Over thirty years ago, Rick went home from college with me to meet my parents. It must have been apparent this might be serious: my dad pretty immediately took him outside and asked him if he knew how to split wood.
Rick’s still working in wood after all these years.
Lucky for Rick, lucky for my dad, lucky for me – Rick did know how to split wood. After all, some of the things that attracted me to him included that he carried a pocket knife (a definite prerequisite for any serious relationship) and played the fiddle (can you imagine? Being a three chord guitar player who likes to sing, and then finding out the guy you like plays the fiddle?) Being able to handle a maul and some wedges to split big logs down to fireplace size was part of the country boy/mountain man skill set in Virginia.
Rick says he has always felt sure the initial wood splitting task was a suitability test, though Dad was practical and probably figured a young man’s strength should not be wasted and could be appropriated to add to the wood pile. And for many years, while we were dating, engaged, then married, Rick split a little wood for Daddy every time we went home.
Today, we heat with wood. Our house has a good furnace as well, but we enjoy the way our hearth brings the family together, which I wrote about yesterday. We also are grateful for the money savings. We’d save money over the cost of fuel oil even if we bought already-split wood by the truck load, or even if we just supplemented a little with the wood stove rather than keeping it burning the way we do.
The wood stove paid for itself in a year, so this year we invested in a log splitter. The down trees I found this year were huge, and we needed to get through the wood quickly so it could season further and faster. Never fear, there is still plenty of hand splitting to do, and Nick (helping with stacking here) gets practice with the maul and wedges.
But Rick maximizes the economic savings of the wood stove insert with the Do It Yourself work ethic, cutting the trees up (usually not actually felling them), field splitting the logs, loading and hauling the wood home, splitting the logs to wood stove size, stacking in one of our covered wood piles, and bringing several days’ worth at a time to the front porch.
The F-150 has done its share of wood work over the years. It’s nearing the 250,000 mile mark.
My main job with the wood is one that he likes less than the physical work: finding the wood. You know, I talk to people, and I even call our local Tradio show and ask if anyone has a downed oak or other hardwood they need moved off a fence or out of a yard or hay field in exchange for the wood.
This is one of the three oak trees I found for Rick to work on in a hayfield not far from Buggs Island Lake. You can’t really see the scale in these photos, but the largest part of the tree is just over 34″ in diameter.
People are incredibly generous and grateful to have a problem tree hauled off and used well. Rick calls my part “sourcing the wood” to make it sound more important. It’s a perfect marriage.
Nick stacks wood in the woodshed to help get ready for winter.
And the children? While definitely not experiencing anything close to the character-building work level of farm boys, they have all helped with wood over the years. Our oldest son, Kevin, recently warmed my heart when he talked about the culture shock of attending a college that doesn’t generally attract small town Virginia boys.
“I think,” he said, “I may be the only one there who can actually split wood.”
We’re happy with his major in international studies. But it’s somehow comforting to know it’s combined with the ability to split wood.