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Archive for the ‘Cutting Wood’ Category

I have talked about heating with wood several times over the years of writing this blog. Particularly at this time of year, it is entails a significant input of time, energy, and mental focus. You might wonder why anyone would expend so much energy over the course of 38 years heating their house. In generations past is was, no doubt, a simple necessity of life. It certainly has saved me thousands of dollars in heating bills which I would have struggled to come up with in certain years of the past and always preferred not to spend.

But even more than that, it is a lifestyle. David Thoreau was generous when he said that heating with wood warmed you twice. Cutting, loading, unloading, splitting, stacking, carrying in, starting and maintaining fires, enjoying the heat, carrying out ashes, and cleaning the chimney are a few ways it warms me. I think it probably warms me nearly ten times. Central heat is good, but I don’t know where to go to warm my hands or dry out my wet clothing. And when the blizzard of ’93 hit, we were warm for the 8 days that the power was out and cooked beans and soup while we heated the house. My boys split wood while they were home, but I even participated then. I have been loaned a hydraulic wood splitter thrice that I recall, but never split all of the wood that way for a season. At my latitude the winter is not long or bitterly cold. 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cords of wood is sufficient for the warmest and coldest winters we have. I prefer taking dead wood over cutting live trees and the majority of trees here are oak.

I have gotten to where I can smell what kind of wood is being burned and whether it is wet or green or dried. When the first fire of the season is lit, the smell of dust burning off of the stove brings warm reminiscence of past years. For all of this, the 39th year of heating with wood may be the last. I am not tired of the work and fire making effort. If you had asked me 5 years ago what would cause me to stop heating with wood, I would have said ability and energy to gather it. The real reason now seems to be that all of that smelling of fires, and more specifically chainsaws has had a bad repercussion. Between mowing, weed eating, leaf blowing, and chainsaws I have become “allergic” to combustion products, particularly 2 cycle oil. An hour or so exposure brings on aches and sometimes debilitating joint pains. So, since I haven’t converted over my heat source, still mow and weed eat and blow leaves, I have to wear a organics fume mask. Try working in that on a hot day. And since I don’t sport a Hitler mustache (regulation for gas masks), The seal on the mask is not ideal and I still get some mild ill effects from the fumes. So, check out my latest foray into the woods to cut and split wood here.

I thought as I pulled my truck out of the woods and passed a super duty four door diesel truck that I am thankful to have an old truck that is still functional and being used for what it was designed for. I guess that I like working, even though I want to do it at a slower rate these days. What’s the rush? Of course, there is the need to get wood in the dry before the wet and cold days when very little dries out. I believe I am ahead of that curve this year.

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Two trees down, and what do you do with the wood? Neighbors came for some of it. The woodworker snatched away the trunks. The city took the branches. The compost is chewing on the leaves. The friend of a friend ground the stumps. But those pieces in the range of ten inches to two and a half feet in diameter and many with multiple forks were still around. I had suggested to my friend that he borrow a hydraulic log splitter, but he could not find one. Then I remembered that a recent acquaintance, a brother in Christ with whom I hit it off well at first meeting, had recently offered me the use of his wood splitter in an unrelated circumstance. The problem had been that his splitter was at the back of a large workshop that had been converted to temporary storage. It had wood and tools and equipment stacked in front of the wood splitter. So, my homeowner friend with the two big trees on the ground and I offered to help him dig it out. That was an adventure in old wood, old tools, old memories, and dreams for future projects. With a will to get it out, we dug it out in under an hour, inflated the tires and off we went. It appeared that the woodsplitter had been used very few times and it had been stored for several years. Thankfully the gasoline had been drained out of the tank, as that can gum up the carburetor over time. It wouldn’t start anyway. There was definitely fuel in the cylinder. There was no spark on the plug. There was spark from the coil. We took a trip to the Tractor Supply for a new spark plug. It still wouldn’t start. We took the air filter off, found a neighbor with starter fluid, but it still only barked once or twice. I prayed more directly about it starting. The neighbor put his hand over the choked intake. It sputtered. It sputtered a few more times and then started up with very little smoke, running well the rest of the day, and restarting easily after refueling. Those pesky double problems can take time and troubleshooting skills.

We split wood for more than six hours. The claim and assumption is that a hydraulic wood splitter takes all of the work out of splitting wood. It most definitely makes it easier and splits twisted and forked pieces that are hard to do manually, but it does not remove all work. And, there are pieces that can only be done with sledgehammer and multiple wedges. Following I have two sequences of the splitting process. The observant viewer would figure out that these are not actually sequential pictures, but ordered from various images to show the process. Most of the work of hydraulic wood splitting is getting the log under the wedge.

