Tuesday, December 31 2013
I had to walk the dogs this morning, so when I left, I took a backpack frame and four rubber bungees with the idea of seeing how easy it would be to carry firewood home on my back from some place deep in the forest. It's common knowledge that people in third (or perhaps fourth) world countries routinely carry large loads of marginal firewood great distances on their back, so perhaps this technique would also work for me (at least in some cases). It seemed likely to work better than the other non-cart ways that I carry firewood out of the forest: in my arms or using simple sling firewood carriers.
Thought it was bitterly cold, I let the dogs pick the route from the Farm Road. Eleanor wanted to go up the Chamomile Headwaters Trail and then wanted to go south (away from the house) on the Stick Trail, meaning we went all the way around the highest part of Canary Hill (with the overlook of the Esopus cornfields) and back on the Gulleys Trail. 1500 feet from home on the Gulleys Trail (I would later determine this using a waypoint app on my Droid), I lashed two large pieces of Chestnut Oak to my backpack frame. I was much further from home than the places I normally gather firewood from, and the only reason there was cut firewood here was that a tree had fallen across the Gulleys Trail and I'd bucked some of it into woodstove-length pieces when I'd cleared it out of the way. Loaded with just these two pieces of wood, the backpack was too heavy to lift onto my back, so I had to wriggle into the straps on the ground, roll over onto my stomach, and carefully get to my feet. Despite the weight, walking with such a heavy pack was easy and didn't tire me. And aside from discomfort from one of the shoulder straps, I felt like I could walk for miles this way. When I got back to the woodshed, I weighed the pack with the wood and it came to 85 pounds (5 pounds of which was the pack itself). If moving that amount of firewood 1500 feet is going to feel so effortless, I expect to be using a backpack for a lot more of my firewood hauling. It seems the exhaustion that comes from carrying firewood in ones arms is almost entirely the result of holding those arms in a flexed position for such a long time, an energy expenditure that isn't actually accomplishing any work (according to the definition of "work" in physics).
An additional advantage of hauling firewood with a backpack is that it frees up the arms to do other things (such as carry more firewood). Somewhere in the woods, Ramona had found a piece articulated deer skeleton that included the back of a cranium, a piece of scalp, five or six vertebræ, and two two-point antlers, but she'd been leery of carrying it since smacking it into a tree and stabbing herself in the ribs with the antlers. So, using my free hands, I carried it for her as far as the Chamomile. It was so cold outside that I even let her bring it into the house. Coyotes had already picked it clean and it wasn't as nasty as it could have been. (I also saw Eleanor carrying a piece of that deer consisting mostly of the upper palate and teeth.)
Snow was falling at a brisk rate this afternoon, so I called Gretchen on her cellphone to suggest she come home. At the time she was across the Hudson working for a famous elderly poet who sometimes just pays her to sit around chatting with him. When I called, they were in the middle of a conversation about Japanese tentacle porn. Any excuse to leave that job early is one that Gretchen is going to take, and so she took it.
Just after sunset (that is, at around 4:40pm), I went down the trail with the Droid to get a waypoint for the firewood I'd hauled earlier so I could calculate that 1500 foot hauling distance. While I was at it, I used the backpack to retrieve another 50 pounds of firewood.
This evening Gretchen and I drove to Woodstock to partake in the Garden Café's annual New Years Eve prix fixe meal. When we arrived, our friends Chris & Kirsty (the photogenic vegan Buddhists) were there at their own table and our neighbor Andrea was with a large group at another table. The people we were there to meet were Sarah the Vegan (who actually works occasionally in the Garden's kitchen) and Carrie & Michæl. Michæl is about to go to Sherbrooke, Quebec to head some sort of arts program for homeless youth, though he said something to me about wanting to eventually get into electronics-based art. The prix fixe was perhaps a little overpriced, but we were there partly in support of the owner, who is undergoing treatment for some sort of cancer. When I'm at the Garden, my beverage of choice is always Ommegang Abbey Ale. I had two of those tonight. There's always some tabboo subject that keeps cropping up when the friends are good ones, and usually it's intestinal gas. Tonight, though, it was infidelity.
Ramona with the part of a deer she found in the forest today.
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