As Brian ran our (currently)working log splitter this past Sunday afternoon, I waited a few yards away for him to toss the splits for stacking. Our splitter is very old & was not originally manufactured to be a log splitter…there’s a great story there, but I don’t know all the particulars at the moment…it’s made from a hodge-podge of old tractor (?) parts & it’s from his father, I know that much. It seems to relish operating properly for about a week at a time, then lying dormant for up to a year before gracing us with its abilities again…& only after we spend large sums of money replacing its various body parts. Suffice to say, Brian usually chops wood by hand.
While stacking wood & waiting to stack wood, your mind wanders. I thought a lot, a lot, about Aldo Leopold’s essay “February: Good Oak” from A Sand County Almanac. I hope my photographs here are able to impart some of what Leopold refers to in that essay. I think it’s best summed up with one of his most famous quotes:
There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.
To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from…
I don’t believe, of course, that burning wood (burning anything) makes me a conservationist…many would quite possibly think it makes me the opposite. I will say we’ve never had to fell live trees to burn wood. A windstorm three years back has now made it likely we won’t be wanting for wood for a decade or more around here. I also realize that most of North America was once forested. And I live in a region of the country that was once prairie for as far as the eye could wander. Now it’s mostly corn, if it’s summer, and if it’s winter, as it is now, it’s mostly scarred land. I keep ruminating on that word as I travel the state of Iowa this time of year…scarred. The rows of green corn stalks are quite beautiful to behold in the summer, I’ll admit, undulating in the wind, mimicking the prairie grasses long displaced. But the empty, aching land is troublesome in the winter.
Brian works a few times a month at an ethanol plant.
I live in Iowa.
I read Leopold.
I stack wood.
The words of “Good Oak” were written over 60 years ago…the lessons will never die.
There is much to ponder in a split of a wood.