The fun and easy part is pushing the lever and watching the wedge split, mangle, or destroy almost any piece of wood put beneath it. I found that on the tougher pieces, when the splitter was straining to go through the wood, that I would press harder on the lever as if that would make a difference. Part of the trick on the larger and more twisted grains is “reading the grain” as I call it, or “grainology”, as my friend termed it.

Sometimes the wedge goes through but the wood is not fully separated. Here we are determining what to do next.

Since the piece is heavy you want to avoid having to flip it around or over. Frequently the answer is a well placed blow with an axe or sledgehammer.

We were very tired after so many hours heaving the pieces into place that we totally overlooked one last big chunk. When I returned several days later to load another truckload of wood, I assured my friend that we could split it with sledgehammer and axe. The next sequence of pictures arose from my friend trying to time the shutter of the camera with the blow upon the block of wood. I’m glad he missed numerous times so that you could see what goes into a swing. Splitting a piece of wood is not a strength move but a power mover. Therefore, the power is produced by the whip you give to the axe handle from about its highest point to just before the impact. There was not need for great power in these straight grained pieces I was splitting for this sequence, so my swing is not quite what makes for the most powerful swing. If I was producing more power, I would slide my top hand (right hand in the pictures) down the handle to increase the whip and thus the power. The reason the whip is so effective is that power is how fast work is done. I have a limited ability to increase strength, but the whip can greatly increase speed, reducing time and increasing power.

The other factor in a good blow is hitting the right spot at the right angle. The next picture captures that moment when I focus on the spot to be hit before commencing to swing. I find that I must focus there all the way through the swing and that distraction or fatigue decrease my likelihood of hitting my intended target. Basically, you are trying to strike parallel to the radial grain toward or away from the growth center.** On smaller or thinner pieces you can strike along a ring to split a piece. It is more tricky with forks, but there are places and directions to hit that make those more likely to split as well. It is all in reading the grain.

Splitting wood is both an athletic move and an endurance move in order to keep repeating it.

I attribute my next stance to both the partial stiffness of age and the positioning of the axe for a powerful blow. My young friend takes a similar stance just before striking but with a little less evidence of stiffness.

Proof of the ease of the pieces being split is the axe going all the way through and into the ground. This does not often happen. After the photo op we split the fork with wedges. It took quite a few blows to go through that.

I love this next picture. It shows my friend’s determination, focus and strength. He was amazed at the first decently large piece that I split cleanly with an axe. I felt like I had done a Hollywood stunt*** and quickly explained that I was able to do that because it was so straight grained. These pieces are the joy and fun of splitting wood before the real work commences.

There’s that stance again.

It is amazing how fast the wood can pop sometimes. The piece has flown off to his right before his axe hit the ground. He learned something else this day. Though plastic handled axes and sledgehammers have the advantage of being hard to break, the handle pounds the daylights out of your arms all the way up. I swung his axe a few times and then went over to get my wooden handled axe for the remainder, as you see above.

White Oak wood has such a pleasant smell. I actually took a cup full of ground stump mulch home as a potpourri for my livingroom. The wood has the property of cooperage, swelling to seal fluids in barrels and buckets. It makes lovely, sturdy furniture and provides much food for woodland animals. Its foliage is beautiful and especially in the Autumn when it turns yellow. It can live to a ripe old age five or six times what any of us will. It makes for good shade and grows in rich or poor soil with less water than most hardwoods. It is, in short, another of God’s good creations with much beauty and utility. I enjoyed observing and extracting some of that goodness for multiple people’s use.

*I hope you don’t think my pun inappropriate, based on 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV). He does own both after all.

**The growth center is where the rings come together, that is, where it began to grow, and is not the same as the geometric center because trunks and branches frequently grow faster on one side than the other based on tension or compression caused by holding weight.

***Have you ever watched an old Western movie with someone splitting wood? They go through every time. Why? They use straight-grained, dried Western varies of wood like cottonwood or fir that you could split with a hatchet.

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I have a desire to write my blog to give glory to God by relating everyday events, intermittent musings, scriptural insights, and special privileges/opportunities in my life. There are, of course, some things too private to share, but there are others that I am not sure if I should share. Consider pictures of a worship service, for instance. Video, if done discreetly, for the purpose of conveying a sermon or song to encourage or instruct someone not in attendance seems appropriate to me. But I simply took pictures during church which could have distracted others and certainly my own worship. Actually, only three of the following images were taken during the service, at the very beginning of the speakers’ comments. The rest were captured before or after church.

