Sunday, January 11, 2009
Ways of the woodsmen
The Anderson family (pictured above), third-generation Blount County timber cutters, amazed me with their knowledge of trees and the woods during the month they worked at Deerfield. They know more about woodland ways than I could hope to learn in ten life times.
Here are a few of their observations:
* If your wood stove is designed to handle 18-inch logs, cut your wood 16 inches or even 14 inches. Shorter logs burn better in a stove. I tried it. They are right. (This doesn't apply to fireplaces. Only enclosed wood stoves.)
* To keep a fire in your stove all night, burn green hickory. You will be greeted in the morning with red-hot coals. I tried it. They are right. The Andersons cut a hickory tree each fall to use as their "night logs."
The Andersons can tell a tree by its leaf, its bark or the smell of the sap when it's cut. They showed me a "double-hearted tree," which the sawmills will not accept for lumber. I'll tell you more about that later because it feels like there's a splendid essay in there somewhere.
One morning when the clouds were gathering, I asked the patriarch of the bunch if they worked when it was raining. His answer: "Not when it's raining straight." I knew exactly what he meant. When a long, hard rain sets in, the rain comes straight down from the skies. A blowing rain is hit or miss and usually fairly light.
Their utilitarian knowledge extends far past the woods. I watched them change out a brake master cylinder on their work truck one night with only a flashlight, a screwdriver and a pair of Vise-Grips. If they had to, they probably could have done it in the straight rain.