Wednesday 8 November 2023

Last of the fallen

In mid-Feb 2022, the country was battered by Storm Eunice. Among other damage the wind brought down a tree-sized branch from an ash Fraxinus excelsior near the front gate of our farrrrm. Ash has many uses about the farm: firewood, tool handles, artwork. But the species is locally doomed from an invasive and destructive fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus called ash-dieback. At the time I wrote:  As I R retire, I am fit-poor but time-rich, so there is no steaming hurry to process the wood. But, having logged, split, stacked and labelled [L] all the branches, I was left with a 6-7m long trunk of solid ash which was about as wide ⌀ as the length of my saw-blade and so I treated it like a daunting Javi Problem. One issue being that the limb was lying directly on the ground with potential for a) striking stone frrrPPP or b) having the beast settle on the blade like King Arthur's sword.

Archimedes δός μοι πᾷ στῶ καὶ τὰν γᾶν κινῶ [Give me a place to stand and the earth can be moved] to the rescue! A few months ago I took a small fulcrum log and an iron bar and found that I could lever one end of the bough an inch or two above the earth. With some contortion and some iteration, I was able to get a stable wedge under the wood and . . . sink back exhausted. The next fine day I seized my saw, touched up her teeth, fueled and chain-oiled and fired that sucker up. I cut a few rounds off. But with each cut the ⌀ increased and so I stopped after half a tankful and a mountain of sawdust. It's been like that for 21 months (!), intermittent levering wedging cutting and splitting. 

On Saturday, 28th October 2023, I got near enough to the butt of the fallen branch that I was able to lift up the last 80cm and stand it on its end. You can see the last round of it under the slitting maul which reduced it and the rest of the stick to billets small enough to go up the chimney. A good few large branches and a couple of whole hawthorn trees have fallen to the ground about the property since Feb 2022 and I've found those easier to process. But I'm right glad to make an end of The Big Stick that was in my face every time I was down by the woodshed.

You will note that I've taken to labelling the several woodstacks around the place: it find a use for the many many broken slates which have rained down from the sheds over the last 30 years. I can't be relied on to remember when each bunkerful was cut-and-split. And even if I could, I R an Old and I'm not guaranteeing that I'll outlive the stacks. It would be a shame if those who came after attempted to get some heat from laurel Prunus laurocerasus or no tar from Scot's pine Pinus sylvestris by putting them in the stove too early.

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