Looking Ahead

The Kubota is a godsend to grandfathers with aging knees, and always looking to kill a couple of birds with one stone, these rounds will warm several times over—twice already and they’re yet to be split, hauled in the house, burned in the woodstove or the ashes hauled out. Our eldest grandson is eight, and judging by photos from Kauai, he’s grown long and lanky, and perhaps beyond the busy work of splitting wood with grandpa to keep him occupied after he and Jessica arrive for Christmas on the ‘red-eye’ Saturday, but we’re ready.

It was a nice tree, a dead-standing Blue Oak that tipped over in last year’s wet weather. A Kubota-load of limbwood already hauled down the hill, another left to haul, these rounds are pushing 200 pounds each, over twelve hundred pounds judging by the back tires, and no, I didn’t load them by myself.

As a silly side note, the San Joaquin Valley traps perhaps the worst air quality in California, and as a result, burning wood to heat your home on bad air days is prohibited in town, turning neighbor against neighbor to tattletale to the SJVAPCD (San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District). I understand that a second offense carries a $5,000 fine.

In the ‘Valley of a Thousand Smokes’*, it is, of course, courageous to try to clean up our air, polluted primarily from the populated and industrialized areas of the SF Bay and Sacramento Delta. With the work of cutting and hauling, and/or the cost of firewood, I wonder just how much Valley fireplaces now would really add to the mix. And in a good many cases, it is the poorer families utilizing orchard prunings to reduce the cost of using fossil fuels to heat their homes that are most penalized, none of who could afford the fine.

Like gathering acorns for winter, cutting firewood is a practical, cultural event for farmers, cattlemen and others in rural areas. Nothing heats like a fire, certainly not central air when you work outside in the winter, the fire has always been a place for people to gather. Our trend away from common sense, doing for oneself, becomes plain to see.

That our weekend rain didn’t materialize is no surprise, but sorely disappointing as we await an unforecast, wild card storm out of the Pacific. Here at 2,000 feet, our grass is holding in the granitic soil, but sparse and gray in the adobe along Dry Creek. We’ve begun feeding high-dollar alfalfa again to hold our heifers and young cows with first calves together during breeding season as low temperatures hover around 30º.

* disclaimer: this anecdotal, native name for the San Joaquin Valley may not be accurate, but you see how the stories go.

5 responses to “Looking Ahead

  1. Suitcase is getting packed! We’re looking forward to warming by the wood stove with you soon. There’s a wealth in that Kubota. Help is on the way!


  2. I like the thought that firewood will “warm several times over.” I can definitely relate to that, though around here it is mountain mahogany that really takes the work. Have a wonderful time with family in the coming days.


  3. Two hundred pounds per round? I don’t know, John–we must be talkin’ 6-foot lengths? If I was there to help you load ’em, we’d guzzle some Incredible Hulk Tonsil Tonic and pack ’em down the hill, a couple rounds grappled under each arm–without that toy truck with a name right out of Star Wars!


  4. Indeed, I wish you were here with your Incredible Hulk Tonsil Tonic, your Bunyonesque exuberance, your fiery wit to set a blaze between us while we got the work done!


  5. We load great logs into our Central Boiler, which heats three houses and a shed. It only works because we live in the midst of dead forests, fallen to pine beetles. We don’t split the wood because it swallows the sectioned trees whole. I suggested to C.J. Box that in his next novel, he can dispose of a body in a Central Boiler.


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