As it happens, yesterday did not turn out to be a day devoted exclusively to processing firewood. There was some digging. Regardless, it was a highly productive day.
I began as planned, cutting logs into stove-length chunks ready for stacking, or splitting and stacking, as required. I quickly realized I was going to have to stop and sharpen my chainsaw. Now, I thought I might have to do this before I began, but I didn't feel like it, and so I chose the easy way of going ahead and sawing anyway.
I did, in fact, have to stop after a brief period. While sharpening, the rain began again in earnest. Somewhat dismayed, I looked at the growing pile of split wood exposed to the rain (thinking, not of next winter, but of the next few weeks - this is also my heating supply while I am up here). I looked at the open overhang attached to the Abode (the 'wood shed'), and I noted the litter of tools, spare lumber piled on sawhorses, the generator, and etc. and tried to figure out where I might stack the wood.
If you've viewed a picture of the Abode, you'll note it is built on sloping ground. The area under the overhang is not so steeply pitched as that under the main structure, but it sloped nonetheless, and had a rather large mound of grass, what used to be an anthill, in the middle of it. (On a side note: one of my ongoing projects is terracing and leveling the ground around the Abode.)
So, much as I knew my chainsaw needed sharpening, I also knew that the ground under the shed needed leveling, and organizing, and that I had to arrange alternative storage for much of the material underneath to make room for wood storage. Wood storage is its intended purpose.
Now, a cord of wood is 128 cubic feet - generally stacked 4' deep x 4' high x 8' wide. Of course, four foot logs are unwieldy, so the depth is usually broken into stove lengths, so one ends up with a stack 16"-22"deep x 4' high x 8' wide. Up here, and elsewhere for all I know, this is referred to as a 'face' cord: that which is sold is only the 'face' of a full cord. Price will vary dependent upon typical economic factors and the participants.
My wood storage area, if filled to the base of the rafters, is 12' deep x 8' wide x 8' high. This permits the sheltered storage of six full cords of wood, which should be more than sufficient for a single heating season (see how nicely it all begins to hang together?)
Of course, I was left with the problem of the shed's utility, which was low.
So I was faced with a choice: follow the path of expediency, which I did with predictable results in the matter of the chainsaw, or change tack and improve the wood shed. You can see the results below:
The equipment will ultimately disappear as the main house and shop are built - but for now, I need a small work bench, sheltered space for the generator, and storage that does not take up floor space.
So first, I installed a kick plate along the Abode's north wall, using a leftover 2 x 6 x 12 from the shed's construction. I had purchased some lumber when I arrived, and hauled it up the hill, confident I would find use for it. A portion of this lumber facilitated joists, to which I moved most remaining lumber, all garden tools, and a few smaller items on the platform provided by the lumber. I next hung all tools and equipment and fashioned the workbench.
All this was necessary just to attack the real issue: leveling the floor. This involved placing a 4 x 6 x 8 across the lower end of the slope, leveling it, and staking it in place. I next removed soil from the higher end until I had a channel deep enough to hold the second timber, and ensured that the tops of the two timbers were level with each other by means of a line level.
I allowed some slight slope to remain to promote runoff to the lower end.
Next, the dirt had to be loosened, leveled, and compacted. Finally, I retrieved 14 50-pound bags of gravel from the bridge site, where they were staged for pouring of the second footer, hauled them up the hill, and spread the gravel atop the level, compacted soil, and in turn compacted the gravel.
This was not fun. I did it in stages of 25 meters each, shuttling two bags forward 25 meters, returning for the next two, until the pile had been moved, then repeating the process in 25 meter increments until all fourteen bags were up the hill. As it had been raining, the hill was muddy and slippery in places.
I include this comment because one of the things I am discovering as I undertake this process of homesteading is that patience is very much required - the scale of a man's labor is dwarfed by the effects of machinery and energy. What took and hour and a half of hard slogging, the heavy consumption of water, and the intent to use only what was necessary and no more, could have been accomplished in about ten minutes with the bridge in place, using just my Subaru to haul the stone uphill, with extra thrown in for good measure.
There is a lesson here, one which I will return to in a future post. In point of fact, it is this very lesson I am teaching myself, as I undertake this process. We all know it, intuitively, but to face it, to feel it, to endure it is a far, far different thing. And that lesson is that, absent the leverage of complex machinery and abundant energy, particularly fuel, progress is slow, tiring, and best approached with deliberation and foresight.
I choose to endure it because I believe that in the not so distant future, I, or perhaps my children, but no later than that, will have no choice but to perform many of our tasks in this manner; I would rather creep up on the concept that have it starkly confront me. We simply will not have the resources, particularly abundant fuel (notice I didn't say energy), to lavish on such luxuries as allowing each and every high school student to consume gasoline driving their own, personal, two-ton chunk of steel to school in the morning.
We will have energy - energy is abundant. What we won't have in abundance is fuel, which is necessary to power most large equipment. Because of these realities, I anticipate a future where I am plowing with a horse with a cell phone in my pocket.
(The subject of why fuel and energy are not the same could involve several posts all on its own; however, I would direct the interested reader here: The Archdruid Report, for an excellent treatment in the linked and subsequent articles on the nature of energy and fuels.)
Our choices for energy use will return to more rational ones - when do I really need to light the fire, as opposed to throw an extra blanket on, given that lighting the fire means the consumption of at least an hour's labor, stored as fuel out in the wood shed.
More on this later. The real point is that I now have a suitable space for wood storage, and a sharp chainsaw, and another day, and I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1.