What follows is the first installment from my "Little House Behind the Back Woods" series.
Nothing compares to going to bed after a long and productive day of intense physical labour in the great wide open Maine outdoors. I have been diligently striving to reclaim parts of the yard that 26 years of my absence has allowed to 'go native'. For those of you who know me personally the concept of my doing ANYTHING physically taxing is cause for mild amusement if not an outright guffaw. Now picture me dressed in beat-up jeans, a long sleeved undershirt layered beneath a flannel over shirt. Completing the ensemble are a pair of above-the-ankle work boots, a pair of heavy leather work gloves and to top it all off......wait for it............a baseball cap! Returning to Maine has completely changed my life---and lifestyle. If anyone had shown me a picture of what I'd look like in October back in May while I was still in Texas I'd probably have canceled the moving van. Once I'd stopped laughing that is.
As it happens, I am back on the land of my birth and the American roots of my family history and find that I am embracing it far more and far faster than I thought I would. The past two days have been devoted to clearing under brush, trimming dead branches from the immediate forest surrounding the house and the fine art of firewood. Yes, firewood. Along with the clearing and pruning there were several trees that needed to come down having long since died. I have laid them to rest, dismembered their limbs, chopped up the trunks and then split the chunks into hearth sized morsels. From about 8am to dusk (around 6 pm). The undergrowth must first be cut, then hauled into the open, gathered, secured, and hauled again to its final resting place in a field beyond the tree line. Same goes for the pruned branches. The metric ass-load of leaves found their way there last week. When it becomes too dark for me to see what I'm doing I go inside, eat a hearty dinner (which I put into the crock pot at 7 am that morning) followed by some needlework and then off to bed. Oh, the absolute bliss of laying down in a bed with line-dried linens and falling into a deep, restful sleep having ruminated about all that had been accomplished and planning out tomorrows itinerary. Up the next morning at 6 am--after a cup of coffee, a few cigarettes. and two Alleve I'm good to go.
There's an art to stacking firewood. I now have a stack that is four feet high and fifteen feet long. That's a lot of chopping, splitting, and stacking. If anyone has ever seen the PBS series "Colonial House" you have a good idea what I'm talking about. I would like to think I've done something extraordinary but the truth is it's what everyone here does to keep warm and survive the winter. Heating oil is a very dear commodity in these parts so it has to be supplemented with alternative fuel ie wood. I am really appreciating what all of our forebears had to do before someone invented flipping a switch. I am also appreciating what hard physical work does for one's mind and self esteem. I have several thoughts on that subject which I'll share tomorrow. It's amazing what one can learn from a wood pile.
Until tomorrow I leave you with a blessing--may your axe hold its' edge til the last tree's felled.