Saturday, September 29, 2012

Impromptu Splitting

I’m not usually one for impromptu anything. Especially field trips.

But last night my husband announced that he was going to our friend’s house in the morning to cut firewood. Nobody said anything but I’m pretty certain that the PBA and I were all thinking the same thing, “Can we go?” But we also all knew that it was a school day and seeing a show I don’t do things spur-of-the-moment, we all knew there was no hoping I’d change my mind.
I waited until the boys went to bed before I asked my husband if we could tag along on the trip.  I had already decided that we were going regardless of what he said, so I was just hoping he’d say yes…things would be less messy that way.

When I got the boys up at their usual time, I told them we were going on a field trip instead of having school and asked if that would be alright. At first there was slight hesitation and some confusion about what was being asked. They’ve met me; they know I don’t deviate from the plans.
Once they processed what I was asking, they were all in. We got ready and loaded up our stuff. Including the dog; yes we took him…what a spaz he is in the car. Someone please remind me of such things BEFORE I initiate taking him…oh, wait. My husband kind of did that, but I insisted. What was I thinking?

He started out in the backseat, between the boys. Then he took a turn on each of their laps. Up to the front seat in my lap next. Then on the armrest between us, and eventually into my husband’s lap. Then back to mine, mostly for the duration. The highlight for him was barking ferociously and triying to get out the window when we passed by a couple horses. They were pretty menacing, standing there in their field, chomping on their breakfast.
One other thing to mention about Indy… we did not feed him before we situated him in the car. Yes, in addition to being so adorable and obedient, he has another characteristic which makes him so endearing…he gets car-sick. Oh yes. The first time we took him to cut firewood, he threw up in the car. We asked the vet about it, and she said it’s from car-sickness. Really? Now he just drools the whole time he’s in the car, which the vet also said is the precursor to the vomiting. So we avoid the vomit by making sure there’s nothing in his belly.

Anyway, this was supposed to be about the PBA field trip to Cloverdale and not about my dog’s charming character traits.
Ok so as I was saying…we packed up the car (dog included) and we were on our way. Everything we needed for a day of splitting firewood: a chainsaw, a jug of gasoline, a bale of hay, a bow and quiver of arrows, a couple BB guns (a rifle and a pistol), and a box of BBs. And a cooler (we needed at least a little sustenance with all the work we were planning to do) with some snacks.

As we rolled along the country roads, in a rusty pick-up (yes it’s a company truck and I am thankful beyond words for it…but it is still a little beat-up), each of us in jeans and boots, and I with a stinky dog on my lap, my husband was quick to point out that this situation was “so me”. It did occur to me that this scene, including the two giggly boys in the back of the cab, were not at all what I thought God’s vision for my life to be, but yet I couldn’t imagine things being any different.
Sorry to get all misty on you…I don't know what came over me. We now return you to the surface and shallowness of my blog.

After almost an hour of bumping along, we arrived at our destination…yes, I said bumping. That is not a shot on my husband’s driving. The shocks in the truck leave a little bit to be desired.  We all hopped out and within about a minute, I remembered the one thing I told myself NOT to forget to pack. Bug spray. Those mosquitoes were on me in a second. Fortunately, our friend Dennis (the one who owns the property) keeps a supply on hand. I high-tailed it for the house to spray myself (and the PBA, much to their chagrin…I mean the smell of Deep-Woods Off is so lovely in the fall, but somehow doesn’t taste as good as it smells. And somehow they always end up with it in their mouths, even though I am barking at them to keep their mouths CLOSED!). But the bites on my arm are my reminder today that I should simply keep bug spray in the car all the time.
By the time we walked back to the truck, my husband and Dennis were nowhere to be found, but we could hear a chainsaw humming away. Not ones to waste time, they were cutting down a tree that Dennis had chosen just for us. A tall, dead Red Elm, which burns hot and smells delicious. The chainsaw worked away for a while, then suddenly we heard the tell-tale crack of splitting wood. And then silence. As we waited, we eventually saw them emerge from the trees. It’s always a relief when you see the same two people come walking back from the woods who went in to cut the tree. You never can tell EXACTLY which way the tree’s going to fall and I usually find that I hold my breath while it’s going on.

Dennis drove the tractor back to the tree, chained it up and drug it up to the clearing. He and my husband began cutting it up into smaller chunks. My 11yo carried them over to me; I got to run the 34 ton splitter. On yeah…and I don't really know what that “34 tons” means in terms of how it operates, but I do know this: it would definitely take off a finger in a hot second if you weren't paying attention.. After I split the logs, I handed them to the 9yo who stacked them in the back of our truck. It was fantastic, I tell you. Our own little assembly-line. And the B.E.S.T. part: No one was complaining, no one was whining, no one was arguing. I was definitely a proud mama.
Yes, this is a totally-staged photo...Dennis just wanted a picture of me by the splitter.
Once our tree was cut and split, we began splitting wood for Dennis and his wife Linda (who missed out on all the fun b/c she was at work). Dennis had cut down other trees over the course of the summer and cut them into large logs. He’d bull-dozed them into a large pile, from which we were pulling and splitting. My husband and Dennis were handling the splitting, and I was pulling logs out of the pile. I really should have taken a picture before we started working, because after a while, it felt like a big Jenga game…I was pulling out only the logs I could handle on my own, while trying to make sure the ones above them didn’t come crashing down on my head (or feet).
Once I had gotten all the ones I could handle, my husband pulled some out that he and Dennis were able to cut together. As an aside, Dennis & Linda heat their home all winter with wood from their 40-acre property. They try to have at least 10 cords of wood (a cord measures 4x4x8 feet) ready to burn. So when we go to cut our wood (for which we are ever so grateful!), we help them as well. (We got about a cord cut and stacked on the back porch for them yesterday.)

