Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘firewood

Works Slick

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It made for a great workout that got me huffing and puffing, and soaked in sweat out in the great outdoors. Getting exercise by splitting firewood beats lifting weights in a gym because when you are done, you have a beautiful pile of firewood. Simple as that.

I wouldn’t describe it as quick, but splitting wood with my new tool, the Splitz-All was definitely faster than with my Swedish patented Smart Splitter. The additional benefit of the Splitz-All being portable will likely lead to this being my primary weapon of choice for a while.

Using the supplied chain to bundle the cut logs and hold them upright even after they split worked just as advertised. Also, popping the tool back out of a log that isn’t splitting easily took less effort than with the Smart Splitter.

The dead tree from the paddock is now all split and stacked in the woodshed.

One reason the splitter is such a good exercise workout is the efficiency of hammering away, one after another, on the bundled logs. There is no pause needed when moving immediately after a split to pounding on the next log.

I look forward to getting past my urge to split every log as fast as possible just because it works well enough to allow for that and slowing down to a more sustainable pace so I won’t bonk before everything is split.

When I’m no longer capable of splitting wood with muscle power, the next tool will likely involve hydraulics.

Until then, Splitz-All is my weight lifting machine. One that produces the bonus output of a valuable useable product.

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Next Project

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It’s going to be another solo weekend for me as Cyndie will be at her mom’s house in Edina and that will give me a chance to make all sorts of racket with my newest wood splitting tool. It is one I ordered online last winter and had to wait to receive it until long after I had any interest in wrestling with it in the heat of summer.

I tested it on a few logs last April and quickly learned the metal-on-metal banging demands serious hearing protection. The gist of the mechanism is basically the same as my old splitter except it doesn’t glide on a stationary post, so it’s completely mobile!

It’s got two handgrips and I can take it to wherever the cut logs are piled to split them right there.

It just so happens we have several such piles after last weekend. When I cut up the trunk laying in the paddock, we also took care of a tree that was laying across one of our trails, one that was leaning against others in the woods between the house and chicken coop, and an old dead tree in the middle of the woods where I had just cleared a new trail.

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I will bundle those little logs with the chain shown in the image above –which is supposed to hold everything in place while splitting– and chop away with reckless abandon.

Then I’ll have piles of split firewood to collect with the famous ATV trailer that Cyndie bought as a replacement for the one she sold in her big barn sale, thinking we no longer needed it.

I’ll also have an upper body workout taken care of without needing to go to a gym. It’ll be a project with multiple benefits.

We’ll see if reality is able to live up to my ambitious visions.

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Written by johnwhays

September 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Well Kept

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Keeping most things neat and tidy is one area where I am happy that Cyndie and I tend to agree. Overall, we strive to avoid allowing items to pile up around the property unnecessarily. If something can fit in the shop-garage, barn, or hay shed, it should get put away regularly. Brush piles should not exist indefinitely. That’s why we have a chipper!

Now if we would just get around to using it one of these days.

It’s interesting that we both independently agreed about allowing the knocked-over tree to remain in the paddock for a while after it fell. Likewise, that we each came to the same conclusion when it came time to remove it.

The old scratching post is now just a pile of cut-but-unsplit firewood.

While I was making the afternoon pass through the paddocks to scoop poop after serving up the horses’ feed pans yesterday, I felt a sense of satisfaction for the pristine confines we provide them. Cyndie and I are in firm agreement about regularly cleaning up manure from within the paddock fences.

We leave it where it lands out in the fields, but under the barn overhang and throughout the rest of the paddocks, we pick it up daily. It’s a way to reduce the throngs of flies that manure attracts but it also offers a level of respect to the horses that they get to live in a cleaner environment.

It makes the space more inviting for us to spend time communing with the herd there.

You know the old saying… cleanliness is totally loveliness!

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Snag Down

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The inevitable has occurred and the snag we left standing inside the small paddock after cutting back the dead limbs almost five years ago has now fallen to the ground.

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It had a good run as a scratching post. After the recent discovery that it had been pushed into a noticeable lean by horses rubbing against it, I did some pushing of my own to assess the status of its integrity. It was still too solid for me to be able to push the rest of the way over, but it did move back into a fully upright position, so I left it.

Yesterday morning, Cyndie found it looking like this:

Over text messages, we discussed what to do with it. She said it is too heavy to move without dragging with the tractor or sawing into pieces. I suggested we could leave it in place for a while to provide a little intrigue for the horses to investigate.

We don’t know which horse might have been responsible for knocking it over or whether others were in the vicinity at the time. None of them showed any signs of having suffered a close encounter with falling tree trunks. I’m wondering if they might enjoy gnawing on it a little bit.

