We’re not wood snobs. If it will burn well, into the firewood pile it goes. So while cutting, moving, and stacking wood, some real ugly cusses get brought along in the process. They can screw up a good woodpile because they can be grotesquely misshapen, so I often put them on top. But where they really gum up the works is in the splitting.
I enjoy splitting wood, so we dry it out for a couple years in 16-inch rounds, and when it’s time for burning a batch I split it as we go, getting some good, therapeutic bashing in during the long winter. But periodically these ugly cusses appear again and laugh at me. I don’t bother fighting them anymore. I take the twisted, knotty, mean-spirited, crotchety sons-a-bitches and throw them on a pile all their own.
There they whoop it up together until it gets real cold. They get to feeling brittle, maybe laugh a little less. That’s when I gear up for battle. And I kick some serious wood butt.
When it hit -30 F this past week, I sharpened up the splitting maul, put on some loose light clothes, and went out to say howdy to the Quasimodo pile. It’s hard to describe just how wonderful it is to split wood when it is this cold. The regular pieces you just need to look at cross-eyed and they’ll leap apart like Zeus zapped ‘em with a lightning bolt. The Quasimodos like to act tough, but at these temperatures it is frankly no contest. I win, and win, and win, and win. Every swing’s a winner.
The beauty of making big ugly pieces into split firewood with the ringing smacks of a sharp, eight-pound splitting maul swung with high speed and precision just makes life seem good all around. It is high therapy. So I usually have a big smile on my face when the first really cold temperatures hit. And we get to burn the proceeds all week.
P.S. I used to call it the Minus-40 Quasimodo Smackdown, but then we had a whole year go by without the requisite temperature, and the Quasimodo pile grew too large. So I realized that I’d better get with the times and change the label. It’s just one of the clear signs of global warming in Alaska’s interior: “Fairbanks is 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter and 11 percent drier than it was in the early 20th century, according to data gathered by the Alaska Climate Research Center. (The growing season is marked by the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall.) These changes have stretched the growing season from 85 to 123 days in the past century.”