Monday, May 12, 2014
cutting the firewood
Life in the forest is funny. Practically the moment after we finish worrying about the threat of bush-fires, we start lighting fires.
One day we have bags packed at the front door filled with our valuables, we have water pumps filled with petrol ready to go and we have a list on the fridge with every one's task, should the worst come to the worst and we have to evacuate.
And the next day the temperature drops and our priorities change. Just like that. Now instead of worrying about fire, we're worrying about the fire going out.
In our little home in the forest, the fire cooks our food and keeps us warm. Over the wintry days we are always scrunching up bits of newspaper, gathering twigs and sticks for kindling, splitting chunks of wood and constantly opening the cooker door to make sure it's still going and burning hot.
When we first moved here I used to cry every time a tree was cut down on our farm. I used to mourn the habitat and the beautiful part of our environment. 13 years later I am more practical. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad, it just is. These days I know that living on the edge of the Wombat State Forest, with 20 acres of bushland as our own, it is important to manage our trees. I know that we need to get rid of trees that grow too close to our house, that occasionally we need to thin out small sections of the forest in order to let some of the trees have more access to sunshine and thereby grow, and I know that we need to use these choices to cut firewood to heat our home and to cook our food. I also know that each year we plant hundreds of fruit, nut, native and exotic trees in unforested areas of our farm.
Over the past few days we've been cutting and splitting and stacking the wood that will do these important jobs in 2016. For wood to be hot burning and efficient it needs two years to season and dry out.
Last week my farmer boy carefully selected the six trees to come down and marked them. Bob the tree man came early on Thursday morning and cut them down. We built a bonfire as tall as a house with all the small branches and leaves and watched and listened to it crackle as all the oily leaves caught and burnt. Then Bob cut the trees into rounds and we split them, carried them and stacked them, me and farmer Bren and my dad.
This year for the first time we hired a hydraulic wood splitter. In the past we've always done it by hand which is certainly quieter and more idyllic. Farmer Bren still thinks he can keep up by hand but let me tell you that after watching this thing slice through a one metre round as if it were butter, I'm never going back.
So far we've done 16 cubic metres, with another eight still to split. It is heavy, loud, dirty work. When we come in at night I have to take my overalls off by the back door and shake all the wood chips out before I come inside. It is hard to imagine my hands will ever be clean again.
But there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of coming inside after a hard day's work. That feeling and knowledge that the effort we are putting in now will keep us and my parents warm and fed in two years time. That we are looking after ourselves, planning for the future, teaching our children practical life skills.
On sunshine-filled autumn days like these days, I feel so happy to be living like this. It makes so much sense.
I hope you have a gorgeous week my friends.