Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chopping Firewood

This is really an image that could have been posted in the spring. From the look of the trees in the background, I feel safe in assuming that this image was probably taken in April or May. Ideally, firewood was cut in the middle of winter when the ground was frozen solid. This provided footing for the horses or oxen and made hauling or skidding logs out of the woods somewhat easier. Winter was also an excellent time for this sort of work because occupations like farming and fishing tended to have a bit more down time during the winter months. This time would have been spent in the woods chopping trees and preparing for the next winter. The trees themselves would have been cut into shorter lengths, split and left to dry until the Fall. When the weather got cold again, the wood would be brought inside to burn. In a pre-industrial age, the cycle of the seasons controlled many of the activities of those living in Annapolis County.

As one of those who still heats their home with wood, I can attest to the truth of the old adage that "wood heats you many times before you burn it". While the most labour intensive part of the process (cutting and chopping) is now done before the wood arrives at our house, there is still some needed work. I must admit that I find chopping wood by hand fun. I love the ring of the axe as it cuts through the wood. The blade sinks into the chopping block with a dull thud and pieces fall to either side. When done properly, chopping a block of wood almost feels effortless. While there is a visceral appeal to chopping wood, I am not sure that this appeal would continue if I were annually processing all of the wood we need for a winter (about 4 cords). Once the split wood has had the chance to spend the spring and summer drying outside, we stack it neatly under cover. During the winter, we usually bring about two weeks worth of wood inside at at a time. There are many times when we have been bringing the wood inside that I have decided that I was warm enough to take off my jacket on a cold winter day.

The image itself comes from the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the gentleman in the photograph. Based on the type of photographic print, I believe that the image was taken in the 1930s.

All for now,
RGS

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