All I can do is apologize for my long absence from this space, and make no promises that there won’t be another one. You may remember, my partner Steve and I are building our dream house on the water in rural North Carolina.  Building a house, even when you’re paying somebody else to do it, keeps you busy.  I’ve gone from being a 9-5 bachelor with hours to while away, stitching words together, to someone who commutes daily, 25 miles one way, to the 2 1/2 acres of land that we are preparing to be our world for the foreseeable future.  Whenever I have the time to write, under any circumstances, my stories are about my life.  And at the moment my life is house, the whole house and nothing but the house.  Here’s a vignette.

Among the scores of trees on our 2 1/2 acres was a magnificent and ancient beech. It stood at least 50 feet tall and had a circumference at the base of over 6 feet. It stood within touching distance of our spanking new garden shed and, alas, it was rotten at its roots. Huge holes had been dug into it by everything from microbes to insects to, no doubt, snakes. With regret, we had to face the fact that it must come down.

Dwight was the man for the job. He was the foreman on the framing crew, the man who directed all the very intricate carpentry that made all those peaks and valleys on our roof a reality. He’s a master carpenter and also a nice guy who’s always hustling a few extra bucks. That’s what we paid him to cut the tree down–it was on the ground, cut into immense, even logs, when we returned from our Nags Head vacation in September.

It goes without saying that the eventual destination for this wood bonanza is our fireplace. To get it ready for service, the next step for us was to split the logs into hearth-size pieces, and Dwight said we could borrow his gas-powered hydraulic log-splitter to do the job. We still had to finish building the shed and then put siding on it (a rule imposed by the Homeowner’s Association), so the task had to wait a few weeks. And in those few weeks Dwight, that sterling character of a master carpenter, made like a contractor and disappeared. “Oh, yes,” he said, when we called him to confirm he would still lend us the splitter. But he never showed up on the appointed day, and he stopped returning our calls. He’d gotten his money and had no sentimental need to continue the relationship.

So there we were with many many beech logs to split and nothing to split them with. We looked at renting a splitter and were prepared to do that, even at $69 a day, because we thought we had no choice. Then our Deep Creek Shores neighbors stepped into the breach. One of them stopped by for a chat and in the course of the conversation he mentioned that another neighbor had a splitter we could probably borrow. Relieved, we called that neighbor to talk log splitters. He said we were welcome to his, but it hadn’t worked in months and he’d trashed it. He’d ordered a new one, but it wouldn’t be delivered for weeks.

Back to the rental idea. Since these splitters are big machines that have to be towed, and none of our vehicles has a trailer hitch, our plan was to borrow the truck and trailer from the same guy (yet another neighbor) from whom we had borrowed them to clear brush. But he had major qualms about letting us drive the rig all the way to the rental place in Elizabeth City. Insurance concerns. He was very apologetic and it was clear he felt bad about leaving us in the lerch, but we understood, probably would feel the same way if we’d been the lenders. We went back to square one with our plans, preparing to actually rent a trailer to pull the splitter down from E. City, when the truck-and-trailer neighbor called us to say he remembered yet another neighbor who had a splitter! That was the middle of last week. We called neighbor number 4, and we got the response with which we were becoming depressingly familiar: we were welcome to borrow his splitter, but it wasn’t running at the moment. The difference this time, however, is that this guy is a whiz-bang mechanic who can make anything with a carburetor run. He said he’d be able to fix the splitter over the coming weekend (this previous one), and we’d be able use it for as long as we needed it after that. Since it rained all last week anyway, no untoward time was lost. We found other things to do on the property while it rained.

Finally, last Sunday, Mr. Mechanic delivered the splitter. A noisy monster that applies 14 tons of hydraulic pressure to split the biggest log we’ll ever see (and that’s not even the biggest, which comes in at 20 tons), it will be our boon companion all week. It took us a mere two days to reduce the mighty beech tree to the stacks of wood you see in the photo above. That is about 132 cubic feet of wood, slightly more than a cord. It will last us several lifetimes. And we aren’t even finished. Tomorrow we’ll tackle this pile, img_00401 which was saved from the original land clearing. It’s oak and cypress, and there’s at least another cord there.

Need some firewood?