Blue Jays

moon phase Week of 11/24/2002 Best days to harvest

Blue Jays

As the days grow shorter the mercury tends to dip more often below freezing. Time to get serious about stayin' warm. Around here that means getting out and cutting some firewood. The chimneys that rise up in these Kickapoo mountains are as likely as not to have wood smoke rising out of them.

Like me, many of my friends are procrastinators when it comes to getting their firewood for the winter. I'm not as bad as some, but I admit I'm worse than others. There isn't always an easy source of good dry wood so it may mean hauling it several miles in the back of a pick-up truck.

When opportunity leads me to a chance to get some easy wood, I usually take it. Say, maybe a neighbor's tree blows over and it's easy to get to. This kind of wood may not always be the best quality but the price is right. There's been a lot of winters where it was softwood which kept me warm; soft maple, pople and boxelder to name a few.

For me, there isn't as much pressure to get my firewood in, as there used to be. For the past several years, I buy the firewood I need. More than 30 years of splitting blocks by hand has trashed my shoulders and elbows. I guess spending the money isn't as painful. I kinda miss the work though. It's always good clean, hard work and it feels good to know you'll stay warm when the cold winds blow. Oh! I'll still get to help unload the truck when it comes and then stack it neatly in the rows near the house. Then I'll get a little more exercise each day when I carry the heavy chunks inside & put into the woodbox. Next trip, the stove. The final trip is carrying the wood ashes outside once a week. So there's always something to do when you heat with firewood. The old saying, that the firewood you put in the stove has already warmed you a couple of times sure is true.

The part of heating with wood that I don't care for, is climbing up on the roof to clean the chimney once a month. The view from way up there is great but it's the climb I don't like. It's time to remember which pain is less and pay someone else to clean it, maybe.

The wood ashes are spread over a 100 ft. area on the north side of the house where there's a large blanket of creeping Charlie. In late May the ground will be completely covered by purple / blue flowers. It's one of the many things I look forward to each spring and one of my favorites.

Often the top of the wood pile will act as another bird feeder. I sprinkle the birdseed over the top pieces of wood and some will fall down into the pile. It's fun to watch the blue jays poking their beaks in between the logs for the seed. What the jays don't get, the chickadees, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers will find. No doubt, a little deer mouse, in the night, will find what's left. Sometimes a few crows will go about picking through the cracks in the woodpile for some free seed. Yesterday morning there sat a big red fox squirrel on the top of the stack. In the afternoon a big piliated woodpecker nervously jumped around the woodpile, now and then sticking his long beak into the wood and bard for a piece of cracked corn that was missed.

In years past I have used the woodpile as a wind break around my car which may or may not help when the winter winds bring snow.

Nature's trail will lead to the wood stack until spring and the sun can take over where the woodpile left off.

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