The One Hundred Twenty Dollar Hay Wagon (Wagon Series Part 2)

Part two of our Hay Wagon series is a guest post from my father.  You’ll see comments from “Not Caretaker” from time to time…that’s him.  Don’t be fooled by the pictures.  This is a great hay wagon and cost about half as much as any of mine and pulls straight.  We have put thousands upon thousands of bales on this beauty over the years.  Let me step out of the way and had the microphone to dad.

I would describe myself as thrifty.  That said I am willing to repurpose rebuild or do without.  I bought a wagon running gear from a local fertilizer dealer for $100.00.  It had an anhydrous ammonia tank on it at one time.  This running gear had one distinction from most other running gears in that the whole front axle turns on a center king pin where the usual farm gear steers like a car, both front wheels turn together with a tie rod.   Either running gear will do but the gear like this one will follow whatever is pulling it quite well.

At about this same time I was at a farm auction trying to keep my buyers number in my pocket.  The auctioneer came to a pile of used lumber (oak, spruce) of various dimensions and lengths.  Some of this was new 16’ lumber that had been use for concrete forms .  “What am I offered for this lumber?  $25, $25, $20, $20, ok boys someone start off, what’ll you give?”  I heard myself say “$10”.  The auctioneer said “alright I got $10, give me $15, $15, $14,$11, sold for $10 to number 313”.

Back to how to build $120.00 hay wagon you can see where the money is going.  I sistered  two of the 2X6X16’s together to make a stringer for the foundation of the wagon bed.  Made two of them and fastened them to the wagon gear about forty inches apart.  Then I used 8’ oak boards for the deck and nailed them across the stringers placing them about an inch apart basically building a deck like you might have on your house.  The spacing of the deck gives the guy riding the wagon a good footing and is not slippery like the solid decked wagon written in the first of this series.

There you have a plan for an economical wagon.  You may not be able to buy a used running gear  that cheap as iron prices have driven up the price of farm machinery , but there are still bargains out there.   Used lumber is still a bargain you just have to find it.

Now I want to mention  something about using these wagons.  We stack bales right off the wagon (see videos in earlier posts).  I had an old neighbor, Tommy M, who helped me bale until he retired.  He would run the baler and I would ride the wagon and stack hay.  He always told me he knew how fast to drive by looking back at me, if my tongue was hanging out and I was breathing hard he knew he was driving fast enough.  How I wish he could still drive the baler.

Now that I drive the baler and Head Farm Steward rides the wagon, I know just how fast to drive.

HFS again.  In case you missed it, Part 1 is here.

Generalizing about Specialization

Specialization has made us all wealthy.  Cell phones, packaged meat, refrigeration…the dreams of kings!  All because of specialization.  Focusing on doing one thing very well and doing it repeatedly means I don’t have to do 50 things poorly.  I focus on doing what I do best and hire other specialists to manage the other things.  For example, I no longer turn wrenches on my own cars.  I hire a specialist.  Also, I am not my children’s dentist but I am my son’s barber.  By separating the duties of a roofer from those of a machinist from those of a cardiologist we end up with better roofing, more precise machining and a better chance of surviving when our lifelong assault on our heart becomes more than it can handle.  We are all better off because of specialists.

Generalization lends security.  What if I can’t get to a dentist?  What if I have to perform CPR on that stranger who wrecked his motorcycle on the road?  What if all the roofing companies are overbooked and nobody is available to put a roof on my house?  That’s when we rely broad knowledge and experience.

Everyone bridges the gap.  No person is 100% dedicated to their field.  The best cardiologist in the world is still a human the rest of the day.  She may also be a mother, a child, a volunteer or a welder by day and a dancer by night (she’s a maniac!)

I have to balance this out as well.  If I did nothing but my primary vocation from sunup to sundown I would make more money but I would be bored…and boring.  Well, more boring.  I really like what I do for a living.  It’s exciting, challenging and stimulating.  It is also air-conditioned and comes with a nice, cushy chair and a desk.  Though I don’t even get a cubicle to protect me from communicable diseases, I do have a desk of my very own. I am not the only specialist in my office.  The office is filled with specialists.  Each of us can create, fix, plan or manage our way to corporate profitability (though some get cubes!).

