On The Chopping Block

I’m one of those people who likes to watch… yes, I know how that could be interpreted, have fun with it!

I like to pause, blank myself out and create space within to take in and observe the world around me.

When I lived in cities… I people-watched. I also traffic-watched, rhythms of traffic have story to tell and it can be interesting to listen to what it says about life.

Now that I live in rural countryside… I watch nature.

This Autumn, I’ve noticed that the squirrels have been more busy than usual. They’ve been rather manic in their gathering and burying of nuts and seeds. More so than last year… I don’t think I even saw a squirrel in my garden last year. But this year every time I look, there’s a squirrel up to something.

the squirrel sat on the back of the garden chair eating a nut in the rain and was so incredibly cute with its fur was all puffed up. I wanted to capture the moment but by the time I got the camera it was done eating and it was on the move again.

I wondered if that was a sign of the weather to come this Winter and so I did what I often do when I wonder something which someone else probably wondered too and looked it up online.

Apparently if squirrels are more manic than usual it means that plants have produced more fruits, nuts and seeds than usual, and when plants do that it means the Winter ahead is most likely to be a super Wintry one.

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry,
Will cause snow to gather in aΒ hurry.

from Weather Folklore: What Leaves, Squirrels, Apples and Flowers Predict

The mole has been busy too making mountains.

Surely there’s no earth left underground at this point… my partner keeps waiting for the whole garden to just collapse and become a sunken one. Let’s hope the mole hasn’t burrowed under the house.

Apparently if I measure the depth it’ll give information on how cold Winter will be – the deeper the mole goes, the colder it will be.

The squirrels keep burying their nuts in the mole hills.

those are all new molehills, every time I tidy the lawn up… the mole sighs and re-fixes the mess I made.

Also if trees are loath to shed their leaves, and hold onto them long after they were supposed to drop them, and flowers bloom late into the colder seasons… which is exactly what’s going on at the moment… it’s going to be a harsh Winter.

As I wended my way from place to place in my online search for more information…

I ended up on a weather prediction site which regularly publishes long and detailed (and frankly nigh on impossible to understand if you’re not a weather expert) analyses of weather, recent and past compared, data and… they’re forecasting another Beast from the East for the UK this Winter season.

Which reminds me why I liked something about this house which other buyers didn’t like – it is next to a busy road with almost constant thundering traffic. The noise factor can be annoying, but it means during a snowy Winter the local authorities grit it, it gets priority clearance, and you don’t get isolated when you least need to be that way.

Luckily the house also has thick walls. The rental house I lived in before this had hollow thin walls, was damp and frigid all year round, and in Winter it was like living in a refrigerator regardless of whether you had the heating on.

The previous owner did many things in his renovation of the place which improved heat-retention (he also did some stupid stuff which had to be undone… but who doesn’t do that kind of thing. I know I have).

He was right though when he said he installed too many radiators – but I’ve finally figured out which ones to turn on and which to turn off to get an all round warmth which doesn’t break the bank (heating oil is expensive, especially in Winter when you need it, you have to buy it in Summer to get a better price, but still… the way Iceland uses volcanoes to heat homes is cool – a hot thermal kind of cool!).

One thing he did which is rather marvelous was installing a wonderful wood burner in the living room – you only need to burn a few pieces of seasoned wood and it heats the room and other parts of the house for a long time after the fire has gone out.

this is an old photo (you can tell that from my old deviant art name on it) of a fire in the wood burner during Winter, what’s burning is cuttings from the X-mas tree post X-mas and… what is that? Is it a ghost of X-mas tree?

But you need wood for that…

I’m usually a grasshopper rather than an ant…

A grasshopper who admires ants and their ability to be prepared for everything, their hard work in preparing for everything way ahead of the time when you need it.

A grasshopper who wishes it would ant a bit more and grasshopper less, but who found it highly stressful trying to ant and decided it was better to just be grasshopper.

There are advantages to being a grasshopper even if ants think its a terribly impractical way to be and live.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it’s a reference to one of Aesop’s Fables which stuck with me long after I read when I was a child – The Ant and The Grasshopper (link to Wiki page on it).

However sometimes this grasshopper does ant things… but only if and when it’s not trying to force itself to be who and what it is not, and just allows itself to be itself in its own way which may include doing ant things which a grasshopper wouldn’t do.

