That’s our term for the hungry thing downstairs that gobbles up wood like it is candy. And really, we are glad to keep him fed because that is how we stay warm. That’s because he is our beloved wood stove. Without him, winter would be very long and cold indeed. It’s just that it takes so much work to keep him happy. I have to tend to him just about as carefully as I do my children! At least once an hour, I make a trip down there just to check on him, and see how his day is going. I affectionately call him The Beast because he is a big guy, and has a huge stomach. And he demands to be fed hourly. Not only that, it takes a lot of work just to get the food ready to be shoved into his stomach!
First, we have to go out into the forest and find a dead tree. Now here in Idaho, that is not an easy task. Why you ask? Well, I’ll be glad to tell you why.
First of all, all the trees here in Idaho are tall. Reaaaalllllyyy tall! Seriously much taller than me! But that doesn’t help you much in knowing how tall these trees are, because even my kids are taller than me…
Well yes. Back to the subject at hand. Trees in Idaho grow to be very, very, very tall. And they have lots of limbs that stick out, and look dead. In fact the closer to the ground, the more dead limbs you tend to see. So, in order to find a truly dead tree… you have to crane your neck waaaay back and look waaay up to the very, very top to see if there is any green at all showing on the tree. It takes skill, I tell you! I can only do it for a few minutes before I become dizzy and pass out, and they have to carry me home… it’s a great excuse to get out of wood gathering you know….
So yes, it takes a lot of head craning, neck bending, and eyes narrowing in order to see waaay to the top of the tree and make sure it is all the way dead, even to the very top. Because if the national forest police come and find you cutting a tree that’s not dead… well…. Than soon you’ll be the owner of a big fat hefty fine! No cutting down trees that are alive in the national forest (which is where we go to get our wood).
And because we had so much fun enjoying all the gorgeous summer weather, and all the other smarter Idahoan residents made it out to the National Forest before we did, they got all the easy dead wood before we came along in the fall looking for dead wood. It’s not an easy task, let me tell ya…. If you don’t believe me, you’re invited to our next wood-cutting party just to see for yourself!
So, first you have to find a dead tree… which, if you haven’t passed out from craning your neck to find it…. then once you do find a dead tree…. you really do feel like you’re going to pass out after you find it, because it is most likely on the side of a mountain. A very steep mountain with drop-offs and big rocks, and lots of brush.
If you’re smart, like my husband and I like to think we are…. you gather a group of teenage kids who have never cut wood in the mountains before, and promise them a free meal at McDonald’s for a day of cutting wood. It worked… at least for the first day. We tried it the second day, and all of a sudden, everyone of them had “chores” that had to be attended to… yeah, really!
So back to the tree cutting business… first you have to cut the tree down, and this is pretty dangerous, because with all the other trees around in the forest, you don’t know which one might have a top that is dead and dry, and might get knocked over by the falling tree, and land on your head. So…. When everyone hears …. Tiiimmmmbbbeeerrrrr …. You run for it, and hope the direction you’re running isn’t the direction the tree decides to fall!
So, after you get the tree on the ground, then you have to start cutting it up. That is my husband’s job. Lucky him. He just gets to stand there and saw away. Easy peasy. The rest of us have to bend down, pick up each cut piece, shoulder it, and heave-ho down the mountain to the waiting pickup, where it is handed to someone waiting on the tailgate of the truck, who then stacks it onto the bed of the pickup, and then you turn around and trudge back up the mountain to do it all over again.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? This is like the best exercise in the world! You can hear your heart pumping a mile away! Groans, grunts, sweat pouring… it’s a lot of excitement indeed. The kids can’t hardly stand it.
Then we come up with a grand idea. We are going to roll the logs down the hill. So we clear the brush out of the way, and give the logs a good push, and off they go… only…. we forgot to make sure that they stopped at the tailgate of the pickup. Sadly, we watched several continue rolling… right off the road, and down into the ravine below. No one wants to volunteer to go and round up those logs. I think they’re still there….
So once we get all the wood we can fit onto the truck and trailer, we are all beat. We look like we’ve been in a fight with a rabid dog. Scratches, black filthy pine-gum crusted hands and legs. Dirty sweaty flushed red faces.
Everyone is so tired that on the ride home, no one hardly makes a sound. I’ve never heard a bunch of teenage kids be this quiet. Never.
But that’s not all. So, we get home, and the crew tries to scramble. They know the drill, what’s next… but everyone has an excuse…. My legs hurt… I think my back is broke.. I gotta go to the bathroom…. I need a Band-Aid my arm is bleeding… oh yeah. They’re some great excuses… but we tell them … you gotta toughen up! Whadya think your great great great grandparents had to do when they were out doing wood? It had to be done…. Ya know….
So, with more grunts, groans, and loud complaints…. We form a line from the pickup bed to where we are going to pile the wood outside for it to sit and dry out. Finally we get the wood off the pickup, and all piled up outside the house. When the last piece of wood is stacked, all becomes silent. The kids are gone, instantly.
Wearily, I turn towards the house, because I know my job is not yet done either. For now, I’ve got to figure out what to feed all these hungry tired kids…. Whatever made me think that feeding them at McDonald’s before we left would keep me from having to cook dinner tonight?
…. Well… that is just one side of the lovely wood story. The next side to the story, is actually bringing it into the house. That is another whole story in itself. I’m tired just thinking about it. Especially because Mr. Beast downstairs has eaten up our indoor supply of wood, and its just about time for us to do this all over again.
Do I have any volunteers? Ha. My kids conveniently try to find ways to not be home when the sore subject of wood comes up now. They are pretty creative with ways to get out of it actually. But my husband and I are pretty creative at finding ways to let them know that they can’t. For example…. Alright, no wood, then no heat. No heat, then you freeze. Like that one? Nope. No one wants to freeze this winter. We all like staying toasty warm… so heigh ho.. heigh ho… it’s off to the wood pile we go!
Mr. Beast is hungry, and needs to be fed, and we like staying warm, so it’s a great tradeoff.
I’m taking names now for any volunteers who want to help feed The Beast….. just sign up below. I’ll contact you with the pertinent information and we might even be able to squeeze in a meal at McDonald’s just to make it worth your while.
…. Off to feed The Beast….
Oh! If you don’t hear from me this weekend, I just want you to know... that we will be packing wood in so we can feed.... The Beast....