So far this hasn’t been a current events post about the farm but I’ll swing this back to the farm for you now.  I am a specialist in my career but my career does not define me.  I have traded away decades (yup, plural) of my life and a small fortune in training and books to gain the technical knowledge I possess.  Please understand, I take my job seriously.  I work hard to stay current on changes in technology.  That said, I am not my job.  The job is too small to describe me.  It’s just one thing I do.  I am not a specialist on the farm either.  Our speciality is pastured chicken but we also raise pigs, cows, turkeys, ready-to-lay pullets, mushrooms, garden vegetables, children, make tons and tons of compost, cut and manage our woodlot, and grow acres and acres of grass some of which we store in the barn for future use.  Each of these endeavors requires knowledge, practice, education and experience.  Because we do so many things I can only go so deeply into each one.  Why do I stop at 1200 broilers each year?  Because I am a generalist.  That’s all I can handle given our time constraints…for now anyway.  But the same equipment we use to raise broilers allows us to raise pullets for ourselves and for sale.  In fact, our fencing and chicken tractors can be used for pigs as well.  Not only am I a generalist, I try to utilize multi-purpose, non-specialized equipment.

I can set up, design and maintain your SQL Server database.  I can raise, kill and process chickens, turkeys, rabbits, ducks and pigs.  I am, over time, becoming a gardening and canning fool.  I can shingle a roof with the best of them.  I have flipped burgers, watered plants, mowed grass, designed landscaping, framed houses and traveled the length and breadth of North America (and Puerto Rico) training truck mechanics how to use software.  I have changed tires on everything from cars to semi-trailers to tractors.  I have changed diapers.  But I am not rich.  Were I to give up all this generalist nonsense and focus on my career I might be closer to “rich” but I do feel secure knowing we’ll eat well.

Forgive me if the world is less wealthy because I refuse to specialize.  I’m just having too much fun.  Besides, Heinlien said:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Grandma Chism Has Gone Home

I loved my grandma Chism and would like to share a couple of memories of her that stand out in my mind.  Lots of memories of grandma in her house (the house I live in).  She built the kitchen cabinets.  She always hung mistletoe in the back room at Christmas (she loved kisses).  As an adult she came to Christ and spent large volumes of time reading her Bible later in life.  She enjoyed painting.  She made bookshelves for family members using pine and she preferred a fruitwood finish.  She could whip up a lunch for 2 or 20 in the same amount of time, never knowing how many people grandpa would drag to the table for dinner.

She always had cookies on hand.  Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were almost always in quart bags in the freezer.  My cousin (who is 15 years older than me) and I would often share a bag with a glass of milk at the table.  Those cookies say “grandma” to me.  I’ll share the recipe but, please understand, the recipe was written down and she said, “That’s just about right”.  Here it is as written in the Chism Family Cookbook but trust me, add more flour.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Marjory Chism
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. lard or shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix in mixer.

Add by hand:
3 c. oatmeal
1 pkg. chocolate chips

Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.

The Oliver 66

I was 8 at the time and I wasn’t present for the back story but here is my understanding of how it all went down.  It seems there was something grandma was wanting to buy.  Something she really, really wanted to buy but grandpa said she couldn’t because the money was too tight.  This was a normal condition in the household but this time, whatever it was, grandma really wanted it.  Grandpa went to an auction and came home with a 1950 Oliver 66.  Now, try to picture the event.  Grandma was on the porch when grandpa came home with a tractor…after telling her they didn’t have any money.  If you ask me, grandpa thought the price was fair and bought it on impulse but when faced with his wife he said something like, “Well, it’s like the tractor I started farming with.  I bought it for Christopher.”  As if buying a tractor for a grandson would somehow make it all better.  At any rate, it looks like Grandpa:1 Grandma:0.

Fast forward a few weeks (maybe months).  The family makes the drive 100 miles to visit grandma and grandpa at the farm.  Both are at the door.  Grandpa has no idea what is about to happen when, as I get out of the car, grandma yells, “Christopher, go into the barn and see what your grandpa bought for you.”  I gave a puzzled look at my grandpa and remember him standing with his head down looking defeated.  Grandma gets the win.  I still have the tractor.  My dad restored it years ago and took it to a number of parades.  We sometimes use it to pull a hay wagon but it is mostly retired…but still cool.  Thanks Grandma!