One other thing to mention about this over-sized Jenga pile, it had been covered with a tarp, the intent to keep the wood dry. However the pieces at the bottom were a little damp…and we all know what grows in dark, dank places…that’s right. Fungi.  On one big log, we discovered a mushroom we’d never seen before…it was a Rhodotus palmatus to be exact. My 11yo got all animated and said to me, “We could take a picture of it and then Google it when we get home! Oh wow! I’m turning into you! Nooooo!”  A higher compliment has never been paid. Proof right here that this homeschooling experiment is working.
Now, this huge piece of property is good for so much more than simply cutting firewood…the PBA have visions of caravanning out there with a bunch of friends for a big Hunger Games event. I told them to stand down on that plan for a while. Hunting season is coming up soon…we don’t want to be out there during that. Dennis and Linda have trouble with poachers hunting on their land, which can make things dangerous for all of them. So I told the PBA, “Maybe some other time, like in the spring.” I’m hoping they forget. It’s doubtful that they will. They have that selective memory thing going on.

But remember those other things we brought with us for the day?  The bale of hay, a bow and quiver of arrows, a couple BB guns, and the BBs? Those were all things to be put to good use now. While the tree was coming down and the PBA and I were waiting, they took turns shooting BBs and arrows at the bale. Breaks were taken as well, in which the boys each got to ride on a 4-wheeler. My husband went with the 9yo. I, in turn, had the pleasure of riding with the 11yo. He drove; I held on for dear life. The scariest part was when I was looking to the side (I don’t know what I was thinking) and he yelled, “Duck!” just as we were about to hit a low-lying branch. Now, it was a thin little “bendy” branch, as he called it, yet it would have left quite a welt had it hit us as we were going full-speed. And there was one other somewhat tense moment, when we were racing for a tree, dead-on. Fortunately he stopped about a foot away from the trunk. We were finished with the 4-wheeler after that.

A couple other high points of the day which don’t really have a story behind them but are somewhat noteworthy (that is…the boys would want me to tell you):
  • The 9yo got to help steer the tractor.
  • The 11yo got to help run the 34 ton log splitter (and his mother was terrified the whole time, even though she’s the one who trained him…yes, I sometimes slip into third person when I am deflecting).
  • Dennis is a hunter and commented that my 11yo was really a pretty good marksman, especially considering he hadn’t really been trained other than by trial and error. And though my 11yo would never shoot his arrows with the intention of killing anything, Dennis was able to give him some tips on shooting.
  • Apparently peeing outside was also really fun. I didn't try it myself, but all three of my boys did.
  • The oh-so-woodsy dog is still stinky (and probably still a little bit muddy), and those fluffy ears and tail are like magnets for burrs. The good news is, however, that his flea and tick medicine appears to have done its job well!

In addition to the filling up the bed of the truck with fantastic firewood, the second best part of the day was when Dennis gave our 11yo one of his knives. Dennis told him how to open and close it, and then had my child try it (man, I was strumming…I mean, he knows how to handle a knife, but I still am a Nervous Nellie with things like that. And you should have seen me with the 9yo and the BB Pistol yesterday…he was really good about keeping his safety goggles on but I had to continually remind him, ”Point that thing DOWN!”)

Anyway, the knife. I knew full-well that my son would never intentionally hurt anyone or any of God’s creatures…fishing even bothers him a little bit. Such a tender heart. So that wasn’t what concerned me…it’s the idea of who might get a hold of the knife…a story for another time. Dennis then proceeded to demonstrate how this knife could be used on a stick for whittling, etc. And then, the best part...the look on my son's face when Dennis said you could clean or gut an animal with that knife. I think he would have declined the knife, simply based on that, but he is an 11yo boy and it was a knife. How could he resist?
For the ride home, we were loaded down. All the weapons, plus the chainsaw and gas can all rode in the cab. The hay bale lost bits and pieces all the way down the road, as it rested on top of the woodpile in the back. We anticipated a quiet ride, what with all the fresh air and exercise of the day. We especially expected that the dog would settle down…his breakfast had long-before been digested, and with all the yapping he was doing while we were working, we knew he had to be exhausted. And yet, he choose this time for his latest revelation.  We had the windows down, because, as I said, the gas can was riding in the cab. We opted not to be overcome by the fumes. Our dog, who does not like anyone to blow in his face, discovered that he L.O.V.E.S. to put his head out the window. So much so that he was trying to hold onto the sill with his non-opposable thumbs when I rolled up the window in preparation for the interstate.

All in all it was a great field trip. We all learned something new…me especially: a little improv in your life isn’t always a bad thing.

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