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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WINTERS PAST

vada

Another good day above freezing. In the weather patterns of the past, mid February was apple tree pruning time. Mid February was the reprieve from winter, the eye of the cold storm that winter is. This winter has been characterized by ebb and flow like winters in the pattern before weather patterns changed. We'd get a wave of cold followed by not quite as warm as before, but warm, then a wave of colder than before, followed by warm not quite as warm as before. The cold came in waves. The most miserable winter in my memory gradually turned colder unto cold and stayed there for weeks, then gradually turned warmer. That winter started late and spring came late. It stayed cold for a long time. The steady cold never let up. This winter is like the winters of several years ago only in the way it comes and goes in waves. Then, snow would be eight, twelve, sixteen inches, snow on top of snow. Now the snow is a half inch, a quarter inch, three inches, two inches. A coat hangs in my closet I've not worn in so many years I've just about forgot it was hanging there. It was a good coat for the winters, a hood for wind. Now I wear a heavy shirt lined with something that holds heat. It is good enough to feed donkeys in and go to the mailbox, a trip to town, It would not be a good one to take a long walk in below freezing. In a way, I miss the winters of my early years in the mountains. I took long walks with dog through forests, over meadows, the waterfalls covered in ice and the water flowing behind the ice cover, the ice a still reproduction of the water flow splashing over rock, glass the water behind could be seen through. 

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Those places are now memories. I suspected the waterfalls might be frozen over a few weeks ago, but thought I'd see it in memory rather than go into bear, coyote and wolf country. I don't go into the woods anymore. I would want a .45 handgun. I don't want to shoot anything. I don't want to walk along prepared to shoot whatever might take exception to me being in the wrong neighborhood. Actually, I believe I'd be safer without a gun. That's one on one. I believe I could back away from a bear encounter safely. But a pack of killer dogs. I don't want to even think about facing such a situation without stopping power. I don't want to kill any of them. Don't want to encounter any of them. I'd rather see them from the car passing by, or in photos. I don't like killing anything, don't believe I have a right. The culture I live in tells me I do, but I don't believe everything that comes my way. Too, I'm not interested in getting scared out of my wits. Chances are, I'd never see a thing. And I don't like walking without a dog. Don't have a dog now and it's not practical to have one. Caterpillar would go into fury. The donkeys would hate it. Not a good time for a dog. Martha, next door, is not a good dog to walk with. First thing, she imagines she hears something, takes off running, disappears and that's the last I see of her until I return home. She sits by the door waiting for me. She's not a dog that learns. I can't teach her to stay with me. I'd need a leash, and don't care that much. Though I know what warmer winters mean, I still like winters not being as severe as they used to be. I like snow when it happens, without craving it. We have ice more now than when temperatures went way down below freezing. The air is not cold enough to make snow, so it rains drops that freeze on contact with the ice cold roads and tree limbs. Not a good time for walking or driving. 

vada

I cut firewood in the fall for twenty years, sawing trees into logs to be split. I cut down mostly dead trees. Rarely did I cut a living tree, and then only from necessity. Trees die on their own, standing. They make the best firewood. I learned how to cut firewood from old man Tom Pruitt and his nephews, Bill and Don. It includes sharpening the chain, Every tooth needs sharpening, one at a time. I handled the chainsaw safely, consciously, awake. I felt like operating a chainsaw was the most dangerous thing I did, besides drive a vehicle. I realized from the beginning that I must be in charge of the saw at all times. Once the chainsaw takes charge, it's too late. I thought of it like a motorcycle, one moment's lapse of attention and anything can happen. Tom taught me how to fall a tree exactly where I want it to land. He taught me to fall a tree in a different direction from the way it was leaning. He also taught me, first thing, to cut them off at the ground, don't leave a stump. Whenever I see a stump, I see a good log that could be split into at least eight sticks of firewood, a day or night's heat. Cut the branches and limbs into stove-length sticks, stack everything in the back of the pickup in rows. Packing it tight in rows will carry a great deal more wood than it thrown into the back of the truck in a pile. Much space squandered. At the house, unload the truck, one stick at a time, then stack the wood for storage. Go back and load the truck again, as many times as needed. It was good movement exercise. No big weights to deal with, except sometimes. 

vada

Learn how to sling an axe and a sledge hammer, and it's no effort at all. Set the axe in motion and let its momentum carry it, using hands to guide it. I'd get bored with an axe or sledge hammer, the sledge hammer for driving steel wedges. The axe to establish a crack for the wedge take from there. Sometimes the axe would be all it took. Locust is good for an axe, one lick. Red oak, split right, can be done with an axe even easier than locust. The rest of them require a wedge. Old locust needs a wedge too. Driving a wedge with a sledge hammer I felt was a good exercise in hand-eye coordination. Don't hit the wedge just right, and it may fly off in any direction spinning like a ninja weapon fast as a baseball. You don't want to catch it. I learned the wedge only flies out in one of four directions. I would place the wedge so I'd be standing in one of the directions it would not fly. I learned skill with both axe and sledge hammer, good enough for my needs. Old man Tom could do something that amazed me every time I saw it. He would set the first crack in the log. The next lick with the axe went precisely in the same slot. His aim with an axe was an amazement for me to behold. He was in his mid seventies meaning a lifetime of working with an axe. He was known around for his skill with an axe. He was also known for the simplest moves to accomplish something when he was working. He did not waste movement. He flowed when he worked. He loved working. I learned from working with Tom his economy of making every move count for something. I never reached a place where I could lay the axe down exactly on the spot I wanted it every time. Have not carried wood in several years. To have done something, I believe, is the same as doing it now. I don't need it anymore. 

vada


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