathomable that old-timers once logged without machinery; I understand now-a-days trees are professionally harvested (not cut) without the necessity of a human hand touching a tree.
When we first moved to this spot, I was enthralled with opening up a view at a plateau about half-way up the mountain. I cut (with the help of a talented friend) some towering trees that blocked our view of the Presidential range and Cannon Mountain. I was impressed at how easily we could transform our setting to meet my frivolous desires. With more power, god knows what I could have done. Absent that, I hauled some of that wood down the hill on my back and burned it in our woodstove. This effort curtailed my plans. Now, I rarely get back to this majestic spot, and I have developed an aspiration for more open space closer to the wood shed.
My wood pile is like my life; nothing is uniformly cut or split so it becomes precariously balanced and sometimes comes crashing down. From a distance it looks more like an artistic stonewall with lots of diverse colors of bark and wood grain oddly woven together. I use wood that others would probably throw away (or certainly not haul home), some pieces have signs of rot, and others are nothing more than twisty branches, but both become intricate to holding it all together.
Much of my wood sits in an old shed that leans against a decrepit barn. Years ago, we decided not to save the barn. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of place, and it was built right on the ground and a seasonal stream flows through it. But mostly importantly to me, it isn’t very old thus making its imperfections less charming.
Soon enough my wood shed will be full. The piles may not be pretty or perfectly seasoned, but in the end, I’m told, everything burns.