It’s how it was when I grew up. The guy handles the chain saw, the gal carries and stacks the firewood. Not that I couldn’t do the chainsaw part, I did when I was single. But it just works out that way and I go with the flow. Both roles are strenuous–nobody is coasting here. I think Rick worries if I have a chainsaw in my hands. I am very careful, but I do have a reputation for being clumsy. And, from a gender perspective…it’s a control thing. (Shrug.)

On Sundays, we make wood. It’s a lovely ritual, weather permitting. It reconnects us to the forest and the land. We are finally in the position that we are cutting “next year’s wood,” that is, this year’s wood is already, for the most part, cut and stacked. We have a little splitting to do–but we are ready. So now we’re clearing and harvesting deadfall for winters yet to come. This, to me, is real wealth.

There’s a rhythm to it, and we have worked out a coordinated approach. When a tree falls there’s a lot of it that we won’t harvest. To us, anything less than three inches in diameter is “slash.” Not that it couldn’t be burned, but it’s not efficient for the way we harvest and burn wood. So any downed tree must be limbed, and cleared, before we can begin cutting in earnest. Rick cuts, and I drag the slash away from the work site to a spot where it can decompose naturally. It’s important to tidy up first, because those who  jump ahead to cutting, without first clearing, find themselves tripping on the spiderweb of branches around any fallen tree. Tripping with a running chainsaw is not a pretty sight. Safety is always our first priority.

We were making wood on Sunday when I saw that a fallen log was blocking access for the tractor. I gave it a shove, to see if I could move it. It was already quite rotten, and the top of it, loose. I grabbed it and started to pull it out of the way. Only after the top of it had cleared its bottom did I see it. There, nestled in the center of the rotting log was a large paper wasp nest. I dropped the log and began waving my arms to get Rick’s attention on the tractor. With the drone of the tractor, or the chainsaw, most of our wood-making communications are via hand signals. Mine went wild. Rick looked at me, quizzically, as I pointed. Just about then, the first of the wasps reached me, and I turned and fled. At some point, it’s every man for himself. Rick figured it out, in short order.

Men chop. Women carry. Everyone runs when they need to.