Firewood that Fights Back

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It’s still a busy time on the farm, we have almost finished getting the garden cleaned up and put to bed for winter,  the garlic has been planted and is resting and preparing for spring and now we’re working on planting trees. I know most people plant trees and shrubs in the spring but I prefer fall. Planting trees in the fall when the roots have gone dormant allows them to be naturally watered by rain and they have a whole fall and winter to get settled before the stress of growing season. The only downfall is that most nurseries don’t have a great selection at this time of year.

 The other big project is firewood. We try to heat by wood as much as possible. We do this for two reasons, mostly because it’s cheaper but also because wood heat seems to chase the damp chill off my achy joints much better than electric heat. In our rainy winter weather that’s a big deal. Plus, I confess a true love of wood smoke. The hint of wood smoke in the air is one of the most comforting scents I know.

 We had quite a bit of windfall wood from the past couple of years that had fallen in our hillside pastures and we figured this was the year to get it cut  or it would go to rot. Hubs took the tractor and chains and we began the careful work of getting the tractor into the slippery and sloped hills, chaining the logs and then slowly dragging them out of the pasture. This last part was done while we prayed like crazy that the log wouldn’t develop a mind of its own and go rogue, rolling down the hill, taking out fences, shelters or us. fred tractor 1018

Once the logs were brought in from the pasture we began one of the worst chores on the farm, in my humble opinion. The splitting, cutting and stacking. It’s not the backbreaking, never ending labor part I hate, it’s the splinters. It’s like the wood is fighting back with little, invisible weapons of warfare. They get EVERYWHERE! I’m amazed at some of the locations I seem to get them. It is impossible to pick them all out and then there’s the cold shower. I was always taught that heat opens the pores and can allow the splinter to settle further into the skin, so cold was necessary if you have splinters. It’s just adding insult to injury.

 Last weekend I was determined to walk away with fewer splinters. I usually wear heavy pants and boots. I also usually added a windbreaker type jacket (a heavy duty one is just too warm for this work). The material on a windbreaker or rain slicker is usually provides a good barrier to protect from the miniscule needles attempting to take residence on my body. Anyway, I digress, I was determined to up my game and keep myself adopting any orphaned wood products so I wore my usual jeans and boots, two layers on top, covered by the windbreaker (of course) and then, the final touch, was to add latex gloves under my work gloves. The tiny splinters seems to always work their way through the leather gloves and imbed themselves into my palm, fingers and wrists. The latex was long enough to also cover my wrists, a usual splinter magnet, so I was set!

logs for firewood A couple hours into the process my hands and wrists were relatively splinter free. You would think I would be ecstatic….. but I wasn’t. Apparently in my careful wardrobe planning I had neglected one very, very important item. A belt. I was doing what I think city kids call “sagging”. This would have been just been a slight inconvenience, if not for the fact that when I went to hitch up my pants with my leather gloved hands……I apparently was shedding wooden shives down my drawers. You’ve heard of ants in your pants? This was kinda like that. I now had splinters on a part of my body that until this year, had remained unscathed. They were also in an area that I couldn’t remove by myself, giving Hubs and I a whole new relational challenge in the marriage game.

 Anyway, all this to say, I’m definitely going to remember my belt during next year’s firewood work. Also I’m pretty sure I’ll be filled with a tiny amount of vindictive glee, giving me an extra special warmth, as I pitch each log into the fire.

Stay warm my friends.

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Ramblings: Heart Attack Farming Style

I was working from home, minding my own business when I suddenly heard a loud commotion coming from the goat pasture out behind the house. I went to the window and took a peek out. The goats had all run for the safety of their barn and the dogs were frantically running back and forth on the perimeter fence in that area. I watched for a bit to see if I was needed but nothing else appeared out of the ordinary so I turned to head back to my computer and the awaiting pile of work. As I was turning away my eyes happened to fall on a lump leaned against the fence. Upon closer look, I discovered the lump turned was one of my goats, sprawled against the fence, eyes closed and not moving. I yelled to her, “hey Sadie….”, nothing. I clapped my hands and whistled, hoping against hope that she was just resting, but there was no response. The rest of the goats had all run off in a panic and Sadie wasn’t moving. This wasn’t good.

My heart was in my throat as I ran for some shoes and raced out back. As soon as I was within eyesight of the pasture I started yelling for the goats. The entire herd rushed over to greet me at the gate, except Sadie. By now I was muttering under my breath as I opened the gate and made my way across the pasture. My mutters went something like this, “oh crap, please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, oh crap!”. There might have also been a few, “What the *%#*!” mixed in for good measure. All I could think was that if I got there in time and she wasn’t dead, I would somehow be able to save her (apparently, I have a totally misplaced sense of confidence in my vetting abilities). My mind was racing with possibilities, did something get through the fence and attack her? Is that what sent the herd running and the dogs barking? She’s one of the friendliest girls and I could see her being more trusting of predators, but could it really have happened so quickly when I was only a few hundred yards away?

 As I stumbled down the hillside in Hub’s shoes (they were the closest ones to the door and the first pair I grabbed in my hurry) I continued yelling, whistling and clapping my hands, but not even an ear twitched. By now, sensing my anxiety, the dogs had given up on whatever held their fascination at the perimeter fence and sat just outside the goat fence that Sadie was leaning on, watching with some concern. I reached her and gave her a quick visual once over. There were no signs of trauma. No blood on the ground or on Sadie. I started wondering if she had a heart attack or choked. I gently nudged her in her ribs. But got no reaction. Nothing. Damn! Sighing heavily and facing my fears, I leaned down to roll her over so I could thoroughly inspect her and figure out what had happened. As I placed my hands on her head and shoulder to roll her over, Sadie opened her eyes, lifted her head a tiny bit and gave me a look of utter disgust. I nearly fell over from surprise, but caught myself and instead just sat down rather ungracefully in the dirt. Apparently when Sadie sleeps, she REALLY sleeps and nothing is going to wake her until she is ready. Not barking dogs, the herd running off in a panic, me yelling, whistling, screaming and clapping, or even a nudge or two to the ribs. To be honest, after recovering from my initial heart attack, my first coherent thought was to be a bit jealous of how soundly Sadie can sleep.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, a problem that apparently doesn’t bother Sadie in the slightest.

 By this time the rest of the herd had wandered down the hillside to see what all the fun was about. The dogs were still looking at me with puzzlement, as if they didn’t get the joke, and Sadie had wandered off, looking backward long enough to shoot me the stink eye capture in this picture.  As anyone with goats will tell you, they have tons of personality and can communicate their feelings quite effectively. Unlike the other goats she wasn’t happy to see me, in fact she didn’t seem at all appreciative of my efforts to save her life. It fact, it was clear that she was downright irritated that I interrupted her restful beauty sleep.

I took another minute or two to rest my racing heart before the other goats trying to climb in my lap, forced me back on my feet. Thanks Sadie for helping me get the old pumper thumping this morning.  I’m the first to admit that farming has a lot of heartache and loss, it also has a lot of mini- eart attacks, anxiety and downright comical moments.  I’m so glad this moment turned out to be one of the latter.

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