Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wood'n Ya Know It...

The most difficult part about owning a house in the country are the distractions. These are not the same distractions that popped up in suburbia, where I might get distracted by a random car crash down the road, or the News 8 copters ranging overhead, making me wonder if there’s a standoff in the neighborhood. Or even the usual distractions that occur to anyone living within four walls: you use the bathroom, realize the damn toilet hasn’t been cleaned in several weeks, take a few moments on that, then realize that shining bowl makes the rest of the bathroom look dingy, and before you know it, you’ve completely forgotten that oatmeal cooking on the stove, now so burned that it can be chipped out and used to shim the uneven bookcase wobbling in the office.

No, this is where I go out to the garage for some firewood, then remember I split the axe handle yesterday chopping, so I have to take a few minutes to tape the handle with duct tape so that it can at least be used as a wedge, otherwise I will be trying to burn chunks of wood the size of the US budget, since I have gotten into a habit of making gourmet firewood: individually hand-chopping each piece as it is delivered to the stove. No shoddy bulk delivery for me! In fact, I tried chopping enough for at least a whole day, yesterday, and see where it left me -- a fractured axe and tingling in my wrists. I assume I will have to work up to this. By next winter, I should be able to manage a half cord of chopping. By next winter, I will have finally chopped the cord I’d had delivered this year. If the splinters haven’t worked their way into my bloodstream.

Woodpiles and stoves are one of the many ways that country folk are allowed to witness the great cycles of Nature: a tree falls on your truck, you pay someone to slice it up, you roll it to the woodpile and begin to pound it into fragments, you take those fragments into the woodstove and set fire to them, within hours they are ashes and you take the ashes out (waiting until they cool unless you are practicing to be a pyromaniac juggler), you put the ashes on the compost heap, and in spring you put the compost onto the garden, where you have a new seedling tree. In another hundred years, the cycle starts all over again. I realize that city dwellers aren’t as patient as “we” (after a month here, I can say that): they will likely be asking, “Why didn’t you get right to the point and just burn the tree when it broke your bloody truck?” True, it would have saved hours of labor and a hefty check to the woodsman… but on the other hand, it would have meant that instead of hauling the chunks of wood through the rain and snow to the insatiable stove, I would have had to turn up the thermostat on the baseboard heater and… now, wait. Let me think this out… oh, right -- I wouldn’t have witnessed a grand cycle of nature! And I’m looking forward to that second round, somewhere about 2108... if I’m still here….

But this brings me to a related topic, which was introduced by the exterminator as he went around drilling holes in my siding: the difference between men and woodstoves. I hadn’t actually looked at it as a comparison, but here’s what we came up with:

-- you have to feed them both
-- man usually easier to “light” than woodstove, but the stove keeps hot longer
-- both take up a lot of space in the living room and create mess that needs to be cleaned up after
-- both have to be careful their pipes don’t get clogged
-- can’t control the heat on either of them
-- eventually you have to do something with their ashes
-- you can count on the woodstove

Now - you try to get that quality of joke while sitting around your high-tech living room, watching the News 8 copters searching your neighborhood! You can‘t… though I guess there’s “men and computers”, or “men and washing machines” (think: spin cycle) or “men and cars”… okay -- I guess there’s potential enough for city and country. Now pardon me while I distract myself by dancing through the snowflakes - er -- going out for more firewood.

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