I have never thrown any wood splitting devices any distance before. Timbersports, while retaining their own gritty appeal, were the realm of men in my mind. I'm a traditional girl. I'll happily hunt, fish, and chop rounds into stove splints but I draw the line at dangerous projectiles as a form of backyard entertainment. It's not about sexism: I'm just a complete klutz. I wish I could tell you that I have obtained the grace of a mustang mare on the Alberta prairies but the truth is I can barely get a cup of coffee back to my desk without spilling it. Around me, things break. I am always cut, gashed open, or scratched. The delicate life, is not my life, and the chances of me throwing an axe without a body count seemed slim. Nope, not for me sir. The men throw the sharp pointies and the women have the babies, this is a model that has stood the test of time.
I walked over to Brett's workshop anyway. Peer pressure, simple as that.
Everyone clapped encouragingly and I sheepishly took the handle. Brett showed me how to hold it, over my head with the right choke on the wooden handle. After some basic instruction I reared back my hands and let it go.
I missed. It slammed into the target's wooden legs and plopped on the floor.
Undetered by my first chuck, Brett made some helpful suggestions and asked me to try again. I lifted the axe over my head, let my hands understand the toque and the mission, looked right at the red center and SLAM! I hit the target not inches from the bullseye! I literally jumped in the air, this was the epitome of the anti-klutz! I had just experienced a hurdling metal grace! I hugged Brett and hoped Tim caught it on camera. He certainly did.
Well, now I was hooked. I had planned to go in and check on the cheese making, but I changed my mind. I have made soft cheese in that kitchen more times than you could chuck an axe at, so I opted to join the dozen people outside interested in wood lot management. With the crowd already excited by the target practice, Brett had us in the palm of his hand. He grabbed a cross cut saw and an specialty felling-axe and walked us back into the woods to the cherry tree he planned to fell.
Brett explained why the tree was going to come down. How the split so early in it's growth made it poor lumber, how it was fighting the old orchard for light. He then demonstrated the techniques of using a good axe to create the notch that tells you where the tree will fall, and gave us in the audience a chance at cross-cutting. Jason and Vaughn were amazing at this, a true team. I watched them work together and communicate. They check the saw level, just as Brett instructed. There was a plan in place for when the tree fell. Vaughn would take the saw, and Jason would back up. Both knew the escape plan, and both had a good idea of when the cherry would fall.
These are things I never thought about: escape plans, communication, who takes the saw, etc. All practical and important in the business of making lumber and firewood, but until someone showed me the steps and reasons, it remained a vague notion. Brett called the moment the tree would snap and it started to crackle. What a sound, what a sight! The 30+ foot tree fell to the ground with an autumn crash, leaves sputtering everywhere. I realized, as it fell, that I just acquired a few weeks of warmth. it'll take a year to season, but fall we'll likely be chopping and stacking this very tree.
What a system. What a perfect system. And throughout the day men and women watched as the tree went from a large living thing to a wood stove sacrifice. Then, they watched Brett saw it down into pieces, using a chain saw. Then, a few hours later, they watched a farm pony pull some smaller logs out from the forest into the chopping area. They spent their afternoon coming back to that wood pile, too. Jason, I think, fell in love with Brett's Axe and probably was responsible for a cord of wood with his own hands. Every time I looked outside the kitchen window, there was Jason, chopping away.
Can't blame him. Can't blame him for a second...