Time Passes

A few years ago my grandma moved to assisted living.  For a short time the house was rented to a crew of men from Missouri who were installing rural water in the county.  Before then I had never seen mud on the carpet in the back room nor had I seen beer cans or poker chips in the house.  They finished their work just as Julie and I were looking for a farm.  It was further from town than we wanted to be but we decided to go for it.  We rented my grandma’s house at first and that gave us an acre to start with goats and chickens.  Then we bought the farm…in the most literal usage.  Though I live here now, it’s still my grandma’s house.  I have trouble with some of her rules.  I know what rooms I am allowed to eat in.  Weird.  I put my garden where she had her garden.  But things have changed.  We don’t watch TV (let alone Lawrence Welk) so our living room isn’t focused on the TV altar.

Great Margie is going in a hole?

My 4 year old nephew is a cute, smart, manipulative (lol) little guy…but still cute.  When the tractor came to dig the hole all of the kids ran out to the cemetery to see what was happening.  One of the children said he asked why we were going to put Great Margie in a hole.  We took a moment to explain the grave and rock are just the memorial.  Great grandma isn’t here anymore.  We are honoring her passing and work to preserve her memory for future generations.

Her Story Goes On

She believed that she was not an accident.  She believed that life has value and that value is not measured by her flesh.  That our bodies are temporary but life is eternal.  That an eternity with God is far preferable to an eternity without Him.  She believed that Christ left heaven, assumed a human form, came to Earth and lived as a man with one exception: he did not sin.  She believed he was killed, not because a few people in Jerusalem 2000 years ago were bad but because all men have fallen.  Because all men needed his pure sacrifice to atone for our sin debt.  Further, that Christ arose from the dead, defeating death and defeating the hold sin has on our eternal lives forever.  That one sacrifice, made for all, acts as a new covenant with God, bridging the gap between His perfection and my natural inclination to go my own way.  Grandma believed this story and I believe Grandma has gone home.  Grandma told me this story.  Our true Chism Heritage is not merely on of agriculture.  Ours is a heritage of faith.

New Cast of Characters

I built a large compost pile in the garden with two truckloads of horse manure and most of the garden waste from tomatoes and peppers.  I needed a little help getting it composted well so I enlisted the help of my sister’s turkeys.  This is just a 2-day assignment before they ship off to the freezer.

But mere turkeys are no match for a manure pile of such magnitude.  It was time to bring out the big guns.  I needed a pigerator.  I brought another chicken tractor home from the pasture, made it reasonably pig-proof and bought some new shoats!  WOOHOO!

I love pigs.  Little pigs.  Cute little oinkers that can’t knock you over and eat your arm.  Little pigs are just the best.  My sister is visiting and pushed me into it because she wanted to cuddle a spotted pig.  We got a spotted pig.

And just in time too because we have some milk that soured when we went to Florida, we’re still trying to put up apples, pears and jalapenos and we generate more kitchen waste than our poor worms can handle.

I may have to go back to Mike’s and get 7 more.

My last few batches of pigs have come from our friend Mike.  I posted about him some time ago.  He was vaccinating newborn pigs yesterday when we visited and we got to hold a tiny, tiny pig.

Thanks Mike for farrowing on pasture and raising such high-quality stock.

Apple Trees in the Ground!

Once upon a time, probably laying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning (when we lived in the city, churched on Saturday and still had lazy Sundays), I said to my lovely bride, “I would like apple trees.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fall family gathering where we make fresh cider, take a hayride and roast a pig?”  And that’s where it all began.  That was the dream.  That’s why I live here.  That was probably 8-10 years ago.

And today (after 3 years of planning, hoping, researching and looking for frost pockets) I planted my first apple trees.

They aren’t much to look at.  Just sticks …um..sticking…straight-ish up.  But that’s the start.  They arrived bare root so they need to be staked.  They are planted in hills next to the Georgia wall on the North side of the main garden.  I have all sorts of plans for planting tree guilds all around them but the main point is they are in the ground.

Now, I just cross my fingers and hope for the best.  The money used to buy trees was just money.  The trees themselves are wealth.

Thanks Stark Bro’s.

Alligators on the Farm?

