Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘firewood

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

Please No

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Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.

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Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Happy Splitting

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With additional flurries making their way across our region overnight, I didn’t waste time yesterday cleaning up the random inch or two of snow that had accumulated over the previous week. That will be today’s project.

Instead, I made my way back to the wood shed to put in some quality time splitting firewood.

Hoping to keep me from wandering off to some other more enticing opportunity, in case the splitting didn’t turn out to be rewarding enough, I decided to build a fire.

It helped to create an inviting atmosphere and an occasional distraction which enticed me stay on the task for most of the day. Working alone, my momentum wasn’t very consistent, so the day-long effort only produced a fraction of a day’s result, but it proved to be mentally rewarding.

Any progress is good progress.

Throughout the process of trying to make piles of logs disappear, it occurred to me how our focus changes depending upon what we are trying to achieve. When cutting limbs and branches of a fallen tree, the goal is to get the wood into manageable pieces, working at whatever angle is available. The focus is on not getting the saw pinched or having a limb fall on you.

When my focus shifts to splitting, I want logs with a flat, square cut that will stand nicely on the base of my splitter. It would be great if I had avoided leaving a joint right in the middle of the piece, too. When splitting, I quickly discover the cutting involved a very different focus.

The same thing happens when I’m plowing snow. In the winter, the goal is to get the snow removed from the driving surfaces. Sure a few rocks might get pushed into the grass. It just isn’t enough of a priority to matter that much.

In the summer, when we are trying to rake all the rocks out of the grass to facilitate mowing, the focus is very different. Suddenly I care a lot more about that detail.

Similarly, when I am stacking wood in the wood shed, I just want to fill it to the top, grabbing whatever odd pieces are in reach and plopping them on the row. As the wood dries, it shrinks. The stack shifts. The wind blows. The stack leans. Eventually, the stack topples over into a messy jumble.

As I am re-stacking the firewood, I always question why I couldn’t take the time to split the logs cleanly so I could stack the pile sturdy enough to hold up.

Pay for it now, or pay for it later.

I wonder what I’m neglecting to appropriately pay for today, that will show up demanding collection later. Gosh, it’s almost like a life lesson.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2017 at 9:35 am

Prepping Machines

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It seems like it should be simple to just cut down a couple of trees and grind the branches into chips, but there are a lot of little steps to setting up and actually executing the tasks.

After work yesterday, I set about prepping some of the equipment, in hopes of priming this morning’s start on this weekend’s logging project. The chipper attachment was stored a couple levels deep in the shop garage. I needed to do some rearranging before I could get access to it.

The back-blade was still on the big tractor, so the first order of business was to find somewhere out-of-the-way to park that.

Except, that wasn’t actually the first order of business. I decided to move the Grizzly out, to make room for fueling up the New Holland, and in so doing, ended up driving the ATV down to the barn to hook up its trailer.

After that, I was finally ready to back Big Blue out of the garage and get rid of the back-blade.

Once that was done, I hooked up the chipper to the 3-point hitch and parked the rig in the barn.

Next, I started collecting equipment I would want to haul to the work site in the ATV trailer.

Chainsaw. Check.

Chain oil, mixed gas, wedge, face shield, leg protectors, ropes, come-along, chains, pole saw, log holder, hand saw, ax, spare ear muffs/hearing protection, ladder, rake, branch pruner… and if I can find it, a kitchen sink.

Still, there will end up being a need for some item that I forgot to bring. Honestly, one goal of bringing so much down there is so that we won’t need it. I’m not above using a little reverse psychology with the universe.

My hope is to have tedious setup tasks taken care of in advance to get full benefit of volunteer help for cutting limbs of felled sections of trees, feeding branches into the chipper, and cutting trunks into logs. If we are really productive, there will be the added chores of driving loads of woodchips away and dumping them, or hauling logs up to the woodshed.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity for hearty fellowship in the great outdoors and an outcome of safe and healthy success for all bodies involved, particularly the discs of my lower back.

I don’t want to get too greedy, but some time for good-natured banter around a fire with people’s favorite beverage after a day’s physical workout would be a fine outcome, too.

I’m just sayin’.

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Written by johnwhays

December 1, 2017 at 7:00 am

Open Call

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Dear Twin Cities friends and family, if you have been longing to get out in the fresh air of the countryside to put in a good day’s work helping take down a couple of dead trees, I have an opportunity for you!

On either Friday or Saturday this week, depending on the availability of a majority of hoped-for volunteers, I am plotting to finally bring down a crown of dead branches located at a particularly prominent front corner of our property.

It doesn’t appear be a complicated project, but it has potential to be a chore that many hands will greatly ease and likely expedite.

My plan involves using a chainsaw to cut down each of the 5 “trunks” sprouting from the common base of the first tree, and then grinding the multitude of small branches in our chipper. We will point the chute of the chipper into the bed of our pickup truck and haul the bounty to the storage nook by the labyrinth garden.

Any limbs larger than 5-inches diameter will be cut for firewood and hauled up to be stacked beside the wood shed.

When the first tree is out of the way, we will toss a rope into the second tree and repeat the routine with that skeleton.

The weather forecast six days out is looking promising to accommodate outdoor work.

Volunteers will be rewarded with food from Cyndie’s kitchen, your choice of take-home bags of wood chips or Wintervale soul-soil, and an invigorating workout in the great outdoors with bountiful good fellowship.

If you are ready, willing, and able for this one-day lumberjacking adventure, let me know as soon as you can.

Be all that you can be.

Just do it.

Advance and be recognized.

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

New Perch

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Cyndie took me shopping for a new recliner and we came home with a new perch to kick back in while watching the fire. Guess what I did every chance I got for the rest of the weekend?

It amounted to about 15 minutes total, but that was because I had a lunch date in St. Paul on Saturday, company for dinner in the evening, and was outside most of yesterday’s Second Sunday toiling in the nice sunshine, while Cyndie was hosting my niece, Liz, and three of her kids in an extravaganza of collage making and cookie baking.

I was able to join them in the labyrinth for a quick circuit while the kids covered about twice my distance after they had visited with the horses and chickens.

Time in the cozy new chair will come in the long nights ahead with winter precipitation sure to fall.

In the mean time, I’ll need to make sure we have enough firewood.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2017 at 7:00 am