Monday, March 24, 2008

The End of Wood

The end of wood is rather like the end of days, except colder. This winter has been long and cold and we are down to the nubs in our wood pile. Our neighbor, Dave, calls the old Alder wood we are burning now "punky" because it is rotted and pretty darn useless in terms of generating much heat. I hope the warm weather hurries up because the animals are low on hay too.

If we were in Arizona, it would be spring training for the San Franscico Giants and the Chicago Cubs and all the other folks who know where to find the warm, sunny weather. But, no, we are caught between the greenest grass that will need to be mowed soon, and the greyest, dismal skies you ever saw. For me, this is colder than snow, especially when I don't light the woodstove downstairs, partly because I don't feel like hiking up and down the stairs all day to make sure it is stoked and partly I am saving it for Greg's return in the evening.

Last spring when Greg was cutting down windfall and making large piles for Dave's teenage son to split in the summer, it seemed we had enough wood for many seasons. Looking at the time and energy it takes to turn wood into heat, however, makes you stop and question the efficiency of it all. There is the labor to cut a downed tree into lengths to fit a wood stove, to chop each length at least into quarters, haul the wood back to a pile you are stacking, stack the rest farther from the house because you have used up all your space, collect wood for kindling and stack this too, make sure the roof covering the wood doesn't leak. Come the cold season, the wood has to be hauled inside a little at a time, dropped into the wood stove with enough newspaper and kindling to get a fire started, prodded and pushed around, replenished, and the next morning, the ashes in the ash pan need to be dumped into an ash be scattered on the garden.

Or would you rather just flip a switch? Of course, when we are at the end of days, we will have a way to heat our house and those that flip a switch will do so to no avail. However, like the end of wood... which is only temporary because there are more downed trees from the winter and I can hear Greg out with his chain saw already, and the Dave's son is still in school, so he will be needing to make money to pay for gas and car insurance and all the things teenage boys need...the end of days may not come for several life times. All this human energy, expended into the universe, to harness energy from the natural world. Where does this leave us? I guess you could say warmer for swinging the axe and hauling in the wood, than if we were just sitting on our behind writing blogs into a computer!

Photo: Radio Flyers have many uses on a farm, like hauling wood into the house. The wood pile is that skimpy thing about two rows high in the background!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Strange Noises Coming from the Barn

I am a good listener when it involves our barn and the animals it houses (maybe not so good when it comes to my spouse). Hollow, stomping sounds, either first thing in the morning or at feeding time in the evening can't mean anything but mischief. Uninvited. Unapproved. Probably mayhem, if I want to be honest.

Did I remember to double lock the stall doors the last time I was in the barn? Does this sound like horses, sheep, or both? How much hay did I leave in the aisles? Are there extra bales lying around for the next feeding? How long have they been in there? What have they been doing? And, the big question: who is "they"?

It never fails that the first one to look up unabashedly is Tater. "Howdy pardner. What's up? Who me?" Except he says this in horse thoughts, while the rest of the animals, especially the sheep, are high-tailing it out the closest door, the one that Tater opened. I don't know if it is the length of the winter that is beginning to wear on all of us, but I am not allowed even one little slip-up these days. If that clip isn't fixed through the latch, Tater has the stall doors open and there is pandemonium in the barn.

If it were just curiosity to wander the barn aisles, it wouldn't be that bad. But spreading the hay all over the floor and then pooping on it is a bit much. Or, how about pulling at the newly shorn wool I had drying on tarps in the middle of the floor. Out through the hay. Out through the poop. Buckets are tipped over, anything lying around is checked out, and the cleaning forks lie scattered on the ground.

I suppose I am lucky so far. Tater only seems to be able to open a stall door latch from the opposite side with his head arched over the door. He hasn't figured out the human approach of backing the bolt out of the slot while standing in front of it. Lucky, because if he could do this he would have access to the feed stall and all the yummies that lie therein. Then we would be dealing with sick animals and vets for sure.

At the moment, the only thing getting into the feed stall are the rats. They are incredibly talented at chewing holes in my large plastic trash cans for the molasses-covered corn and oats. I never noticed at first, but it did seem the feed was going down awfully fast. It also explained why Rosie, my young ewe lamb, kept making a mad dash for the feed stall every time I opened the door. I turned on the light. There was a mound of fresh grain strewn across the floor. I never realized a rat could move that amount of material in such a short time!

The solution for the rats was not as simple as a carabiner, but far more deadly. I bought traps. Caught two in the first week, but think the others are on to my plan as I haven't caught any since. Maybe my listening isn't quite as good as it should be, but I imagine, if it were, I could hear rats laughing under the floor boards every time Tater opens another stall door.

Photo: Muddy Tater chewing on the gate and ready to get to the other grass, just more mud, but "Hey" it's the other side.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones
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