I have a specific and technical skill set that we rely on to pay the bills around here.  Put simply, I make it easier to find data stored on a big computer.  To do this well, I have to remain on top of new technology.  To that end, I just attended an intensive 9 day training course in Sarasota, FL.

I was busy in school then studying at the hotel in the evening.  This was no vacation.  Well, it was no vacation for me.  My wife flew down to visit me about half way through and she made it a point to see the sights and took a few pictures.

Sarasota is a beautiful town.  Rabid consumerism, broad, flat, straight roads, a surprising number of cows, swamp…what more could you ask for?

There are any number of wetland preserve areas (as if a wetland can express itself when confined to a 30×30 area and surrounded by pavement).  There were whole groves of live oaks, pine and pineapple trees.  The larger trees were dripping in spanish moss.   Our forests are a dense clump of about 100 kinds of trees (most bear edible nuts), multi-flora rose, poison ivy, dewberries, may apples, grape vines, gooseberries, ginseng and abundant fauna that aren’t inclined to eat your leg.  I couldn’t identify anything edible in the woods there other than acorns and was always aware of the possibility that the thing that looks like a log in the water to the left may be hungry.

So that takes us to alligators.  Alligators.

This fella lives in the swampy water hole area across the street from the hotel.  Others live in the various other water holes surrounding the hotel…and on out into the community.  Gators.  I found myself wondering if my electric poultry netting would even bother an alligator…or what I could legally do about it if I found a gator eating my flock.  The birds on the shore often just disappear.  One second there’s a juvenile sandhill crane.  The next second…not even a feather floating in the air.

If there’s anything I fear worse than having my leg eaten by an alligator in Florida it’s finding out my wife’s leg was eaten by an alligator in Florida.  I would rather she had not taken the picture of the alligator.  Before I saw the evidence, gators were just some myth the guys behind the desk in the hotel propagated to scare the tourists.  Julie made it real.  What if they are like velicoraptors?  What if the one is just laying there in the open to get your attention while the rest of the pack hunts you silently from the shadows?  Think I’m kidding?  One of the locals told us they have to be careful because the alligators will warm themselves under your car.  Look before you get in.

Does anybody raise chickens in Florida?  Does anyone else share my entirely rational fear of alligators?

Why Does the Salatin Model take 20 Acres?

Why Does the Salatin Model take 20 Acres?  That’s an excellent question someone asked the blog.  Though I have only met Salatin once and can’t begin to read his mind, I’m willing to take a stab at it.  This is my opinion, not his.  It doesn’t take 20 acres.  He suggests what is possible with a mere 20 acres.  But since I have 20 acres I’ll explain why I think it’s a good number when you are starting out.

First, 20 acres isn’t a lot of ground.  It’s an amount of ground that could be purchased for a reasonable price when the book “Pastured Poultry Profits” was published in the 90’s.  If the idea is to get in cheap and get rolling quickly, buying 20 acres generally fits the bill.  If you get started and decide raising chickens isn’t for you then you could still keep the land as recreational ground or take a stab at growing something else.

An acre will raise 300-500 broilers depending on how fast they grow out, how good your feed ration is, temperature, rainfall, bug population and numerous other factors.  Let’s just say 400 birds per acre per year.  As pointed out in the book, once your broilers spend a day on an area of ground you’ll need to wait until next year to bring them back.  Otherwise you’ll saturate the soil with nitrogen and (probably) kill or at least damage your grass.  If you are buying in all of your feed (as Salatin indicates in the book) and using all of your land for poultry production (assumption in the book) and the land is relatively flat, level and well drained you can raise 8,000 Cornish Cross birds in a year.  But wait, there’s more.  His goal is to net you $25,000.  That means each acre of birds has to put $1250 in your pocket over expenses.  So you have to buy the chicks ($1 each), feed each bird 15 pounds (or $4.50) worth of of feed.  300 birds at a time are brooded together then split up into groups of 60 in chicken tractors.  Along the way you’re paying for the brooders, lamps, water, electricity and time handling.  Then, once in chicken tractors, you take time each day to feed, water and move them.  At my efficiency level, by the time the birds are grown I have spent about 2 minutes with each bird.  It takes me a further 2.5-3 minutes per bird to kill, dress and pack them.  That time is worth something.  You aren’t going to process many birds alone so you’ll have to pay some help.  Finally, the purchase price of chicken tractors, processing equipment, fence and freezers have to be spread across multiple batches of birds across a number of years…adding to your costs.  If you don’t buy processing equipment, add in the cost of transportation and processing off-site.

