#43: Chopping Wood

Posted by Megan on June 3rd, 2013

Thank goodness it is 2013. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone survived before the industrial revolution.  It seems inconceivable to live in an era when you couldn’t take a daily shower, dive a car, wear pants or watch hours of DVR reruns of King of Queens.  

I would be woefully useless if I was born at another time in history. I can’t even make it through a summer night without air conditioning, and me in a prairie dress p-lease. That is so not my style.

Just to be safe, I’m always on the lookout for stray time warps or mysterious devices that may be secret time machines. Have you ever been to an antique tractor show? Some of those suckers could easily be a hobby project for a mad scientist. Buyer beware!

Don't get too close or you might be swept into a Medieval Times (the time period, not the restaurant).

Don’t get too close or you might be swept into Medieval Times (the time period, not the restaurant).

My inability to survive pre-iPhone always becomes painfully obvious when I visit my friend Susan and her family. They have somehow managed to carve out a very rustic life in the suburbs.

Susan is a go-to blog facilitator since her life is drastically different from mine. In my original blog quest, she helped me learn to geocache and her sister taught me to make jewelry.

This week, I learned to chop wood.

Nicole Kidman makes it look easy, and even a little sexy, in Cold Mountain. If Nicole can do it on a daily calorie intake of 450 calories, certainly I should have no problem. After all, I sometimes do a few pushups before I go to bed, and I had just eaten a huge hamburger. What an easy-breezy blog week, right? Thrust an ax towards some wood – blog done in three minutes.

Nope – not so much.

As it turns out, chopping with an ax is hard physical work. Susan’s husband, Brent, demonstrated on several logs for me. His flow was easy, and the wood submitted easily, but I could instantly tell, it wasn’t an easy job.

Brent made chopping wood look so easy, you'd think he was a direct descendant of Paul Bunyan.

Brent made chopping wood look so easy, you’d think he was a direct descendant of Paul Bunyan.

The ax was a heavy, forceful tool. It was much more menacing than I expected. I made a point to specifically mention where to find my health insurance card, in case of an ax-cident.

Even after careful instruction and encouragement, I was terrible. My first few hacks hit the log square, but barely made a mark. If I had the accuracy to hit the same spot a few times in a row, I probably could have made progress, but alas, each strike hit a few centimeters from the prior. Brent assured me that the wood was “unusually hard” (how is that even possible?) and chopped the circular tree dissection into two pieces, leaving me to chop it into quarters.

Watch out - Megan is yielding a weapon.

Watch out – Megan is yielding a weapon.


The log was being  stubborn. I brought out my stern voice.

The log was being stubborn. I brought out my stern voice.

This was a more attainable goal. After three more hits, I finally cracked it – and then used the ax head to pry the two pieces apart. Technically this is probably cheating, but thankfully there were no log umpires (aka: refetrees)  around to call me on it.


I used a little short "cut" to finish the job.

I used a little short “cut” to finish the job.


The next day I woke up with a sore shoulder and a pretty nasty mystery bruise on my leg. Sufficed to say, despite my affinity for flannel shirts, I will not be going into the lumberjacking (lumberjilling?) field any time soon.

Thankfully, there is an easier way.

Brent showed me how to use their 20 ton log-splitter.  Who knew such an instrument even existed? It was pretty bad ass. It crushed even the biggest logs into submission with little effort.

Log splitter.

All I had to do was move a lever back and forth, after years of playing Miss Pacman, this came naturally. It  was much easier than swinging a massive weapon squarely towards my feet.



Although I never quite got the hang of swinging an ax, it was still a learning experience. I now have even more respect for my ancestors. The life we live is built firmly on the efforts of millions of people who innovated to make life just a little bit easier than those before them.

I’m also more thankful for my gas fireplace. I haven’t had to replace that log once!

  • © 2011 Megan Steil