And I did know what the sermon was about. Our pastor finished a series on Second Peter with the last five verses of the third chapter. He reiterated that the theme of Peter’s second epistle is godly living in an ungodly world. No more apropos subject could be addressed in these times. In these closing verses, Peter gives four closing commands to his Christian readers. Firstly, be diligent to be found in peace and live godly. Secondly, account or regard the patience of God for salvation for the lost. Thirdly, beware of false teachers. Fourthly, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. I take Peter’s words to mean that sanctification is a work of God but not a passive pursuit on our part. We cannot work apart from God but God most usually does not work apart from our participation. He is not restrained by us but He does frequently choose to work through us. He receives all of the glory; we receive the benefit.

I especially find the third chapter of Second Peter challenging and satisfying. It delivers much fodder for thought about godly living and about apologetics of the faith. Verses about the true history of the world and the canon of Scripture are very instructive.*

Congregants arriving
Fellowshipping before service in the seating area
Front row seating
Soundman, Music Leader, and Pianist

You can see several people visiting around to various cars. Church is not just about hearing a sermon. It involves fellowship, which is the sharing of Christ’s life lived out in the individual’s life with others of like mind and belief. That includes but is not limited to songs, sermons, prayer, sharing, giving, and serving others. You can’t do that in front of a screen.

The podium is a tad bit scary to mount. Take note of the tall green tree over the rooftop.

Behind the podium
One pastor welcomes with Scripture
The director of the local Preganancy Care Center encourages the church because of God’s work there and the church’s generosity.
The pastor concludes Second Peter.

All during the service, a tree removal service was taking down a tall tree just beyond the first house from the church property. The tree at the far left is the one pictured earlier. Once upon a time in our culture, such loud work on Sunday would not have been dreamt of, especially on Sunday morning, and during a church service. The whole of the culture is responsible to acknowledge God. I couldn’t help thinking that the enemy of mankind did not want someone in the neighborhood to hear the service. Thankfully, apart from momentary cut-outs of the microphone, the communication came through loud an clear.

We were also thankful that the chipper did not begin until the benediction. It was truly loud.

It was quite a tall tree, probably a yellow poplar, before the service.

Pastor standing with Pregnancy Care Center Director

Be aware that the culture in subtle and not so subtle ways is trying to discourage and prevent worship of God. The difficulties so far are mild, but God may well be preparing us for much more difficult times. We belong to God. We must worship Him corporately because He commands it, because we need it, and because our culture needs it. As our church motto says, “”Loving God, loving one another, serving the world”. It is a tall order and our aspiration in knowing and serving God.

*2 Peter 3:5-7,10,15-16

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I am one tired 60 year old this evening*. It rained relentlessly yesterday and last night. The weather forecast suggested cloudy in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon. It was drizzling heavily when I left home this morning. The job I had intended to do was postponed until drier, so I shifted gears to get firewood. I cannot remember a year in the past 37 winters of heating with wood that I began the year with so little firewood. A job estimate I did turned into an opportunity to get wood. The oak tree in question had been down about a year, having died and been cut. It was elevated off of the ground by branches, which allowed it to dry without rotting, and it was about 18 to 20″ in diameter at the base. The wood was sound, sap dried**, and fairly straight grained***. The drizzle quit, the saw was cutting well, and the distance from truck to tree was short. The landowner had even said that I could borrow his hydraulic splitter. After reminding him of this kindness several times, it never materialized. So, after rolling the larger pieces up beside the truck and throwing all of the smaller pieces into the truck, I began to split with my trusty 10-pound sledge hammer and wedges and double bladed axe. I might need to buy some new wedges some time since I have pounded the old ones to about 2/3 their original length over the past 37 years. I split 15 of the 18+/- diameter logs and all of the pile of medium sized logs in the picture. Then I loaded it, hauled it home, and after a large, late lunch, stacked it in the firewood shed. It is time for a sit.

Time for business
Only nine logs at this time; 15 when I rolled them all up.
About halfway there
Not totally volumetrically full, but weight full with trailer attached
Ready to haul
Recycling a stump

Rats, I didn’t have time to workout today. Do you reckon I’m OK skipping a day?

*I asked myself a question you may have asked about my blog writing. Why does he write about everyday events? Who cares and who wants to know? My answer is that my twofold reason for writing this blog is to glorify God and record what I am thinking and doing. I think it does the former by showing His work and provision in the mundane as well as exceptional, and it does in the latter by showing I’m just a common joe going about life.

**Wood may be soaked by rain and still be “dry”. Green wood does not burn well, needing a year for the sap to dry out.

***Straight grained wood is easy to split. Oak is generally so except where there are knots. Some tree species, for example sycamore, twist as they grow and can be difficult to split.

