Cleaving Splits

Its a wet and windy start to April here, not April showers, but more like April falling sideways cold needles.  Makes me want to hunker down with a nice wood fire.  I wrote before about the old wood stove, and how it was such a cosy part of home.  Well today I’m reminded of getting the thing lit, while we were bivvering with the cold, especially if it was a fire at the cabin.

Slabs stacked for winter.

Slabs stacked for winter. (Eric Cooper Picture)

To start a fire of course you need gas… um I mean you need kindling.  To us Newfoundlanders tho kindling is a foreign word, what you really need is splits.   Part of the evening chores of bringing in a wood box of wood, also included filling a split box full of splits. What are splits? Well they are slabs that have been cleaved on a chopping block.  And what are slabs you may ask? Well slabs are the sides of wood left over from when a log has been sawed into lumber at a mill.  We’d buy them by the pickup load from the local mill if you didn’t have a mill of your own, and they’d be used as part of your winter wood supply, great for getting a bit of heat in a hurry.

Everyone had a big old log or stump in their woodhouse to cleave slabs, or split wood on.  We’d lay a slab down on it, or perhaps prop it up against it and chop an axe down through till we had some splits about an inch or two wide with nice jaggly edges to catch easily when put in the stove with some old newspaper or catalog pages.

Also unfortunately, many a foot or hand has been cut with someone being a little too careless with the old axe, luckily I never was, tho I did catch the toe of my steel nosed boot once.

Anyway on a April sideways wet needle rain kinda day, a load of slabs keeping a wood fire going would be a welcome way to warm my cold feet.

Wood for the Winter

There’s no heat that’s as cosy as a wood heat.  I posted before about the old wood stove, and how comforting a heat it gave off.  While the old stove has faded from use in favour of the electric range, many people still use wood for their wood furnaces or 24 hour burners.  Back home, getting your wood usually means do it yourself.  There’s not a ton of hardwood on Random Island, a few stands of birch and maple, so most people’s winter wood is fir and spruce.

Bucksaw (Picture by Eric Cooper)

Bucksaw (Picture by Eric Cooper)

Typically we’d go in in the fall of the year and cut what wood we needed for the upcoming, or perhaps even the next winter. We’d lay a few sticks length wise to keep the major portion of the wood above the damp ground, and then stack it as you see here to start the drying process.  We’d leave it in the woods until winter, as there was no easy way to get it out before.

Once winter came, we would hook up the horse to the old slide and off we’d go.  Of course the horse has been mainly replaced by the ski-doo and atv’s now, but the slide remains pretty much the same.  Once it was out, it would again likely be stacked closer to home, but left untouched till spring and summer.

Once it got warmer, we’d break out the old saw horse, and start cutting the wood into junks.  When I got older I used the chain saw, but before I was allowed to handle it, the old bucksaw had to do.  It was actually more fun, if slower with the bucksaw actually, just something about using it.

We’d then usually stack the wood outside again, maybe on a few slabs to keep it off the ground, and let it sun dry for the summer.  Once it was dry, we’d split the larger junks with an axe, and stow it all in the woodhouse.  Typically we’d have piles going right to the beams.  I can still remember dad’s admonishments to alternate big ends and small ends so it wouldn’t tip.

Am nostalgic for it now, but I have to admit it was hard work, and there was little I hated more as a kid than the chore of filling the woodbox and cleaving splits every evening. Oh yes, splits! Well I guess nowadays people call it kindling and buy it in bags at Irving! But back then we took slabs (a topic for another day) and propped them up and split them into, well splits for our kindling.  I actually enjoyed making those, just not so much bringing the wood in.