Monday, September 03, 2012

Product: Raspberry Leaf

You should support the Female System too!

Ummm... no comment.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Product: Lay's Dill Pickle

Aren't potatoes enough?

Unfortunately they contain absolutely no pickles.

Product: Blue Monster

Found in the Creepy Products department of a big box hardware store.

Like Wet Ones for a home contractor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some Notes on Splitting Wood

I've posted notes here before about firewood. Buying, stacking, burning. About wood pellets. Buying, stacking, burning. But I think I haven't given much time to splitting of wood. The old saw about firewood is that it burns twice: once, when you cut, split, and stack it - and again, when you burn it.

Back around Halloween 2011, we received a surprise snow storm. Now we realize that it was to be just about the only snow we'd see even during the winter. This storm would have had a much different effect if it came a few weeks later when the leaves would have fallen off the deciduous trees. In my neighborhood the significant trees are tall straight oaks which unfortunately still had leaves. The snow caused loud pops and cracks while limbs fell under the weight of the snow clinging to the leaves and the branches. You can see in the photo below what things looked like the next day. For us, there was little damage. Many branches were down - oh and we had no electrical power for a week. But fortunately for us, we did have town water, town sewer, and a wood stove - and two chainsaws in questionable condition.

Which brings me back to wood. In the weeks after the storm, my neighbors had some damaged trees taken down. Fortunately for me, they offered me the firewood. Fortunately for them, they didn't have to pay to have the wood carted off. I've split wood before, but not that much. And this was a lot of wood. I've split probably two cords of it and there is more to go. Good thing I built that wood shelter just before the storm.

In order to split wood, you need a tool called a maul. Not this kind of maul. A maul looks like a big axe. Like something the tin woodman would carry, but a little too heavy to be a good movie prop. It is basically a heavy metal wedge on the end of a handle. The blade is blunt, because it doesn't cut wood. When you lift it over your head and swing it down, it bends and stresses the wood, so whack the end of a log the wood splits. 

I use the maul below, which I inherited from my brother. It's a 5 lb. maul with a fiberglass handle. After my first week of serious splitting, the maul literally flew off the handle because it loosened up and because the epoxy holding it cracked after I used the back of the maul as a sledge hammer. The latter was a bad idea. A maul is not a sledge hammer. After a little web research, I learned that you could reattach a fiberglass handle with over-the-counter hardware-store epoxy. It took about two of those epoxy syringes worth to fill the gap. After a few days of curing, it was ready. This saved me from buying a new maul, a new handle, or a repair kit.

Besides a maul, you need goggles for eye protection, gloves for hand and mostly skin protection, a thick belt for lower-back protection, and good sturdy shoes. When I shot the photos below, I got lazy for a moment switching from holding the maul to removing my gloves to hold the camera. After two whacks with the maul, I instantly had a blister. I wear glasses and goggles, but I still get an occasional small chip of wood hit me near my eyes.

Splitting wood is quite rewarding. And if you are lucky, you will have wood that is straight without knots or branches. If you are really lucky, it will have a nice hairline crack (see photo below) started on it's own. It develops that kind of crack from the stress of being cut and from some drying that occurs by the time you get to split it. This wood was cut about 3 months ago. It split nicely when it was brand new and still splits well. It split well while frozen and while warmer.

Splitting wood requires some patience and mindfulness. I was near the end of a run when I took this series of photos, so I was paying less attention. You can see the the first hit with the Maul completely missed the natural crack.

The next whack, hit the crack and split the log. This log is about 17 inches tall and about the same in diameter. Fortunately for me most of the logs were cut to about 18 inches which is just right for fitting into our wood stove.

It is important to pay attention, to be mindful, and to never split wood if you are tired.
If I was paying attention, I would have cleaved the log on the first whack, but I did so on the third attempt. This is one of the most rewarding things about splitting wood. You hit this massive log that weighs perhaps 60 pounds and of course took years to grow and with a swing of a 5 lb. maul and a loud crack it splits.

Once you split it in half, splitting the rest is easy as pie, but don't forget to pay attention.

Fresh split oak has that cheesy smell just like sour milk on a baby's breath. You probably think I'm kidding, but it does.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Occupy Everything

This morning, I noticed an improved highway billboard on Route 91 South in Northampton, Massachusetts. It was between exits 21 and 20 and visible from North King Street.

It's 4:30pm now and the message is gone. The billboard again reads that the space is available for rent.

Only yesterday an Occupy Wall Street biodiesel bus visited our city.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dreams For My Daughter - February 28, 2006

Back when my daughter was much younger, I'd "give her a dream" to launch her off to sleep.

February 28, 2006

You close your eyes and you are looking for your dream. You walk over a hill. No dream. Through the woods. No dream. Down to the stream. You look in the water for the dream. You follow the stream to a waterfall and look under the waterfall. Still no dream. You follow the stream to a field and there in the field you see the dream. There are wonderful flowers all around. You pick up the dream and put it in your mouth. You lay down on the warm grass and go to sleep and dream.

(Filed under dreams for my daughter.) 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dreams For My Daughter - February 26, 2006

When my daughter was young, I would make up stories for her. Later these became what we called "dreams" that I would give her to launch her on her way to sleep. "Give me a dream," she would say. I never did follow up to see if she actually had these dreams, but they made for a good enough end of a day for her. Afterwards I could close her door and tiptoe back upstairs to end my day.

When she was a little older than eight, I wrote a few down as best I could remember. Here's the first one I wrote. I will post a few more and tag them 'dreams for my daughter'. See if they work for you or for your little one if you are trying to make a soft landing at the end of a big day.

Photo taken late December, 2005.
February 26, 2006

There once was a girl who went to sleep and when she woke she was on another planet far far away. She was lying by a big red lake, under a purple tree, warming herself under seven suns and drinking a luscious space shake. Other planet the gravity was lighter, so every time she took a step, she would jump ten feet. So she jumped over a hill and saw many friendly children and played with them all day.

(Filed under dreams for my daughter.)  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our New Wood Shelter with Recycled Roof Material

A plastic tarp and pile of snow on the firewood has lost its charm, so I recently built a shelter for our firewood. It's most free-standing, so it can be removed if we need to.

I didn't want to spend $200+ to buy something nifty like corrugated plastic for the roof, so I used discarded materials from work - plastic coated printed Gatorboard ™.

If it leaks a little, it will be better than a tarp and easy to deal with.