This sunday we prevailed upon Jen’s sister and her boyfriend to help us with a little outdoor project. I’ve been wanting to get our woodpile up off the ground and split ever since we felled the tree, and we finally rented a hydraulic splitter to take care of it all this weekend.
The first thing we needed was a new cradle to store it in, so I built one out of pressure-treated lumber.
Meanwhile, Jen disassembled the old pile and got it ready for splitting.
With four people, we made pretty short work of the job. All the huge stump-sized hulks are now fireplace-sized bits, we have a full stack stored six inches off the ground, another pile stored under the porch, and we gave some to our neighbor as a show of goodwill. Addendum: According to this site, a cord of wood is 8′ x 4′ x 4′, or 128 cubic feet. The cradle I built is 12′ x 4′ x 2′, or about 96 cubic feet. Adding the pile under the porch, I’d say we split a cord of wood yesterday.
Of course, it’s hard to get manual labor without some kind of bribe, and in this case it was beer and a homemade dinner of brisket, fresh corn, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and stuffed jalapeno peppers from our garden, in front of a roaring fire. MMMM, home cooking and woodsmoke.
Popular Mechanics recently published a list of 25 things that every man should know how to do, and this made me think back to a conversation I had with Jen about her skydiving experience and things we’d like to do before we die. She asked me what was on my list, and I could only think of a few things in the moment, which kind of disturbed me. I know I’ve got a bunch of things I still want to learn to do and experience, and I’ve crossed a couple off the last couple of years, but I haven’t edited The List in a long time. So I’m going to come up with the 2007 version this week and post it here.
In the meantime, I reviewed the Popular Mechanics list and noted what I’ve done and what I’ve not done, for your enjoyment:
1. Patch a radiator hose
I did this in the Scout with a couple of spare hose clamps and some duct tape until I could limp to a Wal-Mart and get a fixit kit. That was a white-knuckle ride home, lemme tell you (the spare was in my basement).
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
If righting an overturned canoe counts here, I’ve had plenty of experience. If we’re talking about a big cabin cruiser, I’m throwing ’em a life jacket and calling the Coast Guard.
4. Frame a wall
Done it, several times, over wood and concrete. Concrete is a pain in the ass.
5. Retouch digital photos
Are you kidding?
6. Back up a trailer
I actually did this today in the Jeep. I’ve also done it in a Ford F350 stakebody with no rear visibility on a county highway. Big fun.
7. Build a campfire
Come on. I smelled like woodsmoke every day from the ages of 11 to 16.
8. Fix a dead outlet
Heh, I got a whole house to show you. I also have the remains of a circa 1935 two-prong bakelite outlet which crumbled in my hands as I pulled it from the wall.
9. Navigate with a map and compass
This one is on my list. I have an idea of how it works, but I’d like to get educated.
10. Use a torque wrench
Another one on my list. I know how it works and what the theory is, but I’ve never used one myself.
11. Sharpen a knife
I’ve done this poorly several times, but I know how it’s supposed to work. I’m assuming one needs to practice.
12. Perform CPR
I want to take a class in this. Never done it.
13. Fillet a fish
No, I’ve never fileted a fish. I’d like to learn how.
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
I can both bust the rear tires loose and get them back under me again.
15. Get a car unstuck
Which do you prefer, snow, mud or sand? I’ve dug out more cars from the snow than I care to remember, and unslogged the Scout from both muddy fields and Assateague sand. Given the choice, I prefer snow.
16. Back up data
Do it every week. Don’t you?
17. Paint a room
If I had a nickel for every room I’ve painted, I could put myself through grad school.
18. Mix concrete
Done this a bit; I even got my future wife to mix it with me, bless her heart.
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
I don’t know how to do this, but I very much want to learn. Also a revolver and an automatic.
20. Change oil and filter
Yep. A VW bus, Nissan Sentra, Mazda pickup, Honda CRX, the Scout, and the Tortoise. I’ve never changed the Jeep’s oil, though.
21. Hook up an HDTV
*sniff* I don’t own one, but I’d like to practice.
22. Bleed brakes
I did this once, reading from a shop manual, and was very nervous about it. But I’m still alive, and the car stopped when I told it to.
23. Paddle a canoe
Yep, I’ve done this quite a bit too, and sunk them as well (see above). I’d like to own my own canoe someday, too.
24. Fix a bike flat
Many flats been changed, both in the woods and in the city.
25. Extend your wireless network
Is this for real? I can think of so many other things that are more important than this. For example:
1. Drive a stickshift. Then learn to double-clutch a stickshift.
2. Cook a steak dinner
3. Disassemble and clean a carburetor
4. Select the proper wine for dinner
5. Handmake an anniversary/birthday card
6. Change a tire (it astounds me how many men I know cannot do this)
7. Plant a garden and grow vegetables
8. Shingle a roof
9. Hang drywall
10. Cut, install and sweat copper piping.
11. Wash and fold laundry (I’m still working on this one)
12. Iron a dress shirt without burning it
13. Hang a door
14. Change a diaper
15. Play a musical instrument
16. Change brake pads
17. Give a foot, back and scalp massage
What have I missed?
There’s a certain scent in the air today. It’s something I associate with the age of ten or eleven, when I lived in a big house in the Connecticut woods and spent most of my time outside exploring. At the time I had a fascination with hunting, the army, the woods, and survival in the elements, so I built forts and bunkers and tree stands with my buddies, who shared the same interests I did (and who also lived on multi-acre plots of land like us.)
We’d stay out in the woods until the sun got low and filtered through the low-hanging leaves, and the temperature would drop, bringing out a particular earthy fragrance from the forest floor: The rich, loamy smell of leaves, heated and cooled, mixed with rich, moist earth, and a touch of fresh-cut grass, signalling the shortening days and cooler nights of fall just around the corner. It usually meant we were wearing jackets and jeans instead of shorts, school was back in session (so we were ducking schoolwork as long as we could) and we stayed out of the wetlands so we wouldn’t freeze as the sun went down.
Around the time dusk fell and we smelled woodsmoke through the trees, which meant that parents were home and settling in for the evening, we’d gather up our gear and say our goodbyes, then scatter our separate ways on well-worn paths through the forest. Days like this make me think of that brief, magical time of my life when afternoons lasted forever, Intellivision was my religion, Duran Duran were the biggest thing on the radio, my three best friends lived within walking distance, and the world was ours to explore.
A boxy mid-60’s Ford spied at the gas station on rt. 40 yesterday. It was gone this morning.
After shooting the Buick on friday, I stopped in at the Forest Diner on rt. 40 for a burger and some photos. The food isn’t the best in the land, and I can do without the preponderance of Betty Boop statuary, but I’m a sucker for lunch at a stool in an original Silk City diner car. Plus, the local diner chain™ is parked right next door, and I like to boycott their bland food whenever I can.
On the way out to Ellicott City, I spied a green ’50 or ’51 Buick Special by the side of the road with a ‘For sale’ sign in the window. Along with my recent resolution to get off my ass and write more, I’ve been trying to be more regular about photography, and again it paid off: I had my camera with me and filled a memory card with pictures.