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I love to observe the beauties of nature. Some of the following pictures are from before the pandemic and many are part of my coping mechanism since it has started. The first picture shows algae with what I believe to be a brown spore case. If I am wrong, I wish some algae expert would set me straight.

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Algae under a microscope

Cameras can be deceptive. The pizza place was actually rather dim with little points of light. We enjoyed the cauliflower crust pizza with organic toppings of veggies and cheese.

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Upscale Pizza place with my Valentine

It is convenient that my son has several downed trees in his side yard that I have cut off of a few times. I had never been so low on wood, oh, except for the time many years ago when I had been sick for several months and nearly ran out. At that time a friend felt sorry for me and brought some wood. The present wood is dry and off the ground with very little rot. The day was pleasantly cool for work.

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A little more wood needed

I gave one of my 9 year old Sunday School students an adult coloring book. The next Sunday she showed me the following:

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Sunday School student’s art

A mobile lab comes to our school each semester to do a DNA Electrophoresis Lab with our Biology students. It is a very effective use of their time.

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DNA Electrophoresis Lab

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migrating DNA in a gel

A friend of ours from Bible School days came by to visit. She is retiring from many years of missionary work in the Philippians. It has been a privilege to be in contact with her all of these years, following what God has been doing with and through her.

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A friend and missionary

All of the previous pictures were pre-pandemic. The following ones are various fresh air excursions since warning to keep apart from others. The trillium are going wild in a little triangle of woods about 1/2 mile from my house where I frequently walk.

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Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

I like the beauty of my own yard in Spring as well.

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Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

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Just a week before the restrictive stay at home orders came, my daughter and two grandchildren came to visit.

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He can look so serious

Only 3/4 of a mile from the house is a small waterfall in a draw (small vale or notch for those of you from a different neck of the woods) surrounded by wooded suburbia.

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Neighborhood waterfall

We hiked one day to a much larger waterfall. It is a short but steep walk, which I would have thought nothing of had it not been for the little ones to help along. We have had so much rain lately that the ground keeps giving water.

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Upper Creek Falls

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Mama enjoys time outside, too

I can’t paint a still life, but I can appreciate one.

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Colors, Contrasts, and Tones

When my daughter went home, my granddaughter wanted to stay. We did several fun and relationship building things. When we went to the climbing gym I told her to watch me climb at first, knowing that she takes time to warm up to things. After about 45 minutes of following me around, she asked if she could have some climbing shoes. She was really quite good.

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More time together

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Only thing lacking was confidence

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roughed up a little

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Historic times

My wife is a wonderful cook. The only problem is her food doesn’t last long around our house with me there.

 

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Yet another fabulous dish from my favorite chef

On the way back from a doctor across the state line, I decided to stop for a leg stretcher. In warm weather it is one of the best and most crowded swimming holes.

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good flow

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Elk River Falls

Two more backyard blooms and a small neck of the woods trillium follow:

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Backyard Beauty

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Pontentilla sp.

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There is little for perspective, but this huge, perhaps 12″+ in diameter.

At 5 PM on this very day, they were closing down many outdoor venues, specifically including climbing areas. I went and got in a quick session since both gyms and crags are closed for the foreseeable future. So much time to go and so little availability.

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Mushroom Boulder

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View from just behind the boulder

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Galax

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Bloodroot and Wood Sorrel

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Wood Sorrel

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Bloodroot

Having not been outside much to climb lately, I was mostly shutdown by problems that I could previously do. I enjoy climbing for the mental and physical aspects. I needed some success before I went home and this is a good boulder for it.

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Warm-up Boulder

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Shelf Fungus

I bought this ground cover only last Spring and it is covering the ground!

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Verbana sp.

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Red Dogwood

I don’t know why it is named after a snake, but the vividness and pattern of the white lines on the leaves are fascinating:

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Rattlesnake Plantain

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Fiddleheads

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Mayapple

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Wisteria

Many trees can be identified to the species by how they are shaped. Even sometimes their reaction to heavy pruning still comes out identifiable. One bright blue day I took pictures of 8 or 10 treeforms. I won’t bore you with the lot of them but the general idea is there.

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Spruce treeform

If you know what fractals are, then you will see why I mention them before the white oak tree picture.

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Oak treeform

To end this random array of flower arrangements and outdoor excursions and such I give you one more flower that grows by my backyard shed. Enjoy what little joys and beauties you are afforded. They help you deal with the sad and ugly moments of life. They are gifts from a gracious Father who loves beauty and blessing.

