Monday, May 12, 2014

cutting the firewood

IMG_9323 Life in the forest is funny. Practically the moment after we finish worrying about the threat of bush-fires, we start lighting fires.

One day we have bags packed at the front door filled with our valuables, we have water pumps filled with petrol ready to go and we have a list on the fridge with every one's task, should the worst come to the worst and we have to evacuate.

And the next day the temperature drops and our priorities change. Just like that. Now instead of worrying about fire, we're worrying about the fire going out.

In our little home in the forest, the fire cooks our food and keeps us warm. Over the wintry days we are always scrunching up bits of newspaper, gathering twigs and sticks for kindling, splitting chunks of wood and constantly opening the cooker door to make sure it's still going and burning hot.

When we first moved here I used to cry every time a tree was cut down on our farm. I used to mourn the habitat and the beautiful part of our environment. 13 years later I am more practical. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad, it just is. These days I know that living on the edge of the Wombat State Forest, with 20 acres of bushland as our own, it is important to manage our trees. I know that we need to get rid of trees that grow too close to our house, that occasionally we need to thin out small sections of the forest in order to let some of the trees have more access to sunshine and thereby grow, and I know that we need to use these choices to cut firewood to heat our home and to cook our food. I also know that each year we plant hundreds of fruit, nut, native and exotic trees in unforested areas of our farm.


Over the past few days we've been cutting and splitting and stacking the wood that will do these important jobs in 2016. For wood to be hot burning and efficient it needs two years to season and dry out.

Last week my farmer boy carefully selected the six trees to come down and marked them. Bob the tree man came early on Thursday morning and cut them down. We built a bonfire as tall as a house with all the small branches and leaves and watched and listened to it crackle as all the oily leaves caught and burnt. Then Bob cut the trees into rounds and we split them, carried them and stacked them, me and farmer Bren and my dad.

This year for the first time we hired a hydraulic wood splitter. In the past we've always done it by hand which is certainly quieter and more idyllic. Farmer Bren still thinks he can keep up by hand but let me tell you that after watching this thing slice through a one metre round as if it were butter, I'm never going back.

So far we've done 16 cubic metres, with another eight still to split. It is heavy, loud, dirty work. When we come in at night I have to take my overalls off by the back door and shake all the wood chips out before I come inside. It is hard to imagine my hands will ever be clean again.

But there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of coming inside after a hard day's work. That feeling and knowledge that the effort we are putting in now will keep us and my parents warm and fed in two years time. That we are looking after ourselves, planning for the future, teaching our children practical life skills.

On sunshine-filled autumn days like these days, I feel so happy to be living like this. It makes so much sense.

I hope you have a gorgeous week my friends.

Big love,



  1. So many childhood memories of wood cutting came rushing back to me as read and saw what you've been up to. I could smell the wood and sap. Oh how I want those memories for our boy :: working on it! Love, Nic x

  2. A good wood pile is a beautiful thing. Speaks of comfort and security. And a big 'Hell Yeah' to hiring in the processor- especially if you're doing a stash for your folks too.

  3. The smell of a good, warm fire - is there anything better? Good memories from my childhood...

    Take care

  4. Nothing nicer than a good log store in preparation for a cold Winter. Is that sap oozing out of that log? It is so brightly coloured, it almost looks like blood. x

    1. It is sap. And it does look like blood. The girls were enthralled with it. They collected cups of the stuff and worked it into their games. I think it water-proofs fabric too.

  5. I was the chief kindling collecter, when I was a little girl. We also relied on our woodstove for heating and cooking and even though my parents rented, it came along to each house with us!

  6. Quanta bella legna pronta per riscaldare

  7. I used to be like you Kate, sad whenever Tim cut a tree down but I too understand why now. Tim has been home 10 days now & we've had 6 fires. My middle boy loves them as much as his dad & I just enjoy watching them hang out together.

