Memorial Day weekend is traditionally a family holiday filled with the excited acknowledgment summer is coming. In our household, Memorial Day is a bit different. Memorial Day means that Jules does not have to teach school and if I can get the evening off, we have childcare. These two things combined with the nicer weather our area experiences in May mean that firewood season is upon us. So Memorial Day is spent with Jules and I purchasing 12 bottles of beer, sharpening our axes, and driving the two trucks (Jules' and my family's Old Beater) up into the remote areas of our local National Forest. With the two trucks we figure we can get a chord and a half each time and minimize the number of total trips. Around here the permit is $20 and allows for four chords of wood (the general consensus among all for one year of house heating). Technically the season ends in November, but I don't know who on Earth could get their vehicle up there, or once there could get through the snow to down the trees. However, the trees are all tagged and the wood is first come, first served so this is a moot point because once 85-90% of the tagged wood (and they do check) has been cut the season is closed.
With the idea of killing our Natural Gas bill this next year, we're getting ready to heat the house with only our fireplace. This means not only stocking up on wood, but also building the racks for the wood to dry and honing our skills to be able to chop enough without putting ourselves in permanent chiropractic care. So a chainsaw has been purchased, firewood racks have been built, and the overgrown vegetation of our backyard is becoming kindling.
Directly behind our backyard is a The Neighbor Who Does Not Care. I cannot blame him too much as we think he is renting the house. He does keep the lawn moved and junk from piling up, but the trees between our fence and his house are so awfully overgrown. Much discussion has gone down amongst the neighbors that the overgrown vegetation must be taken care of. However, very little has really been done. Yesteday, Jules had had it. The next thing The Barracuda and I know, Jules is standing on the fence hacking away.
Even though this first time we go into the forest The Barracuda will be hanging out with Uncle Flint and Grampa, he is not absolved of work. One of the most important things Jules and I wish to impart on our son is the realization that nothing can be taken for granted. If you aren't working for it now, you will be paying for it later. At 4.5 he has daily and weekly chores, saves his allowance, and has rolls in the garden and water harvesting. Firewood is another household job which he is to have a part in.
Currently, The Barracuda is in charge of kindling and stacking. He uses his tomahawk to strip branches and chop them into stackable kindling. This is a skill in the making, but he is doing remarkably well. His adz swinging in The Hole has really help strengthen his arms and gain controlled hand-eye coordination.
(Yes, his hair is green. His screaming blue mohawk has faded into a shaggy green mohawk.)
More than just learning a good skill, he has to chop firewood with both Jules and I all together as a family. If we are all going to use the heat, we are all going to participate in acquiring it. It is much harder to carelessly burn more wood than necessary if it is has taken hours of work to chop and stack it. Likewise, it is much harder to senselessly log our forests if you use the resource for heating your home and have had to watch a majestic tree fall. An appreciation for working and the earth needs to be fostered young and that is what we are trying to do. Whether it is taking the larger split pieces or his own personal kindling, he definitely feels part of the process and pride of ownership in our household. Much like cleaning his room everyday and helping us harvest water, firewood is becoming a very normal part of his daily life. As Jules jokes, "The family that slays together (trees that is), stays together."
To some the idea of chopping wood during the summer and beginning axe handling at four and a half might be a bit early. But the more I watch our family simplify, the more I realize how much our life was far more out of whack before all this. We now change with the seasons in the same way the earth does. Our food, our chores, our lives, all shift together rather than maintaining this homoginized feel of droning on. It makes things like chopping kindling in the backyard an enjoyable, smiling event because we do it only time a year. The summer is the only real time for us to go cut due to Jules being off of school and the snow line being low enough, so in a way we are celebrating the are ushering in of summer much like everyone else. We are merely doing it by preparing for the late fall. This seems to be the theme of simplicity: Plan ahead and work hard together so that the small joys in life can be shared and appreciated by all.