I’m returning to my home and native land Canada in a few weeks and I’ve been thinking incessantly about “chopping wood”.
Chopping wood isn’t easy! Most city folk who try it, look like bumbling fools. Even if they manage to do okay, they last only a few short minutes. It’s a workout!
I’ve chopped many a pieces of wood back of the house on our farm – so let me share a few of my insights into this very misunderstood art.
1. Force is not what it is about. It is all about striking in the right place. Not dead center but thereabouts. Find that spot and you are a winner, she’ll give way like butter to a hot knife.
2. Your axe is you. You are one with the tool. Respect it and keep it sharp, constantly sharpen it.
3. Each piece is different. Some will give way with one blow. Others, wet, old, knotty – you’ll have to turn over and hit with the back of the axe head. Those are the victories you’ll remember.
4. The chopping block matters. Low, flat, hard and wide. Steady and stable. It should stand the test of both time and energy/force. Old and cranky is the best.
5. Listen to the sound as the axe meets the wood. There is a lot to be learned from that.
6. If you keep at it, you can chop wood with your eyes closed. I swear you can, it is an art of the most ancient kind – the art of interacting with the physical forces around us.
7. Choppin wood is a necessary but very lonely job. I know of no machine that can chop wood. It is one person and one swing at a time, over and over. The winters keep coming and the labor must be done.
8. Chopping wood is very important. Our house needs wood to last the winter, to keep the cold away. We chop wood not for sport but of necessity. Respect that, honor that. It isn’t a weekend hobby.
9. The wood has to be stacked. Yes, it is fun chopping but at the end of the hour or the day – you have to measure it all. Find a way that suits you – cross pile, stack straight, lump and cover with a tarp. Whatever works for you but you’ll have to do this. We need the security of knowing we are safe, there is that pile there to keep the cold away.
10. Chopping wood burns A LOT of calories! It is tiring and after a few hours swinging the axe, you’ll be ragged, tired, dragged down…. You’ll get fit but it will always at times “hurt” and be “stressful”. So be warned. But the benefits far outweigh how tiring chopping wood can be!
So there you have it. My few words of wisdom straight from the chopping block.
UPDATE: Here I am, freshly arrived in Canada and chopping wood!