You Da Man!
Standing at the back of the tee box, you gaze down the fairway and pick your landing spot. You visualize each aspect of your swing and follow the path the ball will take in your mind. Mentally, you see the ball landing gently 230 yards down the fairway, rolling another 30 before coming to a gentle stop. With this image in your mind you address the ball. Nice waggle as you fix the target in your mind. The club swings back into the perfect back swing, pausing ever so briefly at the top. The club comes back to the ball in perfect alignment. You can feel it. You can hear it. Perfect follow through with your trailing foot perfectly turned up on its toe. This shot feels so good that you just have to hold the position — savor the moment. The ball lands exactly as you’ve envisioned and you are so focused that you can barely hear your buddies shouting “You da man!”
We’ve all had shots like that. Well, maybe not quite 230 yards of carry, but the perfect shot has stung each one of us and we hunger and thirst for that to come back again. We all know the expression — Drive for show and putt for dough. But, oh it feels so right when you crush one off the tee (even though you’ll probably still bogey the hole 8=)
The Beauty and The Beast
That feeling can come from many different activities. There is that rush of adrenaline from the raw power. There is the satisfaction of watching something that you’ve set into motion unfolding before your eyes. Something that, once started, cannot be stopped or altered — only hope remains. There is a combination of finesse (The Beauty) and power (The Beast). Other sports have their equivalents — the hail-mary pass into the receiver’s waiting arms, the buzzer beater from your own side of half court, the seeing eye one-timer from the blue line that lights the goal light.
About 9 years ago I discovered that there is another activity that can give that same feeling. I discovered that there is a reason why lumberjacks yell “TIMBER!” It isn’t just a warning, it is a victory cry.
When I was a teenager, a friend of ours came to help us clear out a tree in the yard that needed to come down for some reason. I don’t remember the reason, but I do remember the impressions of power and skill as I watched him expertly steer the tree to the ground exactly where he planned it to land. Although I never touched a chainsaw for the next 25 years, I remembered that moment as well as the tips he gave me. It was etched in my mind forever.
A chainsaw is all about power. The saw that I currently use is a mid sized saw with a relatively short bar. This gives me a good compromise between power and maneuverability with the saw. I used to use a saw with a bigger bar, but it actually had less power and it made cutting much more difficult. As with all things in life, there is lots to learn.
There is a lot of danger with a chainsaw as well. There are many safety features on modern saws, but they are probably one of the most dangerous and destructive hand held devices short of projectile weapons and explosives.
There is a tremendous amount of power in a falling tree as well. When a tree, even one that is a mid-sized tree, falls to the ground unhindered there are repercussions for anything that gets in its way. The ground shakes and there is an ear-splitting thump.
So, it goes without saying that successfully cutting down a tree and having it land where you want it to go without crushing you or small cars is a very satisfying experience. It is the lumberjack’s equivalent of striping one down the middle.
Spring and Summer Workout
So, cutting trees has become part of my fitness workout. In the course of a year I will usually try to cut about 60 to 80 trees to make enough firewood for the winter. Even with the help of the powerful saw, this is a very labour intensive process. The process requires carrying the saw and other equipment through the rough bush to get into position. Running the saw is something that requires both brute strength and fine motor control at the same time.
Plus, what other activities will let you wear bright orange chaps and still look manly!
Phase 1 — Felling, Limbing, Bucking and Skidding
Starting in the early spring I begin to cut the trees for next winter’s wood supply. I try to get in 2 hours of cutting each day on the weekend and sometimes a couple days during the week. It depends upon how well the weather is co-operating and how tired I am. I don’t like to be cutting in the bush when it is raining. It gets too slippery under foot.
This stage of cutting involves felling the trees, limbing them (cutting off the branches) and bucking them (cutting them into logs). A medium sized tree will take about 30 to 45 minutes.
The logs are then skidded (dragged) by ATV or transported in the pickup to the cutting station. Skidding is much easier since the logs do not need to be lifted as much, but transporting them in the pickup doesn’t chew up the ground as much (which is important if the logs need to come across the yard). It also gets less mud on the logs which saves the chainsaw later on.
In all, it takes about 3 hours to get a cord’s worth of logs to the cutting station. That means I’ve got about 45 hours of work each spring to get the 15 cords I need.
Phase 2 — Cutting, Splitting and Stacking
By the early summer it is time to cut the logs into stove lengths, split them and stack them to dry. I have set up a special cutting station that helps make this a little easier and involves less bending. But there is still a lot of lifting and moving wood around.
Splitting the wood is done using a splitting maul. This is a cross between a sledge hammer and an axe. It uses the width of the wedge together with the momentum to split the wood rather than the sharpness of the edge as an axe does. This activity works a whole new set of muscles.
Once again, I like to work 2 to 3 hours at this about 3 or 4 days a week until it is done. These activities can be done even in a light rain. In fact, rain is preferable to sunny conditions just to keep from getting too hot or sun burned.
One exception is the years where I get behind. In these cases we will rent a power splitter. This machine is a marvel and can split even the thickest, knottiest log in about 5 seconds. It uses a hydraulic ram to force a splitting wedge through the log. It takes at least 2 people to run this machine efficiently although 3 is best. We take turns with one person running the machine, 1 loading logs in and one taking the finished pieces away.
Since the machine is rented by the day and my helpers usually come just for a weekend, we run this operation for 8 to 12 hours in a single day.
Each cord of firewood will take about 4 hours to go through the cutting, splitting and stacking process which gives me another 60 hours of work.
Phase 3 — Seasoning
Once the wood is stacked I get to spend more time golfing (I wish 8=). The rest of the process is dependant upon the sun and wind. The wood will dry as the elements wick moisture out of the wood. A sunny day with lots of wind is great for this, which is why I aim to have everything stacked by early August. Maybe this year will be the one where I actually get it done!
During this time I can either take a break from working with the wood or get a head start on the felling for next year until it is time to begin the Fall and Winter routine.
Then, during the winter while the snow piles up outside and the wind howls, I can sit by the fire and keep my family warm — literally by the sweat of my brow. It’s a sweet feeling.