The Other Winter Forest (January 17)

Even in these Maine winters, the forest doesn’t always stay frozen! It can, of course – just a couple of years ago, the snow came early in December, and storm followed storm, and they didn’t see the ground again until March…But most winters here near the coast here meander back and forth, freezing and thawing, so that winter’s magic is interrupted by what almost feels like spring…

The temperatures soar up into the 40’s :), warm enough to melt the snow and ice, but not quite warm enough to thaw the frozen ground…The bright sunshine makes its way down to the forest floor…And sunny woodland days are forestry days! A chance to split and stack firewood for days ahead, a chance to step out among the trees and see what’s what, and what you can do with it. Like a straight section of pine could become a special type of workbench called a shaving horse, in the future – but because it’s too heavy to drag, it will only be useful if it can be split where it fell…

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The tools are simple, and very much the same as those that were probably used by the first homesteaders on this land – a canthook, axe, sledge, and a series of wedges. We did add a chainsaw to this mix, which is a great time-savings in getting the tree down and into sections! 

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Still, most of the work for turning a tree into useable planks is by hand, and it’s amazing what these few tools can do, right there in the middle of the woods!

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There it is, right in half, and now we can carry each half up to the house and see about putting them to good use 🙂

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Smaller sections can be split down into a few planks, which we’ll stack under the eaves to dry, and hopefully use for shelving or small tabletops later.

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Every now and again, as we’re splitting firewood, something catches Joe’s eye – and suddenly, something that was headed for the wood stove began its transition into a really lovely bowl!

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Bowls like this are worked when the wood is green, with all the initial shaping completed before drying out the wood at all. This is different from furniture, where you cut and split out planks that will dry for a year or more before you assemble them into a piece of finished work.

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And there it is, from firewood to bowl in a couple of hours, and now there will be a few weeks of drying in the house before final smoothing, and finishing with beeswax for daily use!

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It seems likely that I’ll pile some fruit in it, but we’ll see 🙂 I am most grateful for God’s timing in these kinds of days – we only set out to chop firewood, but He knew there was a bowl lurking in that pile, and Joe had all the time he needed to be able to make it!

It’s certainly not all work and no play in a sunny winter forest!

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It’s a great time for tree-climbing…

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…and for fort-building…

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Asher was especially proud of this fort, built from logs and branches that he dragged and stacked from the surrounding forest…He burst into the house, exclaiming “Mom, Mom, you’ve gotta come see what I built! I never would have thought I could do it if I didn’t have a father like Dad!”

Though there are no springtime blossoms, this seems to be the glory-season for lichens and fungi, which are ever-surprising in their variety, and always a special delight because they spruce up the places that are often-overlooked and under-appreciated, those rotting logs, the undersides of branches, little damp hollows in stumps. the space beneath a piece of peeling bark…

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We’ve seen the barred owl several times lately, even right along the roadways, perched on powerlines and posts and treetops to hunt, always exhilarating when they glide out after a meal or wing away to a new vantage point.

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This little cutie is a Northern Saw-Whet owl, and I wish you could see him in person, instead of in this grainy shot out our back window at night! He’s only 8 inches tall, a night-hunter, who perches low to the ground and pounces on unsuspecting small rodents. I think we quite puzzled him with our flashlight, and he alternated between scanning the ground for prey and scanning our direction for danger, until he’d had enough, and swooped off into the forest.

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It’s only January, and there will be plenty more winter to enjoy, both the freezing kind and the melting kind…I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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