January 03, 2012

Cabin Fever, the Hidden Blog-Killer

New Year's resolutions: get my email inbox below eighty items and make progress on various writing and editing projects. The usual. Not much blog-fodder there, though.

It snowed thirty inches (76 cm) here the week before Christmas, and we had a Dallas family coming on the 26th for a week at the rental cabin. But they assured me that they were renting a 4wd vehicle for the trip. I spent hours behind the snow-blower, clearing my 100-yard driveway, the driveway up to the cabin, and a neighbor's.

Since these are all bumpy gravel roads, I don't try for a bare surface but leave a remnant of three or four inches of snow that you easily can drive over. (Martha Stewart says that that is more elegant anyway. These rules are a parody, but #1 is true.)

For a three days or so, skis and snowshoes were the way to get around, especially cross-county skiing on the county and Forest Service roads before they were plowed.

By Christmas Day, our driveway looked like a long white trench speckled with dog turds. But a  series of bright, sunny days and below-freezing nights were rapidly converting it to something slipperier. Wherever you drove or walked froze quickly, and soon it was instead a ribbon of ice—speckled with dog turds.

The Texans arrived after midnight, so technically on the 27th. I walked out later that morning with the dogs and found a front-wheel-drive minivan skewed diagonally across the driveway, in such a place as to block us in too.

They had been unable to rent the planned SUV, they said. Probably everyone wanted one to go to New Mexico or Colorado for their ski trips.

It was one of three vehicles that I had to help get unstuck that day. By the 30th or so, the road had thawed enough that they could drive it all the way up to the cabin.

I like to get some winter visitors—ours is mainly a May–September rental business—but it is always more worrisome then. Like when the power went out for about six hours on December 31st because of the pole-snapping high winds.

Meanwhile, wood! I was more Grasshopper than Ant last summer, nor did I buy a couple of cords, split and delivered, from Harry the Firewood Guy. So we hit winter with less than a cord stacked, plus several beetle-killed pines uphill from the house that I had my eye on.

I sawed and I hauled, and we burned through at least three trees before the snow  got deep. Then I could not even get up the road to the "back twenty" in the Jeep. We ended up hauling pine tree "rounds" down the hill on sleds. It sometimes was too much like Captain Scott goes to the South Pole.

And one that part is done, the splitting is done. M. will haul a sled like Lt. Oates, but the chainsawing and the swinging of the Monster Maul (TM) is my part. To use the phrase I picked up from the Atomic Nerds, it's the New Hampshire Home Gym.

Free weights bore me, unless they are on a 30-inch steel or hickory handle. And a little of that goes a long way.

But soon I'll be off to the SHOT Show, and I have been pointedly reminded that there must be enough split wood on the veranda to cover my absence.

Meanwhile, walking in the woods means snow drifts, treacherous crusty snow, or mud. My favorite quail-hunting-for spot has silty soil that turns to goo when it's wet. I will check tomorrow to see if it has dried enough to be walkable. Because I am getting the fidgets bad.

I do have some newsy posts in draft. Expect those soon.


Midwest Chick said...

You definitely need one of the below items. Heck, we need one too and we've got a hydraulic splitter....


Chas S. Clifton said...


"I'm a front-mounted hydraulic splitter operator, and I'm all right!"

green investments said...

30 inches of snow?! How does on survive much less go get food to eat. 99pc of the cities in the world would just shut down in those conditions!

mdmnm said...


My dad got a Monster Maul when I was a teenager after I broke a series of hickory handles. Nearly thirty years later, it's still going strong. Works great on dry pine, pinon, & the like, but I don't think the wide angle of the wedge is so good for green wood or for oak. As for elm, well, nothing works well on elm.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Most of what I am splitting is ponderosa pine, so I rarely need to resort to wedges.

The Monster Maul is OK on Gambel oak, which is the only kind of oak I see, and it does not get too big.

Aspen, surprisingly, can be a bitch to split. You would not think so, because it is so light.

I don't normally get it, because the heat value is low, but a neighbor cut down some dying aspens and gave me the wood a couple of years back.