SO, to net $25,000 on your 20 acres you have to make $3.13 above costs for all 8,000 birds.  OK.  That’s not too bad.  Let’s say the birds average 4 pounds and you are charging $4/pound for the whole bird.  You have just made your margin.  But you still have to sell 8,000 birds.  That takes time.  Our first three years were 500, 900 then 1200 birds and I suspect we’ll stay at or below 1200 next year.  Salatin outlines a similar schedule.  It takes time for you to learn marketing.  It takes time for word of mouth to spread.  It takes time to build skill with the livestock, learn about seasonality, learn how to process and package.  It takes time to train customers to buy in bulk rather than just a chicken or two every other week.  But you only have to manage 20 acres while you’re learning and growing your small business.

If you are looking to get started, have room to grow and ultimately earn a fair portion of your annual farm income from seasonal broiler production, read the book and get to work.  If $25k doesn’t quite go far enough you could augment your income with any number of additional enterprises on the same land.  Anything from large market gardens, pecan trees, cows, sheep, apples, nursery stock…who knows.  Let your imagination run wild or check out Salatin’s other books  (especially You Can Farm and Family Friendly Farming) and works by other authors like Making your Small Farm Profitable for lists of suggestions.  The chickens are just one option to boost your small farm income.   But that, I think, is why Salatin suggests a small parcel: manageable costs, manageable workload, steep but manageable learning curve.  Again, the book lays out what is possible with 20 acres but in no way requires 20 acres.  One acre will keep you busy with chickens the first year.

Now, if you really want your noodle baked, he suggests elsewhere that you should rent until you build wealth then buy to preserve your wealth.  Stay light, portable, flexible and out of debt.  Pastured chicken is the new black.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

There’s Only One Way Outta Here

Under normal conditions you could exit my house by driving West or by driving East.  Starting Friday you could only go East.  Though it hasn’t made the international news, somebody turned over an anhydrous ammonia tank on the road to Rockbridge and dad described it as the scene from E.T.  Plastic, flashing lights, evacuations, teams of “scientists” in suits.

OK.  Well.

Let’s lay a foundation here.  First I want to say that I don’t believe anyone was injured as a direct result of this accident.  From what I have put together, the driver of the truck lost the tank somehow (hitch came loose?) and it started chasing him down a hill.  He tried to stop but ended up in the ditch next to a pond with the anhydrous tank crashing through the back window of his truck.  He escaped before ammonia flooded the cab of the vehicle.  Had he been in there…

Now, I’m not a big fan of anhydrous ammonia.  We (as a planet) use 1% of the power we generate manufacturing it.  Depending on who you read it kills a lot of earthworms when used in a field.  It falls deeply under the umbrella of chemical agriculture.  It is used to store cheap nitrogen in the soil to boost corn yields the following summer.  It is dang-near ubiquitous in modern agriculture.  We have bulldozed out the fence rows (where rabbits and quail lived) in favor of flat, tiled fields farmed all the way to the ditch.  We have to farm every square inch and need every advantage we can get.  Farming is a business after all.  It’s a business, requires efficiency and 100% resource utilization.  Tomorrow we’ll invent solutions to the problems we are creating today.  Today we need anhydrous.

So.  We have a compound of Nitrogen and Hydrogen.  A naturally occurring compound in unnatural concentration.  This compound is being sprayed on all the fields in the midwest where corn will be planted next Spring but you spill 1000 pounds on the side of the road and the hazmat team has to show up and deal with it?  Where is the hazmat team when it is being injected into the field outside of my home?  I mean, even if it got dumped into the pond at the bottom of the hill you’re going to end up with ammonium hydroxide…a household cleaner.  Is this a big deal?  YES?!?  Is it a big deal because of the scale or should I not have ammonium hydroxide in my home?  We can at least be consistent!

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I am no fan of chemical fertilizers of any flavor but I am also not a fan of state and federal bureaucracies infesting neighboring hillsides.  Why are they here?  Get the neighbors evacuated and let things run their course.  I mean, it’s not like the hazmat team is going to clean up the lawyers too!  If anhydrous ammonia is a problem why do we spray tons and tons of it on the soil surrounding my farm?…on the soil that washes into my pond?!?!