This week I’m in preparing wood for the wood burner mode… here’s the process in pictures.

First you need a block of wood – this is part of a trunk from a tree which the honey fungus killed.

The tree was chopped down by professionals… really sweet and nice pros who are always apologetic to nature for the job that they do.

The boss of the team is always quick to say – plant a new tree when you cut one down! And he won’t let you cut down a tree which just needs pruning unless it’s dangerous or problematic where it is.

But sometimes it is a necessary job, especially when the tree is dead and it could fall down and do a lot of damage.

Once down, it gets recycled – some of this tree is left in the garden in a pile to offer a home to insects and other wildlife, particularly during winter.

Then you need a wood block splitter and something to hammer it in with – I use a mallet which my partner bought to knock down a wall ages ago. That mallet is heavy… I feel almost heroic when I lift it up, letting it drop is very satisfying – Boom!

As I was taking the photo above… the block of wood was making a cracking sound as the natural splits felt the slight pressure to widen.

It’s best to place the splitter in the centre and let nature do most of the work widening the cracks which are already there.

This particular block of wood was already bone dry and well-seasoned before the tree was cut down, and it spent the Summer outside being seasoned some more by the sun and elements.

Once the splitter and mallet have worked together on the natural cracks in the wood, you get this in the picture below (first it split in half, then I used the splitter and mallet on each half to create quarters).

And yes, I’m probably doing it not-properly, but this works for me…

Once the wood block has been split, time to get the axe out (which I do know how to sharpen when it gets dull… I once sharpened it in the kitchen while the electrician was here and… poor guy, he had a moment of wondering if he was for dinner – he was too brawny, too tough… even for a stew) and place the quarter on the chopping block.

The chopping block is a new one… it’s also from the same tree trunk as the wood which is being chopped on it. In some ways I’m using a chicken to crack an egg it laid.

As it turned out, even with the extra strength, skill and brute force of my partner… the quarters were too tough to chop, the axe just got stuck in them… and it is difficult to get a stuck axe out of the wood it is stuck in.

And so I had to use the splitter on them one more time. After that they were a pleasure to chop… like a knife through warm butter.

So now the wood pile is growing…

It’s good to have a mix of big, medium and small pieces. Once the fire is alive with heat a large piece placed upon it burns long and slow creating the sweetest form of heat.

All the chips which break off during the process and litter the floor become excellent kindling.

Sometimes a piece of wood proves to be difficult to split and to chop because it has a big old knot in the middle or to one side of it.

And you may get some intriguing shapes once you’ve battled through the chop-split process.

What does that shape conjure up for you?

I kept seeing it as a butterfly… perhaps because as I was working in the barn a mix of insects were checking the real estate out as a possible hibernation spot.

There weren’t any butterflies today, just a bee and a queen wasp making all sorts of busy buzzing sounds above my head.

But I have in the past found the local butterflies hibernating in there, my first year living here I found about seven peacock butterflies sleeping in the barn… I try to do not disturb as much as I can, but I am a bit of a disturbed and disturbing person.

Finally…

I’m a mistake-making mess… I enjoy being that these days… it’s liberating and fun, and I learn a lot of interesting things from being that way.

However when doing certain things I try to tone down the mistake-making mess me… due to not wanting to cause harm to myself or others.

I know when to stop splitting and chopping wood – when I start to feel like a heroic martyr about it.

That means I’m tired and my mind + ego is tempting me to push beyond the tired to achieve greatness… greatness will not be achieved, what is more likely to happen is that I’ll drop a wood block on my foot, hit my knee with the mallet, and chop everything but the bit of wood with the axe.

When the splitter ended up planted in the floor… it created some very pretty sparks when it hit the tiles… it was time to stop for the day.

It’s time to stop this post too…

What have you been up to?