It looks kinda cool lying there. I like the thought of the horses adapting to something new happening in their midst, adjusting to the change, and hopefully exploring the interesting shaped object now on the ground.

Cyndie spotted Swings and Mix doing just that later in the day.

I did a visual scan for future comparison to observe whether they take an interest in chewing on it. If they soon appear to be ignoring it, we will likely cut it up and split the logs for firewood before the whole thing rots.

As my good friend, Steve Reynolds has been know to declare, standing dead trees are just verticle firewood storage. Now that it’s no longer standing, I best not neglect it for too long.

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Written by johnwhays

August 18, 2021 at 6:00 am

Co-Favorite Place

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For all of my adult life, Cyndie’s family vacation home on Round Lake near Hayward, Wisconsin has been my favorite place. As I wrote yesterday, my affections are now split between our paradise of Wintervale Ranch in Beldenville and Wildwood Lodge Club up north.

I now have co-favorite places.

It is wonderful to be up at the lake again.

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As always, the special feature of the lodge club is communing with the other families and we received an early dose of camaraderie when the next door Whitlock clan showed up just after Cyndie and I arrived. Much love ensued.

There is a lot to do around the property to make it look less neglected as the ravages of winter appear to have wreaked havoc on anything left out in the elements.

Case in point: The front steps to the Friswold “cabin” for which I was so proud to have repaired a single paver block last summer are now failing en masse as the foundation underneath appears to be giving out.

Entire rows are tipping forward. I suppose it’s unfair to blame one winter for this, but it sure seemed fine last year.

I can’t blame the extreme state of the smoke clouded doors of the living room fireplace on anything but neglect to tend to the task of cleaning them in a timely manner. When Marie asked me to build a fire, I figured it wouldn’t add much to the ambience if we couldn’t see the flames. It took a lot of ash-soaked newspaper to rub off the insanely thick baked-on accumulation of smoke on those glass doors.

At least I had the joy of trying to ignite unseasoned firewood that had been supplied for our fire-building pleasure. No wonder there was so much gunk on the glass of the doors.

Maybe, if I love this place as much as I do home, I need to more equally split my attention to maintenance chores. Is the building of a lake-place woodshed in my future?

I would sure appreciate the luxury of selecting dry wood for our fires. So would the chimney flue.

The more immediate concern will be cleaning the beach today. The lake ice pushed a new berm of sandy leaves about a foot high along the full length of our beach shoreline.

What a wonderful location for putting in a day’s work.

My co-favorite place, in fact.

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Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2021 at 8:52 am

Knowing Limitations

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As if a physical experiment was even necessary, I tested the difference of splitting our stringy ash logs with my kindling splitter on a warm day yesterday and successfully demonstrated the obvious limitations of the otherwise wonderful tool.

In extreme cold, the logs pop apart with much less shredding of the fibers. The temperature was in the 40s (F) and the limitations of that 20-pound weight to force the wedge through the tangle of grains were plain to see. Even at the advertised force of 14-tons. That’s verticle force, I’m sure, not horizontal.

That Smart Splitter® works amazingly well within its obvious limitations. I’ve successfully accomplished manually splitting the wide variety of the types of wood on our property, especially if the logs are cut reasonably short. I just need to remember to save the complex grain woods for the coldest of winter days.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2021 at 11:14 am

Managing Well

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We managed to survive the coldest weekend so far this winter without too much trouble. Our heated waterer for the chickens didn’t fare so well, though. Cyndie brought it inside to thaw and tried a second time, but when it froze again, we put the backup unit into use.

I took advantage of the brittleness of frozen firewood logs and busted a bunch of them open on the manual splitter.

Full disclosure: That graphic wasn’t from this weekend. I keep my hat on when the windchill is minus-25°(F). Still, the exercise generates plenty of body warmth. Another reason I don’t need a gym membership for working out.

The ol’ Norwegian Smart-Splitter® is ideal for making kindling. Snaps off little bite sized pieces with one stroke. I push the limits a little bit and use it along with a separate wedge to split full-sized logs. Takes a few extra throws of the weight to coerce the more stubborn logs. If you look close, the once-yellow wedge is stuck in the wood beside the green wedge of the Smart Splitter. I’ve got a maul in my left hand and I switch back and forth between the two to increase expansion pressure until the wood finally gives.

Even though the wood was easier to split, I was less interested in being outside long enough to get it all done. Truth be told, I had a greater urge to lean back with my feet up in the recliner under a snuggly blanket.

Happily, Pequenita felt similar to me about spending the rest of the day on the recliner.

That’s what I call managing well to deal with a crazy, bitterly cold day.

