Sunday, May 24, 2009

Still Burning and No Word From Logger

I can't believe it, but we're still burning wood. In fact, yesterday was cold enough to need it. I thought I'd filled the wood box for the last time, but this might not be the case.

We're trying to get a feel for how much wood we burn, and I know we have enough for two years, it's just a question of how we stack it. I also have to confess that I rather like the cool weather because it makes doing yard work that much easier. I'm at the stage where I need to mow the lawn at least once a week, which is a pain but needs to be done.

The garden is on the verge of taking off, we still haven't planted anything but I think today will be the day. R's done a great job of clearing the weeds and getting the raised beds going, and the hay is covering the paths. It looks fantastic, and everyone is poised and ready to take off. Let the games begin.

We do have a recurring woodchuck problem, those buggers are a menace. It seems as if there is no stopping them. One left a gaping hole right in front of the garden, and I guess we should be thankful they didn't actually emerge "in" the garden, though give them time. I filled the hole with some blocks of hardwood (that I couldn't split) and then gravel, followed by huge rocks. Somehow I think he'll still find a way through, they always do. We'll have to keep an eye on that one. I did pee into the hole, thinking the scent might discourage him.

Today should be a good planting day, gray and drizzly, but not hot. I'm sure there'll be plenty of mosquitoes, though. The jury's still out on Cactus Juice, but I'm a believer. I think it drives them away, and it's kid safe. Better yet.

Farm fest is coming up, and I think we're going to have a booth for Transition Towns, but who knows. I'm not sure if anyone knows what's going on.

I still need to repair the deer fence, nothing major, and then finish painting the back and replacing clapboards. I need a truck, however, to get the boards since they're so big. There is a remote chance that in the next week we might get use of another car, but nothing definite, so I won't say anything. Best to keep quiet on these things.

Did I mention we need another car? The future is so uncertain, though, that we can't dive into it. Financial considerations make that a prudent way to go, but what a bummer it is being stranded. It makes me depressed, and makes it harder to have a social life, which we long for.

Gotta run and split wood. Our goal is to have all of next year's wood stacked and ready, then we can take our sweet time splitting the rest. Still haven't heard from the other logger to get our next six cords, but I'll call him next week. He seemed like a stand up guy, returned all of my calls, I just haven't heard from him. I'm ready to do more cutting with my chainsaw.

I contacted PD and told him I'd help him obtain his truckload by making the necessary calls and would even arrange for the delivery. He thanked me for the offer but had his own plan, so I think it will work out for him. I'd help him cut if he needed it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Filling the Woodbox for the Last Time... Hopefully

We've had a bit of a cool spell over the past few days, and we've been burning wood once again reasonably regularly to the point that it's foiled my plans of retiring the stove for the season. In fact, I had to fill the woodbox yesterday and hoped it wouldn't come to that, but with the cooler weather, it's been nice to have a fire going. Don't get me wrong, I like the weather, it's nice and cool, making work in the yard much more bearable. I am not looking forward to the heat.

Speaking of yard work, it dawned on me that I need to start splitting the wood so it will dry enough by Winter. I figure the wood I split now will be dry enough in December/January, when we'll need it since we have about two cord, give or take, leftover. I have to start somewhere, though I've gotten about a cord and half split thus far, but when I look at the pile of blocks, I realize I've got my work cut out for me. Do I really want to get another truckload? Speaking of which, haven't heard from TB about my next load, but we'll see. I could always try Andy.

Finally tuned up the lawnmower, and it runs much smoother. I think the old gas in the engine does affect the performance, no question, and this season I'll make sure to Winter it properly. I am wary, however, changing the blade, only in the sense that I worry about not putting it back in properly. It spins so fast, and that blade is sharp. With the cooler weather, mowing the lawn is much more bearable, and I did most of it yesterday, with just the patch near the garden left to do, which I'll try to finish today.

The back of the house still needs painting, and unfortunately the clapboards will need to be replaced. As I mentioned, I don't think it's economically savvy to replace the entire boards, just the warped sections. So I'll take them down, cut off the bad parts, and fill in the gaps with new boards. It's going to take me all Spring and Summer to finish, so I'll take it slow and go with the flow.

Still trying to figure out where to get my kindling. I'll keep visiting Britton's but they seem to be a bit anemic in the the scrap wood department. I did have this idea of making my own. I have several small blocks from last year in the basement, and I will try to chip away at them and make small shavings for next season. If it works, that would be great, but we'll see.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Splitting Wood and House Stuff

It dawned on me that I don't really have time to gloat and be complacent about cutting all that wood because it's got to be split and stacked. This is May, and ideally I'd like to have it stacked before the beginning of June. I figure we've got about two cords leftover, so that will take us into around Nov/Dec. By then, the new wood will have seasoned for 6-7 months, which should be enough to burn. The goal here is to have at least ten cords standing so five will season while we burn the other five. Then replace the used five with a new five. Does that make sense?

