Winter is trying to kill me. It might be trying to kill you too? That’s none of my business. This blog is all about me and narcissistic or not, I have no doubt that winter is definitely, unquestionably, and specifically kicking my ass.
I’m not surprised. I live in the north and plan accordingly. Three pieces of machinery to move snow. Three bottles of Ibuprofen for when the machinery croaks. Two is one and one is none… so I have three. My snowblower died around Christmas. Man down! It knew the risks. The remaining equipment soldiers on. So do I.
This year the snow has been deep but it’s the cold that landed the most punches. Holy leaping wombats has it been friggin cold! Relentless too. I can live with -30 degrees in week long bouts but months at a time is a game changer.
I have three redundant sources of heat. I use them in whatever proportion seems best. (Adaptive folk like options!) When it’s bitter cold, firewood is king. It’s cheap and nobody ever settled down to sip whiskey and read a book by the inviting glow of a furnace vent. When spring comes the equation changes. When it’s nippy but not arctic the furnace is superior to inconvenient wood heat. When I switch to the furnace and ignore my woodstove, robins aren’t far behind.
The relentless cold has done in my firewood supply. My goal is to keep the fire going until “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Normally I’d have already (or nearly) crossed the finish line. This year? Not so much.
I started winter with plenty of firewood for a normal winter. If you see “normal winter” tell him I miss him and wish his asshole cousin “second standard deviation winter” would bugger off. By mid-January it was clear that my woodpile was losing a war of attrition against “snowmageddon” / “polar vortex” / “winter storm ‘Putin’” or whatever buzzword the talking heads were repeating. There was no avoiding it. The woodpile was going to run out.
I was pondering the grim situation while tossing chunks of wood into my ATV wagon. My dog was sniffing around the ragged edges of my once mighty and now depleted supply. After this week’s “wood run” my woodshed would be as empty as a politician’s promise.
Let me interrupt a minute and explain that firewood is a game of logistics. A household will burn tons of wood (literally… many… tons). There are a several steps between a standing tree and heat in the living room. Folks who warm their house with money might not understand the complexity involved. When you make your own heat, the entire industrial supply chain, which delivers strawberries on Christmas and will move an iDevice from China to your mailbox, must be replicated by you and you alone. It’s all on your shoulders Bubba!
It’s not all brawn. If I relied solely on studliness to fell, buck, cut, split, stack, haul, and move everything I’d have arms like Popeye right up until they buried my exhausted body in a plastic coffin because I’d burned the wood one. I’m just one man with limited time and equipment. Of necessity I treat processing wood like a chess game.
The opening gambit starts with trees in the forest. If you fell the trees without killing yourself the game pieces are now in play. I’d say that anybody can get this far but YouTube has videos of trees falling on trucks, porches, houses, and BBQ grills that prove me wrong.
The middle game is my “firewood processing area”. (Mrs Curmudgeon would look at it and call it “the mess my husband makes out of the backyard”.) It’s a delightful maze of logs, sizable tree limbs, big chunks of unsplit wood, stored chains in buckets, and a garbage can full of empty beer bottles. It’s arranged in a way that makes perfect sense to me and looks like chaos to everyone else.
The log pile sits around housing squirrels and gathering weeds most days. In summer I periodically dive in to cut and split as much as I can manage during the time I have available. The squirrels disapprove. When it snows, the whole area gets buried and forgotten.
The end game starts the second after the splitter (usually parked near the log pile) does its magic. It’s not enough to make a mighty pile of stove bolts, one must place them strategically or all is lost. I use the Pony trailer and my tractor (when it runs) to drive the fruits of my labor closer to the house. I build several piles (and fill a small shed). The piles look haphazard but they’re cunningly situated to be easily reachable after snowplows surround my house with packed ice. The end game is where you win or lose.
Thus, my home is the sun to a solar system of slowly orbiting Stonehenge-like arrangements that last from one to many years. You know you’re from the North when you think like that.
Checkmate is the cusp of spring. All winter long I make weekly “wood runs” to the handiest Stonehenge. If my Stonehenges outlast Al Gore’s winter, I win.
All of my Stonehenges, I reflected… were gone. Game over. I suck.