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Making ready for winter

October 17, 2012
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

I am an early riser. Generally I am up well before sunrise. I write some, exchange communications via social media and email, and plan my day. I've been accused by certain family members of being on Facebook "all the time," but in actuality, if someone thinks that, then they must be on Facebook "all the time," otherwise, why would they even notice? As a technology person, I have mastered what some call multitasking. I regularly have multiple browser windows open, and will time slice my attention between my writing, my research, and my social media exchanges. I can imagine how someone who doesn't know how to multitask on a computer might get the impression yours truly is always online.

One thing I do shortly after arising is to step outside and scan the sky. Certain sights in the pre-dawn darkness trigger some sort of primal response in me.

This morning, Orion was nearly overhead, following the Pleiades. Jupiter was bright in the clear dry sky. To the northeast, I could see the Big Dipper and thus the North Star. All of these, with the chill of the night air do indeed trigger a primal response.

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Every year I make an annual pilgrimage. I don't have to travel far in order to make this trip to a special place. No, access to this place is from the edge of my timber, to areas deep within.

When the time comes, as it does every year, and as it will continue as long as I am healthy and able, I disappear for a few weeks. Other than essential tasks, business related tasks, and those things within the community to which I am committed, for all intents and purposes, a singularity in purpose draws me to the timber. I burn wood to heat the house in the winter, and need to locate, cut, haul, and process enough wood to keep it toasty warm in the house.

I love the fall. I always have. I don't like hot weather, period. I love cool fall days which bring the opportunity to spend time in my timber. I love seeing the change of color and the smells in the timber. It grounds my being and helps to make me whole.

Some might think me antisocial. Others might think my disappearance to be directed at them, or that I am in trouble, or depressed, or withdrawn, or some other nonsense. The fact of the matter is this is an annual thing for me, and I look forward to making ready for winter. It is my time, and my time alone; just a man in the timber with his tools.

As with many things in my life, I am still perfecting my techniques regarding wood making. Part of the allure to me is to be creative in my technique, and implement step saving routines, as well as back saving techniques.

When I was younger, I abused my back. I lifted things inappropriately, and in general had a devil may care attitude regarding work and the proper way to do things. An aging body and years of experience cause me to work smarter. I am perfecting my personal Zen of wood making.

There is a collection of certain knowledge, which is refined by experience that leads to enlightenment in the Zen of making wood. I will arrogantly admit I have become an artist where making wood is concerned. I relish the entire process; from finding and felling the tree, to sawing, hauling and stacking. At every step there is a great deal to know; right ways, wrong ways, easy paths, and hard ones.

I used to haul my splitter and a trailer to various remote parts of the timber. There, in that staging area, I would fell, cut, split and toss the pieces into the trailer. Then I had to drive the trailer to near the wood pile and handle the wood one more time. Now, I locate the splitter close to the wood pile and bring the wood to it. Seems simplistic, right? I will admit it took me several years to figure that one out.

I have a 28 ton splitter. It will operate in either a vertical or horizontal manner. If you use it in the horizontal position, then each piece of log needs to be picked up and placed on the splitter bed. Stoop, lift, split, stoop, lift, split, over and over and over. For several years I thought this was the way to go. Now I flip the thing into vertical orientation and drag the sawn rounds to the splitter. From the vantage of a short stool, I can work close to the ground and lift very little. When the pieces are small enough to stack, I merely toss them in a pile right next to where they will be stacked. Now, instead of handling the wood twice, I handle it once. Seems simplistic, right? Again, I will admit it has taken me years to figure that one out too.

If you could see my side yard now, you might be amazed. Pieces and parts of several large trees have been dragged up near the wood pile. Oak and elm are the main species of wood I burn. There are some large walnut pieces in the group that came from a large walnut that lost its crown during the devil winds called a Derecho which blew through here last summer.

Two and a half cords of wood have been processed and stacked. My goal this year is six cords. In the meantime, if you need to find me, you know where I'll be.

Until next time-

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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2012 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342



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