Around this time last year I scolded myself for having procrastinated in purchasing firewood and vowed to never again allow myself to end up stranded in the cold. Well, apparently old firewood habits die hard. This year, Jim and I once again spent the summer months basking in the warmth of denial. We kayaked, hiked, mountain biked, and barbecued. We lounged in the sun like reptiles, intent upon soaking up every ounce of warmth provided to us during the lengthening hours of daylight.
To consider the purchase of firewood was to admit to summer’s mortality. And so, once again, we waited until the slow decline of summer could no longer be repressed from consciousness. And then, resigned to acknowledge summer’s passing or be snowed in and frozen in our steadfast refusal, we picked up the phone to inquire about ordering a stash of wood for our fire. We were laughed at. Scoffed. Mocked, once again, for our ill-preparedness. However, what our approach lacked in proactivity, it made up for in persistence. A source of firewood was found! As supplies of the seasoned stock had been tapped out long before we picked up the phone, we were resigned to accept “green” wood (meaning that the wood is not sufficiently seasoned, not, as I once believed, that it is literally green). Having had consistent (forced) practice over the past year with the concept of being grateful for what is available, we accepted our delivery of green wood with open arms. Looking back upon last year’s acquisition of firewood, during which we sawed, chopped, split (and on occasion wrestled) log-length monstrosities into morsels deemed appropriate by our little wood stove, we reflected upon how easy we have it this year.
Our firewood was delivered to us in pre-sawed, pre-chopped, and pre-split ready-to-burn pieces. And, since September, there it has sat. A heaping pile of procrastination, tucked conveniently just out of view in the far corner of our yard. In all fairness, we have not had the opportunity to stack it until very recently, knowing full well that our mediocre piles of timber wouldn’t stand a chance in the path of the excavation equipment that has been dutifully transforming our driveway and front yard.
And so, as our little cabin draws ever closer to entering the 21st century, we followed suit through the implementation of modern innovation (also known as laziness). We called in the troops: Mom, Dad, and their dump truck arrived last Saturday with their tractor in tow. And so we set to work. Dad, who appears at his happiest when in command of his tractor (a machine that submits to his every knowing request in a manner that my brother and I steadfastly rejected upon many a weekend workday), directed our heap of firewood into the dump truck, bucketload by bucketload. The mass was then deposited inches from the location where it would sit for the winter, in waiting. Mom and I needed only to lift the logs from the ground, turn, and stack them neatly against the cabin’s outer walls.
Jim was the only one to rage against the machines. Quiet and methodical in his rebellion, he emerged between dump truck loads to deposit in our yard small wheelbarrow batches of logs that he had sawed into wood stove length pieces earlier in the fall. Beneath the intrepid purr of engines, he echoed a thin but persistent rhythm of logs being split by hand and maul. By the end of the day, he had laid out before him a heap of freshly-split wood, a splintered pile of the cautious but resolute expression of conscious self-sufficiency that he has maintained throughout the lifetime in which I have known him.
Even with the support of two extra sets of hands, a dump truck, and a tractor, the daylight hours dwindled rapidly. After delivering the majority of our firewood to the edge of the driveway, the equipment was trailered and driven away. Our job was only to stack the remaining mass of logs. And then it snowed. A drain beneath the house froze (although we don’t yet have running water, we have been using a hose- connected to the pressure tank- as a temporary water supply). Jim spent the day under the cabin using a space heater and a hair dryer to coax the sufficiently chilled drain pipe back into commission, then constructing a solution so as to avoid spending future afternoons in the company of dirt and spray-foam. Thus, we decided to abandon the wood-stacking project, planning to return the following day, at which point the snow surely would have melted from the earth. And then it snowed the next day. And the day after that. Suffice to say, a partially-stacked pile of firewood sits capped in snow, patiently awaiting the return of the sun. If winter persists in its (somewhat but not entirely) precocious emergence, our little wood pile will remain, resigned to pass the time before its final journey to the wood stove as a heaping collective, delivered from centuries of effortful hands, each offering up the same end result.