Winter’s Work

I, this is George writing, spend a lot of time in the woods in winter. Most of this time is spent cutting, splitting and stacking firewood, but I also walk in the woods. Winter is a time of contrasts in West Virginia. The temperatures can be unseasonably warm, or it can be bitterly cold. It can be overcast for days or there can be clear skies with the blue incredibly bright in the cold dry air. There can be snow or mud or dry ground.

I’ve been cutting most of our firewood off the rocks road on our property. On a flat below the road to the south a large red oak fell taking with it a large white oak. I cut this red oak this year. I plan on cutting the white oak next year. The red oak when it came down also brought down a small maple tree in the left foreground of the photo.

There had been a light snow when I’d started to stack the piles of split wood. There ended up being two stacks of red oak and a much smaller stack of maple.

I came across these ice crystals covering a small patch of frozen water on the road when walking to the mail box.

The ice crystals were tiny and clumped on the frozen puddle.

Deer sleep curled up on the ground. Sometimes it’s possible to spot these deer beds in the dry leaves. It’s a lot easier to see the beds when it has snowed. In this photo there are three spots where deer slept while it snowed. After an earlier snow I came across a much larger cluster of deer beds, 6 or 7, in a small area sheltered by small beech trees. These deer are sleeping on a sheltered south facing slope.

I’ve had to create three ATV trails to get to some of the trees I’ve been cutting. This trail goes up to the knoll above the rocks. I had a pile of wood I’d cut 2 years ago up on the knoll and the trail meant I could take the trailer to the pile and bring the split wood to the house for firewood this winter. On the knoll I felled a dead white oak and cut up two fallen red oaks. That wood is stacked for next year. On the knoll this fall there were three deer scrapes—trees (in this case very small trees) where male deer had rubbed their antlers.

There are always surprises in the woods. There are long vista views that we’ll lose once the trees leaf out again. There’s almost always something close at hand, too. This is an orchid leaf that was near a fallen red oak log I was cutting. I’ll have to check and see if I can get a photo of its flower. I’ve only seen this type of orchid one other place in the woods and only seen that one’s beautiful flower once.

Elijah came to visit us in February and he helped me stack wood one morning. This is wood from a fallen red oak. I had to cut through the top for an ATV trail and it made sense to cut up the hole log.

Elijah is six now and eager to help. He really liked stacking split pieces of wood in the pile.

A large red oak fell just to the south of the rocks a couple of years ago. I started cutting it this winter. Most of the firewood I cut this year was on fairly level ground. This tree fell down a steep slope and was a challenge. On the flat is a stacked pile of firewood I cut last year.

The cut sections of this tree are quite large and heavy. I had to use a 5 foot steel pry bar to flop them so they lay flat. This photo gives an idea of the slope I was working on. The round bolts are too heavy to lift and hard to control when I cut. The last thing I want is one to break loose and roll down the hillside. Luckily, it is a lot easier to throw split pieces of wood down a steep hillside than carry them up to stack.

There are always lots to see when I’m working. This is the outer side of a piece of red oak where the bark has fallen off during splitting.

March 23, 2022