When town employees were taking down some maple and birch trees on our street a few months ago, we asked them to dump the wood in our side yard instead of disposing of it.
We ended up with an enormous pile of logs, two of them behemoths 18 inches in diameter and 10 feet long. So I asked two friends who own gas-powered chainsaws to help me cut them up. Amazingly, they both offered to come over on the same day.
I used to own a gas-powered chainsaw, and cut up big trees for firewood, but I concluded that I shouldn’t. It’s too dangerous for me to operate alone, and I wasn’t able to give this machine the care it demanded, in terms of oiling, cleaning, tightening and sharpening. The smaller electric chain saw we now own is lighter and easier to control, but can only cut up tree limbs and other wood under six inches in diameter.
My friend Rick Cowan came down from Vermont on Monday to help out. With Betsy and I moving logs into place for him to cut, we went through half the wood in 90 minutes. I was impressed with Rick’s caution, from the protective chaps he put on his legs to the number of times he stopped to check his chainsaw.
During our breaks we reflected on how much easier and faster it is for us to cut up wood using these machines, powered by fossil fuels, than it would be to do the work by hand. Even with the big two-person saws that can fell a tree or cut up big logs, the human strength, time and energy required would be enormous. We are grateful for the industrial revolution, the invention of the chainsaw and for the fossil fuels that run them. It makes you wonder how we would do things if we didn’t have these “energy slaves” at our command.
The work tired us out, and we were having lunch when the phone rang. It was our friend David Ahlfeld, offering to come over and help us cut up wood. After laughing at the coincidence, I told him we we’d just been there, done that. Then I pulled out that old infomercial tag line, “But wait! There’s more!” and agreed to get together soon to finish off the job.
Most of the wood we cut up Monday won’t be burned until the start of 2018. I’ve started splitting the logs with a maul and stacking the wood so it can dry out. This is the part of heating with wood that I enjoy the most, though I have to do it in short bursts to avoid hurting my 66-year-old body.
Why bother? Why not heat our house with oil, which is so cheap now, or pay someone $200-plus a cord for wood that’s cut, split and delivered? Well, we enjoy the comradeship that comes with working with friends, we like getting life’s necessities for free, and appreciate getting them from our very own street. You can’t get much more local than that!
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