I started splitting and it sure felt good. In fact, and I know how crazy this sounds, but it makes me feel happy to see all the wood I get to split. Sure, it's going to take a lot of time, but the fun never stops. Hopefully I'll get even more, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Got to split and stack in the coming months.

Now that I've sort of finished painting the clapboards in back, it dawned on me that some of them, many perhaps, need to be replaced. I've decided to paint them as if they were fine and then go back and replace. Though this sounds foolishly redundant, the problem I face is that I have a tendency to let things fall to hell if I don't do it immediately, so by painting things I might in fact replace, at least they look a better before they are improved completely. I have trouble explaining this, but that's what I'll do. After they're painted, I'll go back and replace sections that are too thrashed, fixing just portions of the board because to replace the entire length would cost me an arm and leg. I feel much better after having decided this.

I still need to tune up the lawnmower, the grass is growing like, well, grass, actually.

Gotta run. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Always More Than It Seems

I started fixing clapboards on the house in the AM, figuring I'd get it done before my wife went to work and then I'd have the day to attend to home duties and then have time to jet over to the rec center so the kids could play and maybe split some wood, but no such luck. First off, for a novice like myself, it always takes longer than I'd planned, and then there is always so much more to do.

Besides needing to paint the clapboards, I had to apply I&W shield and then repair and replace the corner boards, which is always a chore because the previous owners couldn't make my life easier by using standard width boards, they had to custom cut theirs. For the record, they were expert woodcrafters, so for them it was a piece of cake. I had to rip the boards out, cut them properly, then sand and paint them, as well as the replacement pieces.

Taking time out to do school work and make lunch, then make dinner throws a wrench in everything, and of course I didn't finish. Total bummer. Luckily there is no rain in the forecast this morning, but storms are supposed to role in this afternoon, so I have to get right on it.

It does look a lot nicer, though, now that the boards are evenly painted and the rotting wood has been replaced. Seeing lots of ants, but I took some to Fogg's and even though nobody really knew what they were, my assistant mentor said he didn't believe they were carpenter ants. Even still, I don't like seeing them on the house and may have to take action.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lots to Do

I'm really trying to keep on my karate, and just a little bit every day will do wonders for me not to mention help me feel better. For whatever reason, I'm sore as hell all the time. Could be from hauling all that firewood.

I need to keep moving on the wood, BTW. It needs to be split to be seasoned in time for next winter. I figure we have about two cords leftover which will begin the winter and by the time we get to the new wood, it will have about six months to season, which isn't ideal but better than nothing. Our plan is to have ten cords standing and ready, so we burn through five while five dry, and then be hit the ground running the next year. Of course, the cycle never ends, but that's the way we like it. Besides, I look at the pile of wood we currently have and it warms my heart to see all the wood I get to split. I know it sounds crazy, but I love splitting wood.

Finished staining and finishing the picnic table, and it looks good, but I think the ideal thing would have been to completely sand off the entire surface and then stain/finish. Oh well, live and learn. I'll know better next year.

I got our extra lawnmower blade sharpened over at Charlie Brown's and got the new filter. Hopefully I'll get around to tuning up the machine today, but we'll see. Somehow unless the need is there I manage to put things off.

Reflecting on karate, I feel like last class was a good one, and there benefits to keeping the lessons in mind all the time, in whatever I do. Actual practice helps, as well.

As my mind wanders, it reminds me that I've got other things to do. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Evolution of a Woodpile

Ten Days and Thousand Mile Journey

Wow, has it really been ten days. I won't even begin to try to explain.

We had a great karate class last night, and we really benefit from the small size. In fact, there were three of us, and three teachers, so we had the one on one thing going. When you trim the diaspora and focus on the serious students, you end up getting so much more out of the class, and the few people that are there really end up working together. I don't know how it works when you have twenty to thirty people in a class. I've been trying to practice more of my karate outside of class but seem to begin the week with the best of intentions and get nothing done. At the very least I'd like to get in better shape, but can't seem to manage even that.

I've been putting a lot of thought into my sparring and feel that by keeping it in my mind and working on my footwork and technique, I can move forward. In fact, I think it will take some practice but felt like my efforts paid off last night. At least I was more aware of what I was doing and felt more capable and in control. I had the chance to spar with D, one of the black belts, and I jumped at the chance because I've found sparring with someone who can kick your ass elevates your level and teaches you a lot, even if they beat you up.

I'm also grateful that PC is a regular, and clearly he gets a lot out of it because he keeps coming back. We are well matched and have good sparring matches, and being an adult and all he takes it very seriously. The class really benefits from having more adults, though the kids add a lot of vitality and fun to it all. It must be tough, though, after a long day at school.