  8. Same with the tree chopping, now I get it, some trees are dangerous, they need to come down because they might squash us! Plus like you said we plant loads more then we cut down and it a all part of being caretakers of our little bit of bush. Great stacks. Xx

  9. It's such a amazing process, lost in the everyday, thinking about just what it takes, to keep warm, stay warm and get through each season. Thank you for sharing the process, it's beautiful and no doubt, seriously hard work. xx

  10. We don't have a wood heater in this house, but in the past we used to head out for a family day of wood cutting! It was fun, and I miss it- though I do like the look of that electric doobly-wacker

  11. We have a wood splitter now to get the wood for my Mum on our farm. Will never not have one again.

  12. This is my life now on a smaller scale. It's good you got that machine, wood chopping is such hard work. Haha, we also worry all Summer about fire and then all winter about keeping the fire going. I was up at 1am and then at 5am to keep the fire going. What an amazing farm you have - a lot of hard work but so rewarding.

  13. Kate, thanks for your blog, I, too, could almost smell the smoke. We live on a fairly tiny suburban block now, after 12 1/2 acres. Funnily enough my hubby just bought home our wood supply (on a much smaller scale than yours). We have a brazier in the back yard and are about to light it this weekend for the first time this year. There will be sticks and marshmallows, long chats and much flame gazing :) Jenny Q'ld

  14. Fantastic photos, Kate! Oh but I'm so envious of your woodpile! We're a bit more hand-to-mouth with ours, I'm afraid! Maybe it's a good thing to call the tree man. And the hydraulic splitter sounds like the best idea ever. But I looked at Bren's hands next to that splintery wood and shivered at the thought of those giant splinters! It's hard work getting wood but worth it on these cold nights!

  15. Lovely- I can feel the chill in the air and smell the wood smoke. With all the regeneration you are doing I think you are making up for the felling. It's all about balance after all and I'd bet that your carbon footprint is pretty small living the way you do.

  16. What a wonderful connection to the land you have at your place. You are a wonderful caretaker of your earth x

  17. Fantastic photos Kate! Thanks for sharing a part of your life that could be viewed as just plain monotonous and good on you for somehow making it joyous and worthwhile. I need to learn this lesson better...!

  18. So many lovely childhood memories. That last image is just divine, Kate! Autumn is splendid! x

  19. one of our favourite things to do at my parents place is to jump in poppy's big car and head down the gully to cut and collect fire wood, not to mention all the exploring that goes with it..x

  20. That is one serious wood pile! We have a small wood heater that we don't need to light every night in winter, so our wood stack is considerably smaller. I love the nights when it's cold enough to have a fire going, when we collect twigs and kindling in the cold windy paddocks, knowing that soon it will be dark and we'll be inside warming our toes by the fire.

    Sarah xx

  21. Ooh wood stacking is definitely an art! We are wood cutters, splitters and stackers too...a definite necessity around these cold parts. We have our fire going day and night through winter, it's a much nicer heat than the reverse cycle/central heating. Good luck with the remaining eight metres...happy stacking! x Dre

  22. Wonderfull photos and wonderfull words! Every time I read a post of you, I think I want to live also closer to nature. Not easy in a German city :-)
    Jutta xxx

  23. We are getting a brazier for the backyard, so that we can teach Leo the Jinks family tradition of log-splitting!

  24. A big stack of firewood is always a pleasing sight! Such sappy wood too, it must crackle and spit beautifully when it's burnt.

  25. Breathtakingly beautiful pictures you got there. I love how the piled up trunks look like an artistic installation from a close-up. It must have been a majestic sight, culling those giants. Also, it's good that I'm not the only one who thought that the sap looks a lot like blood. Hahaha! I hope everyone's in the best of health this season. Thanks for sharing!

    Melva Ullman @ MPDT

  26. It's such an astounding procedure, lost in the regular, contemplating simply what it takes, to keep warm, stay warm and get past each one season. Much obliged to you for offering the methodology, its excellent and probably, truly diligent work. Welldone Job!!!
    Perth firewood


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Kate XX

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