13 comments

  1. Haha…I just finished a post minutes ago. Looks like synchronicity strikes again. I ended my post with a question too, but I just realised that I’ve use the three most useless words in communication. Somewhere on your blog there is also a post where you discussed the redundancy of the phrase How are you? πŸ˜€ And recently I also read an article on this https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/07/stop-asking-how-are-you-harvard-researchers-say-this-is-how-successful-people-make-small-talk.html

    And yes, that piece of chopped wood, the shape resembles something… what is it… hmm, let me sleep on it and see what comes up in the morning πŸ˜‰

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    • Thank you for sharing, Rev πŸ™‚

      Your post was a very intriguing “trip” πŸ˜‰ – I loved the different approaches to the idea of a trip. Very clever and interesting. The visits to the haunted buildings was beautifully eerie, and I enjoyed the way you shared your thinking, the part where you added a companion who was bold to give the exploring team more courage was funny and smart.

      You used the word “block” too in your post, so another synchronicity. Haha!

      Hmmm… I have a vague memory of discussing “How are you?” somewhere in a post, probably in more than one post because I find small talk to be a challenge – which is typical for an introvert.

      I think “How are you?” is a great question if someone means it, really wants to know how you are and is prepared to listen to the answer if someone answers it honestly and doesn’t just go with “I’m fine” or one of the other non-answer answers, but when people ask it as a formality and you can tell they don’t care, that they’re only asking because they feel they have to, to get to the part of the interaction they want to get to – like selling you something, asking for a favour… then it’s pointless. It’s a charade and everyone knows it is, so why do it?

      Cold callers sometimes start with “How are you?” which is jarring because you both know that they’re only doing it because it’s in the cold calling manual. Oh, that reminds me of a film I saw this year, funny one… oh, of course, it’s the one which caused a fight between you and I over a title for a post πŸ˜€ – Sorry To Bother You.

      Thanks for the link, interesting article and I like the fact that although the site asked me to turn off Adblock, it allowed me to continue with Adblock on. I hate it when they block you until you turn off Adblock – I never turn it off when they do that, I just turn off the site πŸ˜‰

      I like point #3 – very cool! And the bit about the CEO’s office reminds me of advice which Dale Carnegie gave in How To Win Friends about noticing what’s in someone’s office, what’s in someone’s home, what photographs and other personal items they have around them which informs you of their interests and what’s important to them.

      I think the most “successful” thing to do in conversation is to be genuinely interested in people, it’s more fun and satisfying for both sides of the interaction equation πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post and the photos. πŸ™‚ In one of my former homes there was a wonderful fireplace that burned almost continuously in Dec and Jan. I very much enjoyed the ritual of getting wood ready, stacking it for seasoning and gathering the shattered bits for kindling – so relaxing and mind-settling. The nesting for winter ( for humans as well as critters) is a critical but friendly cross-species connecting point.

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  3. Thank you very much, Ursula πŸ™‚

    I agree with you for the meaning in asking How are you? Must admit sometimes I also use that as a conversation opening, I’m not exactly good with small talk too, so after the HAY?, I go quiet and let the others do their talking. I’m more of a listener rather than the speaker in RL.

    Still couldn’t figure what the chopped block image resembles…never mind. But I was looking at my post Repeated Thoughts just now and realised I missed to mention someone which resulted in a miscommunication of what I really wanted to say. It was a particular person face I wanted to smash, and not my brother or buddy from the past, but someone in the present.

    Haha, I’m glad you enjoy my posts even with the ‘trips’ (as in mistakes). I eat my words as I type sometimes…unknowingly. And in The Perfect Trip, another kind of trip I wanted to talk about also went missing. This trip is sort of like you activate or disconnect a mechanism or circuit. Whenever I get really sick in my body, my mind trips, like a circuit disconnects and then reconnects again on a different route. It is very much like your comment about being tired which made you see things in a different light.

    I’m getting a little stressed up now as ‘the perfect trip’ is near… facing these people for almost a week 24/7. It could be more tiring than any normal day for me. Ya, the problem is with me, not them. But from a positive stance, maybe at the end of the trip, I would have some intriguing stories to tell πŸ˜‰ Till then

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    • Have a wonderful trip, Rev, I look forward to reading the stories you return with and share πŸ˜€

      Oh and photos, take photos, it’s Japan… hmmm… maybe you need a secret spy mission to help you in those moments when it all gets too much. Japan has intriguing things… quick brain think! Oh, take photos of things which remind you of your muse… maybe too emotional… what about photos of things which stand out but you’re not sure why! Yes, do that, that’s you’re mission – take photos of things which stand out to you but you don’t know why – and each one will be the featured image of a post about it, about solving the mystery of why it stood out and what it conjures up.

