The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Firewood Day

Posted · 12 Comments

Our current home is over 3000 square feet ( I know, you are trying to picture us living in the tiny cabin come summer…) and because the cost of heating fuel is upwards of four dollars per gallon here in Alaska, we compensate by burning wood in our wood stove as much as possible.

Last week we ran out of firewood and as the man was 900 miles away in the arctic, where they are drilling for more oil we can’t afford to buy, I had two choices.  I could stomp seven hundred feet into the woods, through two feet of snow, to get at our sawmill slabs with a chainsaw…or I could turn that little dial on the thermostat up a notch and suffer the consequences when the bill arrived.  Since it’s been in the negative temperatures, I chose to play the “girl” role…which I rarely do…and wait out the week for the man to come home and rescue us.  It makes him feel manly…I did it for him.  I’m a giver like that.

So this morning, as the sun reflected off the white snow and brought the temperature into the thirties (above), we loaded up four boys and three dogs and headed to the property, chainsaw in hand.

We have a giant pile of sawmill slabs left over from last summer when we milled lumber for the cabin.  Sounds like easy pickings, until you realize they are frozen together and buried under heaps of snow.  Upon arrival, we found several hills, under which we knew were last summers leftovers.  So we started to dig.

There is an inexplicable sense of satisfaction in making your own way…in starting with nothing but the earth, and providing your family with the basics of survival.  Though we’re not quite there yet, it’s the little things that bring us closer to not only our land, but each other.  Silly, I know…what something as simple as gathering fire wood can do for a sense of belonging…a feeling that you are where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are meant to do.

Once the path was cleared, Dan went to work while the kids and I tossed, stacked, hauled and tossed again, until all of the wood had been transported from the woods to the road, and into the bed of the truck.  Once we’d filled the truck half way with slabs for chopping into kindling, we went further back onto the land where we’d left a heap of rounds…logs cut to length, but not split into pieces…and dug our way into the frozen mound while Billy took the boys for laps around the property.  Three hours later the truck was full, the kids gloves were dripping, and the dogs had exhausted themselves leaping through the neck deep snow.

Satisfied that we’d made some progress and with the sun threatening to sink soon, we made our way back to the truck and piled in for the ride home where we would settle in for meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and the welcoming heat of a crackling fire.





12 Responses to "Firewood Day"
  1. Friday says:

    We used wood when I was a kid in upstate New York.  I can remember going into the woods with all my cousins and looking for fallen trees.  Our uncle had adapted a chain saw with a hook due to having lost his hand in a corn picker accident and he would keep us hoping.  Chucking wood is a team building experience and we were always ready for corn beef and cabbage at the end of the day!

  2. Night Rider says:

    I’ll bet Dan thanks his lucky stars to have a woman like you that sacrifices her dignity so he can come home and be manly.


  3. Laurel says:

    Beautiful photos!  Funny story!  :o)

  4. Lori Bisbee says:

    We used to heat with wood.  Nothing like seeing it all stacked on the porch ready to go.  I used to wait now and then for my man to come home so I din’t have to go out in the cold.  Now we are retired and loving gas heat.   

  5. Terri Martin says:

    I used to think I was crazy for feeling the way I do. But I identify with your feelings about how gathering firewood and “homesteading” brings the family closer. You depend on each other. It is a family effort. Sometimes it is done with bad attitudes and tempers but most time it is done with smiles and we make wonderful memories. I picture my son and daugher sitting around with their grandchildren saying, ” When I was a little boy/girl, we would go out in the woods and my mom would grab up a chainsaw and……” I love the life we are starting to build with our kids and I too feel like I am doing what I was meant to do…what God intended for me to do. Thanks for letting me know I am not completely nuts…or at least not the only woman in the world who gets warm fuzzies over chopping firewood.

    • So glad I’m not alone!!

      • JessicaC says:

        You guys are so not alone!  We live in FL now, but were home for 3 weeks (in AK) in June.  We did all kinds of “Alaskan stuff”, but my favorite was staying on the beach in Kasilof while my family subsistence fished.  Kids getting filthy, big fire, outdoor cooking, atv’s, and of course fish.  My favorite picture is my hubby chopping firewood. 🙂  It literally stirs something up inside.

  6. Makes my day seem rather boring. lol  Wish my husband had this kind of stamina. Maybe being really cold is real motivation, after all we live in SC. lol

  7. Lks says:

    I am glad you waited for the 60 degree temperature change.  I am not sure you could have gotten the frozen wood out at 28 below zero.  Maybe a new tree that was dead and a little frostbite.  Better to wait for the heatwave!

    • It’s super warm this morning, Katie. I went out just now to start the truck in my sleeping shorts…and wasn’t even cold!  A bit of snow coming down…will probably turn to rain. Joy. 

  8. Kristy K. James says:

    The story about your day kind of makes me wish I could do the same kinds of things.  On the other hand it just makes me want meatloaf and a nap.  🙂

    Glad you got your wood…and that you were able to retrieve it during an Alaskan heatwave.  

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