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.
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,from Weather Folklore: What Leaves, Squirrels, Apples and Flowers Predict
Will cause snow to gather in a hurry.“
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.
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.
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.
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?