      Oh and buy yourself an – Omamori – when you’re there as your blog’s lucky charm!

      Sayonara πŸ™‚

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      • Hey, I haven’t read your new post yet but the title πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ ohh… Before I forget, thank you for your week wishes, oh yes will probably heed your advice unless it slips my mind lol πŸ˜€

        You know I was just watching season 3 fringe and it was the part where things started to sticky with the female lead Olivia having concerns and wondering if Peter, her love interest still feels any attraction to her alternate self -Fauxlivia from the other parallel universe. I was chewing a bit on this, not that I have such an issue. I just wonder how in an alcohol or drug free mind, can he not differentiate the two of them? In my life, there was only once have I mistaken one person for the first love and that time I was in a club and already had enough drink.

        And there your new post ‘You’ve mistaken me for someone else’. Earlier, I was toying with the idea to write a post on this. Remember I’m Pisces and several times too I know I’m being mistaken for someone by another.

        Well, gotta go pack my bags now. Jaa, mata ne πŸ˜‰

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        • Have you seen – Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories – it’s a Japanese TV series, really lovely show, very philosophical about being human and living life, it might be a great one to see before or during a trip to Japan πŸ˜‰

          Fringe was an excellent series with some awesome characters and ideas. The problem which caught your attention… is a bit like how you perceive your muse versus how your muse perceives herself. Is your version of your muse the same as your muse’s version of herself?

          Supposing you met your muse in person tomorrow and during the interaction between the two of you, she wasn’t as you remembered her. She seems like a different person to the muse in your memory – in person now she is Olivia to your memory of her who is Fauxlivia.

          You wonder – Has she changed during the time we were apart? Or was she always like this? If she was always like this why did you not see her as you see her now? Did you mistake her for someone else? Or perhaps it is you who has changed, you are no longer who you were then when you first met your muse and thus how you see her is changed too because you are not the you you were either?

          Are the people around us really who we perceive them as being or are they different from our perception of them, are we mistaking them for someone they are not? :/

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          • I only watched the Chinese version loosely based on the Japanese one. And the Chinese version wasn’t that well made but interesting enough for me to watch. Yup I can imagine the original Jap version to be much better πŸ™‚

            I had very limited physical interaction with my muse on a personal level. It’s mostly exchange of text messages. At this stage, my perception of her is still open and I’m curious about how she is like in person. What I saw of her before might only be her persona as a teacher. So in a way my perception of her is still an incomplete canvas. I’ve a multi-faceted personality this out wouldn’t surprise me if she is not like anything I thought. Hope this make sense to you.

            Whether you have wrongly perceive or mistaken them for another person, well, to me this puzzle can only be solve as you get to know them. Lol out looks to me like you are questioning perception vs consciousness… But consciousness, personal or collective should be free flowing, in all directions, I think.

            Now on a 3-hour car journey to Yamanakako, near Mt Fuji. Hopefully can take some nice shot from where we stay πŸ˜‰

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            • Why are you online reading stuff on the internet when you could be soaking in the views on your car ride? Your consciousness seems to be trying to escape the body and not be in the flow of your physical experience πŸ˜‰ put your phone away* and enjoy being where you are in the now in the body with your consciousness in the now body place!

              *terms and conditions apply, phone may be used for emergency and important phone calls such as if lost in suicide forest because you don’t want to get lost in there and never come out again. Phone may be used as a camera to take photos for super secret spy mission.

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              • Lol during their autumn season, the sun set at 5.00 pm so during the car journey last evening there wasn’t much view πŸ˜‰

                Ya you are right. My mind consciousness is often not in sync with physical being haha πŸ˜€

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                • Looking into the darkness of night you can sometimes see for miles and see things which can’t be seen during the daylight πŸ˜‰ the night awakens the senses… but the mind may want to avoid what the senses sense.

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  4. I was stuck on the info about squirrels and their manic activity. They’ve been that way here, too….way across the pond into the Midwest of America. So far, seems what you read was right, we got slushy/snowy rain today, and more is due tomorrow. I enjoy snow, but not this early.

    Enjoyed reading about the wood. I’m more like the grasshopper myself. Break a few of those for my fireplace, will ya? πŸ˜‰

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