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2021 at 7:00 am

Drying Firewood

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For the record, drying firewood shrinks. I have yet to devise a stacking system that stays upright for a full year of shrinking. First, it starts to lean, and then it pushes against an adjacent stack. Eventually, they tend to topple over into a scrambled pile of split logs. I have resigned myself to simply climbing in there to pile firewood back into an orderly stack, regardless the odds it would probably just tip over again later.

I used to strive to push the stacks back into balance before they tipped over, but now I accept they are going to lean. My odds of causing it to tip over the other direction by pushing it upright are high enough I have forced myself to get over being annoyed with how it looks and just leave it be.

Yesterday, we moved half of a stack of the oldest logs onto the wood rack on our deck for premium proximity to the fireplace. It’s interesting to be handling wood that I stacked two years ago. In that amount of time, some impressive rodent nests get built, probably chipmunks. It would be reasonable to assume the critter activity in the stacks contributes to destabilization.

As I am splitting logs to refill the right side of the woodshed, it occurs to me that I could just toss them all into a big pile and forego the tippy stacks.

Why is that such a difficult decision for me?

  • I believe it wastes less space to stack the wood tightly.
  • I can better gauge how much firewood there is when it is stacked.
  • I can easily tell how long each stack has been drying.
  • Stacks appeal to my sense of order.

At the same time, I know from past experience how much we use per winter season, so the volume of a pile filling one half of the woodshed would give us two years. I could stuff a jumbled pile to fill the space to a greater extent than I achieve with individual stacks.

Since I already started a new stack on the right side of the shed yesterday, I’m now thinking about doing a bit of both. I could put down a base layer of individual stacks to cover the space on the right half and then switch to just tossing split pieces on top of those short stacks.

If only I can convince myself to follow through with such a random-looking storage choice.

It would be something of a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” solution of intentionally tumbled drying firewood.

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Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Good Use

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We made good use of the gorgeous day we were granted yesterday, before today’s winter storm arrives. I made sure we had plenty of dry wood inside for long hours in front of the fireplace, watching the flakes fly outside.

Do you remember the picture I posted last week of our labyrinth hidden beneath the blanket of a season’s worth of snow? We decided it was time to do something about that. We are doing a lot of heavy thinking lately, and the meditative stroll along the labyrinth path will be a welcome resource for deep contemplations.

Even though it may get buried by another foot of snow today and tomorrow, at least we will have a noticeable impression to guide us in the days that follow.

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We think Cyndie’s phone, which captured the image of me on the left, probably had a foggy lens when she pulled it out of her pocket. There is quite a difference in quality of the pictures we took of each other with our phones.

Figuring out the turns and leaving appropriate space between rows took a lot of mental effort with so few landmarks visible. When our effort was completed, we were rewarded by a spirit-lifting visit from a pair of bald eagles who circled multiple times, very low, just above the tree tops.

I got the impression they approved of our effort. The thought did occur to me while we were carving out the well-defined path, that the pattern of the 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth would look great from the sky.

Okay, let it snow today. We made good use of the calm before the storm that yesterday provided.

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Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2019 at 10:17 am

One Second

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What is the shortest memory span possible? If I am remembering this right, I think I may have just experienced it.

Honestly, I forgot something one second after it happened. How is that even possible? Multitasking, I guess. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember exactly what may have distracted me while I was putting wood on the fire Saturday morning.

Two logs. That’s as complicated as this task was. I opened the fireplace doors and tossed the first one on the remnants of glowing coals. On contact, a red-hot ember popped out and landed right in front of me on the stone hearth.

Without hesitation, I chose to place the second piece of wood before sweeping up the errant ember.

I leaned forward to place the second half-log on top of the first, balancing myself against the heft by reaching out and pressing my hand firmly onto the hearth.

The searing pain of the glowing ember stabbed through my finger as my mind instantly realized what I had just done.

One second earlier, I had watch the hazard appear. In the time it took for me to switch to thinking about placing the next piece of wood, I forgot about the ember? Seriously? Is that even possible?

It’s embarrassing. Luckily, it is also a little funny, albeit painful. So, I’m laughing over the insanity of it, and sharing it for your amusement, too.

If ever there was a “D’oh” moment, this was one.

I have no idea how I succeeded in getting burned in two places on that finger, as the ember was about the size of a single blister. Somehow my reflex reaction, after I was able to shift my weight back off that hand, must have caused a double contact.

The involuntary curse that erupted was equally a result of the pain, as it was over my having noted, and then forgotten, the ember in such a ridiculously short span of time.

Color me easily distracted.

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Written by johnwhays

April 16, 2018 at 6:00 am