I give thanks most recently for the two aspen that fell down a couple of years ago right next to a path. One had been stuck at a forty-five degree angle in another tree, but I managed to cut it last year so the remainder was lying parallel to the ground. This past weekend my wife and I went to cut them up into fireplace lengths.
These were nine inches and greater in diameter. It would be much quicker to cut them up with a chain saw than with a draw saw or a bow saw. With reason, my wife doesn’t want me to use a chain saw without adult supervision.
First step is to put on chaps. The chaps are meant to snarl up a chain saw if it comes in contact with my legs. Next step is to put on a hard hat with ear muffs and a face guard. Next step is to fill the chain saw with bar oil and 50:1 gas/oil mix. Final step is to get it started before heading to the woods.
My chain saw is labelled Easy2Start and it sort of is. One trick is not to yank on the starter rope but pull it slowly. Even then it can take a number of pulls in colder weather before it really starts. Oh yes, there are a couple of important steps before trying to start a chain saw. One, make sure the chain guard is on. Two, make sure the chain brake is set.
Finally, the engine keeps running! I give the trigger a few pulls to keep it running and then turn the engine off. What? Turn it off? Well, I started it by a tool shed and I will be cutting several hundred feet away. No point in carrying a running saw either in my hands or in a toboggan.
We also put in a timberjack, lopping shears, and draw saws. Oh, yeah, don’t forget a water bottle. We don’t carry extra gas or oil because we’ll probably run out of energy before the chain saw runs out of gas.
Actually, it was time for a coffee break before we even filled a toboggan with one layer of rounds. A round is a short length of a log, for our purposes around fourteen inches long. But, oh, those rounds! They were, dry, free of bark and decay, and just the right diameter to put in our fireplace.
After coffee, the timberjack came into play. One tree had snapped about two feet above the ground, but not completely. I cut it at the break, and the tree was now laying on the ground. Not good for a chain saw. To get the tree above ground to cut without cutting rocks or bending my back too far, I used the timberjack to raise the tree several inches of the ground. You can see a picture of a timberjack at www.drpower.com under the woodcutting category.
The chain saw ran out of gas just about the time I ran out of gas. Time for lunch!
We filled up the longer toboggan with two layers of rounds and a few in the smaller toboggan with all the tools. You can guess who got to pull the longer toboggan. Even lightly-loaded toboggans have a mind of their own. When the path turns, they want to go straight. If the snow is a lot higher than the beaten path, a toboggan can tip as you try to get it back in the path. Fortunately, the snow was only about three inches higher than the path and no mishaps occurred.
After lunch it was time to split our harvest. Once upon a time, I split wood with a five-pound splitting maul. But my aim became worse and worse. First hit, smack in the middle. Second hit, one inch too far to the left. Third hit, one inch too far to the right. Maybe after ten hits I would have a round split in two.
I did buy a hydraulic manual splitter some years ago. If the rounds are long enough and cold enough, it works quite well with one hand. There are only two problems. One is getting it in and out of the wood shed. I can still manage to lift it without dropping it on my feet. The second is to remember to close the oil valve after opening it to let the rammer return. Many have been the times I’ve wondered why the rammer isn’t splitting the wood. Then, blink goes the proverbial light bulb and with a few twists of my wrist, the splitter works again.
After a short chocolate break, I had all the rounds split in halves or quarters, and my wife had it stacked in the wood shed or boxed to take back to Duluth. Probably to those who depend on wood heat daily, we just played around. My guess is that we cut and split almost half a fireplace cord. A fireplace cord is eight-feet long, four-feet high stack of sixteen inch pieces. That could heat our cabin for possibly three week-ends.
Then it was back to Duluth, light a fire in the fireplace, drink wine, and read newspapers on our iPads. But we had no undraped window to look out at living trees.
You can find more of Mel’s whimsy at magree.blogspot.com.
This was published in the Reader Weekly of Duluth, 2014-11-27 at http://duluthreader.com/articles/2014/11/27/4415_i_give_thanks_for_trees.