Saturday, 25 February 2012

Seasoning wood

I`d found my seasoned log for carving; in amongst a long cluttered line of storm-damaged beech and birch trees.
I set to with Robin`s hand saw and, adapting to the slow rhythm; the ache growing in my arms, I sought diversion in my surroundings. I was sawing in a scene reminiscent of a dormant Samuel Palmer pen and ink drawing. Below me, deep-sided broadleaf-clad hills converged on a trickling brook running hidden and steeply down to the back road. Though the February sun warmed northern hills over the river, those around me were cast in shade.

Fine, pale green sawdust sprang from the beech`s gash. I`d misjudged; too green to carve yet, I surmised, (and probably too heavy to heft down the hill; full as it still was with sap). However, I was committed and sawed laboriously and, cutting finally  through the lower edge, the long, heavy trunk`s two parts slyly clenched  shut on my blade.
I managed in the end  to jiggle and slide the saw loose. Before choosing where to make the second cut I stood and stretched my legs and back. I spied an older, much deader birch trunk and knew it to be good firewood; the silver bark had uncurled itself and the round cross-section showed pale as dry straw. 
I cut a dozen four-foot lengths and lobbed them over by a tree base. They resounded off each other like ancient xylophone music.
Returning to the beech trunk I imagined the length my envisaged  figure would need, and resumed  labours.
Anticipating another weight shift I improvised wedges and supports from supple larch branches and cut pine boles. But the severed section, once freed, stuck fast. Irrevocably this time; there was no freeing it. Liberated, gravity clung it more tightly.
Again I slid and cajoled my saw loose and then, because there was nothing else for it,  cast around philosophically for another likely log. This first attempt could wait a year, by which time the section will have seasoned and loosened.
Close by, a birch tree had been struck horizontal by winds, roots to top, a couple of winter`s ago I judged. Unlike the beech, it lay over other felled trees. I roughly calculated how the constituent parts of its great weight  would lean and fall once  severed and, encouraged,  began sawing.
Success this time ! I hefted the 5 and a half foot section free and slowly transported it end over end, over heavy end, to the path`s head from where I rolled it in fan-like bursts down the trail, ( it`s circumferences being unequal).
Like a freshly caught and killed fish the birch`s beautiful white silver bark dulled in the mud. My resolve to sculpt again was sorely tried as my back strained again and again to daisy more than my own body weight towards the car.
But now I`ve found my seasoned log for carving. It lies waiting under the shed`s new awning.