So anyway, there’s one way outta here.  Practice crop rotation, diversify our farms again and fertilize with composted animal manure or (gasp!) composted human manure.  But what do I know?  I don’t have a job with the department of ag, I don’t clean up spills, I’m not a firefighter, I don’t work for the EPA, I’m not a legislator, lobbyist or lawyer.  I’m just a computer geek with a biology degree pretending to be a farmer…certainly not an expert.  I do know my road has never been blocked for a week because horse manure got spilled on it.

Looking up a Hay Wagon’s Skirt Part 1

I get a ton of searches for “hay wagon rebuild” or something similar to that.  I assume readers are looking for these two articles.  Those two aside, I think I can provide more detail.  So, this is the first of a series looking under each of the four wagons on our farm and my thoughts on each one.  Hopefully you’ll find them to be helpful as you plan out your next hay wagon rebuild.

This is the wagon we rebuilt above.  It really isn’t a hay wagon, though we used it as one this summer.  It’s a grain wagon, complete with sides.  It was pretty rotten when we hauled it home and we are working to rebuild it as time allows.  Time hasn’t allowed so it’s still just a flat platform.  We used the original design as our pattern when rebuilding this one and it turned out well.  Most of the iron we need to rebuild it as it was is laying on the bed waiting for me to clean it up.

The running gear is sound.  It has good rubber and turns well in both directions.  You may not realize why that’s important so just trust me.  It’s important.  We bolted two 4×6 beams to the rear of the running gear.  This allows the front to flex over uneven ground.

Above the beams we knotched 2x4s to support the floor.  These could be doubled up.  Each are bolted to an angle iron which is then bolted to the 4×6.  We knotched them to match the design of the previous bed.  It helps to keep the bed lower to the ground.

Then we used treated 2x tongue and groove flooring across the platform.  The surface can be a bit slick but it’s solid.  We started with a reasonably straight board and the tongue sticking out on the edge which we later cut off.  Each board was …convinced… to snuggle up to its neighbor.  Finally we put 2×4 edging around the bed.  This should be a 2×6 because of the thickness of the floor but we were anxious to get into the field.  I have since purchased the 2×6 edging but, like so many other things, haven’t installed it yet.

Finally we attached a headache rack to the back.  Maybe it looks a bit hoosier but when it’s time to bale, it’s time to bale.  We had to get on the road.  It worked so it stayed even though one of the scrap boards we made it with has broken.  (Just to show how cheap I am, one of those horizontals are discarded treated boards from my father-in-law’s fence.  A fence he built 5 or 6 years ago.)

So there you go.  You can stretch them out so they are long and heavy if you want but I prefer them to be shorter.  There are any number of ways to build your deck on the running gear and I’ll be detailing our other wagons soon.

What Does “Romantic” Mean?

Ah, the fire.  The warmth.  The light.  Somehow the food tastes different when cooked on the wood cook stove.  There’s a slight crackle.  Instead of the normal 57 degrees in the house, we have one room that’s 90.  There’s always hot water.  You come in from outside and park your tookus next to the stove and you are instantly warmed up.  It’s the fulfillment of some romantic dream of hers.  Best thing ever.

Well.  Sort of.

Sopka Magnum Wood Cook Stove

The crackle, the smell, the warmth all come at a cost.  My time.  You see, my lovely bride loves the wood cook stove.  To her it’s just a matter of splitting some kindling, lighting a fire and keeping it fed.  Works well enough.  But from my perspective it’s hours with the chainsaw then hauling, splitting, stacking, restacking when it falls over, etc.  My days off.  My weekends.  Every trip out in the woods I’m looking for a standing dead tree or a snag to cut down.  What will I do when the woods are clean?  Where can I start growing the forest I’ll need over the coming years?  Should I burn that log or should I run it through the sawmill?  Oh, the stress!  Oh, my leg!  Oh the guilt! (Anybody get that reference?)

Why are we burning wood when it’s barely getting to freezing at night?  I think the word “romantic” is French for “because she wants to”.  Why isn’t it romantic to sit under a pile of blankets reading a book?  Oh well.  The kids are a big help and do most of the stacking and carrying.  My oldest helped split this time too.