I finished cutting our woodpile, for anyone interested, and I couldn't believe it. I went from being a chainsaw novice to being Paul Bunyan in the span of two months. Seven cords. It started out as one of those jobs that fills you with hopelessness because of the sheer magnitude of it all. Each time I cut a log the pile just seemed to get bigger, but I kept repeating the fortune cookie mantra, "Thousand Mile Journey Begins with First Step." It helped that I liked using the chainsaw, even though the thing scares the hell out of me. Just take it slow and use loads of common sense. Don't be stupid and try to rush things, and when you feel tired, stop.

Anyway, I'm glad I got the saw I got, I felt it was more than adequate and the extra $100 I would have spent to buy a bigger saw was not necessary. I love my saw, BTW. The hardest part of cutting all that wood was relocating it by hand. After it was all cut, I had to haul it to where I was going to store/split it, and I did it all with a wheelbarrow. Talk about feeling hopeless, the pile was enormous, but I managed and now I have this amazing pile of blocked wood that I now get to split, which I love to do, so I'm in hog heaven.

So much so that I've actually ordered another truckload of tree length wood. I'm kind of excited about it, though until it gets here, I won't make any assumptions.

On the home improvement front, I went to paint the back of the house and when I opened the can I realized it was the wrong damn color. My fault, I should have checked it when I bought it, but it was wrong, and I bought it six months ago. Oh well, I've got to try to exchange it. They're usually very cool at Fogg's so we'll see.

I needed to tuneup the lawnmower but wanted to run the gas out, but the tank was full, so I ran the thing out but not before I cut the entire lawn. And we have tons of grass, so it took me about five hours. Luckily the weather was perfect, cool and breezy, so I wasn't suffering as much.

Restained the picnic table yesterday, which took a beating after the winter, and if I have time today I'll put a topcoat on it and it's good to go.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I'm a Flake, but So Much Going On

I admit it, I'm a big flake. But I've been writing, just not on my blogs. I've found some writing gigs that pay peanuts, but I figure the more I write, the more peanuts I can eat. It ain't easy, and I'm still amazed that people make a living writing, but you have to keep your eyes on the prize.

Today is Green Up Day in Vermont, and we vowed to take part and clean up our road. It totally throws off my day, but I figure I can do things on different days, it's not the end of the world.

Once again we've had a fairly dry Spring after a few really nasty days of mud season. It was so dry that we had fire warnings for the past couple of weeks, but now things are starting to get a little more moist. We were beginning to have some concerns for our lawn because it was looking a little ratty, or should I say, more ratty than usual. The grass is being overtaken by wild strawberries, and I'm not sure what to make of it. My mentor #2 GS says he feels as long as it's green, then no biggie, though I'm in awe of people with flawless lawns. I realize how much work it takes. The other sections of our lawn are actually coming up rather nicely, though it's a double edged sword because it means I'll soon have to tune up the lawn mower and start cutting it.

Our garden is up and running and all it will take is getting the seeds going. In the past I've tilled the plot by hand with a potato fork, but man does it take a long time. I finally gave in to technology and borrowed P&J's tiller, via K&A, and what a difference a day makes. Make that three days. I tilled the entire garden, about a 30X40 plot, in an hour, while in the past it took me three days. Wow, I'm sold. Not that I'm going to buy one, but as long as P&J are willing to let me borrow it, I'm all for it.

Now if you can believe this, I'm almost halfway through our woodpile. It's a lot of hard work cutting wood. I figured I'd have it done in a day or so, but because I'm inexperienced and scared to death of the chainsaw, it takes much longer. I've seen in the past that guys just start on one end of the pile and start cutting until they've reached the other end. It's pretty impressive, and the one guy I talked to over at Cobb Hill said he cut something like ten cords in six hours, which is incomprehensible to me, but such is the life of a Flatlander. I tend to pick away and adjust. I cut what's accessible, then roll logs down to reach them, to avoid having them roll on top of me. It's not efficient, but it works. It makes me wonder if my cautious approach might warrant getting a real chain vs. a safety chain, but we'll see. Personally I think my saw cuts just fine, and I don't want to get too big for my britches.

The second part of the wood is hauling it to where I'll split and stack it. I only have a wheel barrow and my arms, and there is a small hill I have to climb, so it's a lot of work moving seven cords of wood. I've done in it in the past, and it's a workout, but it sure feels good. There are times I think I would benefit from having a tractor, but then I realize life is better this way.

I had my seminal fatherly moment last week playing catch with my son for the first time. We signed him up for T-ball and he loves it, even if I think the kids are way too young and uncoordinated to be playing it. They don't have the hand-eye yet, as alluded to by our family dentist, Dr. B. I agree, but he is having fun, and if you can believe this one, I'm actually helping out coaching. It doesn't get any more "real man" than this.

More to come soon. Sorry for being such a flake. Until then, thanks for reading.