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New Year 2115

January 19, 2015

For the most part I avoid New Years resolutions. If something is worth doing, I try to start doing it no matter what time of year and not put it off to January 1. However, as the new year began, some students in my school were given an assignment to poll staff on their resolutions, and while thinking about what mine ought to be, I realized that it really was time to buckle down and get back to my blog. So, here I am.
Despite months of web silence, I have been making regular trips to the farm. I had a very productive summer making things from more furniture (benches, stools, a pair of armchairs, and a pair of dining chairs)

Arm chair - one of pair

Arm chair – one of pair

to clothing including an elk skin jacket, two pairs of sheep skin boot/moccasins, and a couple pair of serviceable gloves. The sewing has been one of the things I have been doing instead of writing. Another factor has been my new phone. Why should a new phone be a problem? Well, it takes very nice pictures, so I have stopped using my camera. Unfortunately, I am not proficient at uploading those pictures on my phone to the blog. And so pictures of all of the above-mentioned projects are locked safely on my phone waiting for me to learn the intricacies of yet another technological “advance”. However, one can see a picture of my jacket and me sitting in one of the dining room chairs in a picture taken by my friend Robert, who visited me on the farm last weekend with his camera and posting it on his flicker account.
As for the coming year, I really can’t say whether I will be able to continue making regular contributions to the blog. I hope so, and I will try to get my photos up for viewing. I have decided one thing. Up until this point, I have always had a laissez faire attitude about selling my furniture. But this spring/summer I will put a bit more effort into the enterprise. When the farm stand reopens, I will be putting all my furniture out on display and letting people know that it’s available rather than just hoping folks will stroll around to my corner of the barnyard and make a spur of the moment purchase. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Meanwhile, if you live in New England you have probably noticed that despite a few chilly days, we haven’t really had much of a winter. We certainly haven’t had any snow to speak of. While many folks are just fine with that, it has put a big dent in my twig collecting. That is because I usually do this with my sled

Me and my sled, obviously not the winter

Me and my sled, obviously not this winter

and the alternative is to go out and carry the harvest on my back. So far I have been waiting for snow, but pretty soon I will have to go out and do it the hard way. Of course, beyond my personal travails, it is just plain disturbing to have a winter go by with no snow. Last year was just announced by NASA and NOAA to have been the warmest on record, ever. Snow is ground cover, habitat, and water for spring growth. People don’t like to shovel, but it is a nuisance that we depend on for the health of the environment.
While I wait for snow I have been occupying myself with wood splitting, but on a slightly larger scale than usual. This winter break, it was my great pleasure to have a visit from my brother Owen. We decided to take on an oak log about six feet long and three feet in diameter. We weren’t trying to split it down the middle but along one side to make slabs. We were under equipped (only two steel wedges and a couple sledge hammers) and he was very game about the whole ridiculous enterprise. After a few hours and ambiguous results as well as several broken sledge handles (my doing) we called it quits and I had to wait a week to get back down to finish off the job. I bought two more wedges, made some wooden wedges, and manufactured replacement handles for the ones I had broken. I finally got the slab off. Only after removing it did the sizable internal knot that had made it so tough to split become visible. Did I mention that I got poison ivy in the process? Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get p. i. in the winter. But it is the challenge that makes the effort worthwhile. And I have learned several useful things in the process. One, when trying to get steel wedges out of a split in a log, don’t bother trying to knock them back and forth in the direction of the split. Hit them at ninety degrees to the split and the will wiggle themselves out. Two, lots of wooden wedges with very slight tapers and increasing widths are invaluable. Start with the steel wedges then use the wooden wedges as place holders or to stack with the steel wedges to widen the split. Three, watch for poison ivy vines, even if there are no leaves (but I should have known that one).
Now I have two slabs, six plus feet long and a couple feet wide. They will take a lot of work with an adze, and might even be a excuse to buy a broad axe. I am not sure what they will turn into. But they are still very wet, so I have time to think about it.
So, I will continue to wait for snow, try to split off another slab, do little chores around the ox barn, and if needs be, start harvesting new twigs and dragging them in by hand. It’s the challenge that makes it worthwhile. Happy New Year!

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