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Star of Bethlehem

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I don’t take stock in premonitions, but I may have had one the other day. Whether I did or didn’t did not enable me to influence or change the outcome in any way. After doing some yard work, I was walking around my backyard enjoying the sunshine, which we haven’t had much of lately, and looking up at the tree branches to see how much more work would be raining down. I saw the large Virginia Pine behind my shed that overhung it. I paused and thought, ‘I wished that I had taken that down (about 16 years ago now) before I built that shed. It is going to fall on that shed one of these days soon.’ I had not taken it down because it was probably on my neighbors side of the line.

We had a wholly unexpected ice storm on Saturday morning, November 24th. My son called me to tell me what happened, because my wife and I were still away visiting relatives for Thanksgiving. ‘A large branch broke out of the oak tree next to house, but it missed everything. It didn’t even hit the gutter.’ I think that was his warm-up sentence. ‘You know the big pine tree behind the shed? It broke off and landed on the shed. It didn’t put a hole in the roof or break the rafters.’ What he didn’t tell me was that there was an ice storm. What he did not know, nor did I, was that the tree had a rotten trunk. There was no external evidence of it.

So, I had planned to finish my wood splitting this week for the season. Instead, I get to take down a ‘widow maker’ lying on my shed. I cut a four foot section hanging beyond the back of the shed. I was concerned that it would drop, knocking my ladder out from under me. So when the gap in the cut began to open up as I sawed down through the log, I stopped and climbed down. Then I retrieved a pole with a hook on the end and pulled the log down. Sure enough, it knocked the ladder aside. I had not moved the ladder, because I thought I might have to climb back up and saw a little more.

I finished today’s session at dark by clearing as many branches as I could reach. Sawing over your head is tiring. At the ground you have to choose the branches to cut that will not cause the tree to flip over or slide off of the roof while you are under it.

The next step will involve easing it down a cut at a time followed by one last knocking a block out to bring it down.

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The One That Missed

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It’s giving me a headache

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This can’t be good

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That is so much weight

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The rotten, splintered base

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That looks like a tedious job

I worked on it two more hours this evening before dark. It slid down a few inches at a time, perhaps three feet in all. I took all of the branches but two that now support in on the ground. The next step I have planned is to tie a rope to the large end and pull it off the shed with my truck. That way I will be well out of the way when it comes down. There is no way without a bucket truck to take it down without a little further damage. Oh well, I’m impressed that it didn’t collapse the roof, and I am thankful that nothing hit the house.

 

 

 

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I would write more if I weren’t living life so much, but then it would all be stale reminiscing. That will have to wait for later or never. Last Friday evening my wife and I fought traffic to get to our son’s apartment (usually 2 1/2 hours but nearly 3 1/2 this rainy, dark, Friday rush hour). We ate out and spent the night. Next morning we traveled 2 hours to my daughter and son-in-laws’ house to see our sixth grandchild for the first time and help son-in-law take down two mostly dead trees. He had acquired by purchase and neighborly borrowing all of the equipment except for my larger chainsaw (He bought a smaller one.). 

Felling trees is adventuresome, challenging, and useful. Being a variety of poplar, possibly a cultivar of Eastern Cottonwood, and dying from some disease, made for a threat to his garage and house. We set up the following rig with cable, pulley, and winch. In place of the truck was a neighbor’s skid-steer loader as an anchor and winches on the other side with a pulley at the tree:

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I set to notching the tree. As I did the wind was widening the gap in the notch, demonstrating the necessity for the cable set-up. Both times the trees were slightly weighted toward the structures and the wind was pushing in that direction, too. But we put them safely on the ground within the approved drop zone.

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Dying too close to the garage

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Notching high enough to leave a fence post

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Relaxed Tension

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More work to do

The other joy was meeting my grandchild and holding him. He has many difficult days ahead with heart surgery sometime in the next several months to repair deformities. But this day he was happy and content, and looking healthier than he really is. As he grows his heart will not be able to provide sufficient oxygen to all of his body. Conversely, the doctors want him to grow larger and stronger before they attempt surgery. When is the right time? We pray that the doctors will know the time, that God will strengthen this boy, direct the doctors, and grow him in to a blood bought warrior for the kingdom. He is a handful for his parents who must give him special care and manage all of the other parts of life as well. May God superintend all their provisions for life and godliness. We are thankful to God for this young extension of our family and their new arrival.

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Mamaw holding a precious grandson

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The little man

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Nurse (big sister) holds a stethoscope or microphone?

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Drink up and grow strong, young man!

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It is good to be home after the long hospital stays.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains