Our non-winter has been an odd one -- hopefully not a harbinger of winters to come. We've been waiting for the right moment to tap our maple trees, when the daytime highs first climb above freezing -- usually in late February. This year, however, we haven't had a solid week where they remained below freezing, much less a few months of this weather. We finally put our taps in this morning, and they are all flowing well. Looks like we could've tapped them about a week ago had we been prepared for it.
I've always had an interest in woodworking, and did a lot of carving while I was growing up, first making toys for friends and myself (swords are very popular with eight year old boys) and then carving figures as Christmas presents for my grandparents. I've never owned the larger and more expensive power tools for more serious woodworking though, and don't see a whole lot of reason to purchase them now anyway.
Traditional woodworking, however (sans power tools) appeals to me immensely. A friend of mine is quite knowledgeable about it, and my father suggested that I watch "The Woodright's Shop" on PBS. I didn't imagine it was the same show I remember seeing a few times while I was growing up, but it is. It's been running for 30 years now -- a very impressive run! After dinner we've been picking out a few episodes here and there which I've really enjoyed.
We picked up a pile of black walnut for a song at an auction last spring, which has been tantalizing me ever since. Made thus far is a milking stool. Next? Maybe a medicine cabinet, or....? Now if only I could find the time to actually complete one of these projects...
As an aspiring blacksmith, I've come to the realization that I can make many of the simple woodworking tools which I don't already have. I've made a "hook knife" used in spoon carving, as well as a large froe for riving (splitting) planks, allowing me to make smaller lumber without a sawmill. I'll probably attempt a bowl-adze here sometime soon, but am not sure my skills are up to snuff just yet.
Doing things "the hard way" has a number of benefits, whether learning new skills, avoiding the use of fossil fuels, or gaining a bit of pride and self sufficiency. Sometimes I think I'm piling a little too much on myself, and other times (such as after watching this video) I'm disgusted that I'm not doing it enough. So in that vein of thought, I came up with the idea to cut some lumber (white oaks purchased from a landowner across the street from us) which I'm planning to load and haul with our horses to a friend's mill, a little over a mile away.
I know the theory behind loading logs on to a wagon using horses. This weekend I'll get to see how well I can make it work. I'm still using a chainsaw (thank you Alberta Tar Sands!), and the mill uses gas as well, but there will be no fossil fuel use beyond that. No skidders, logging trucks, or kilns. I'd *really* like to take the logs to a water powered mill, but the two former sites near our farm have been long since abandoned. Maybe someday I'll get to help rebuild them.
Divesting yourself of the suicidal tendencies inherent in our industrial society isn't easy. I'm not even sure it's possible with all the bridges we've burned and the knowledge we've lost, but I am certain that it's important to try. I, for one, would like to see my son have a chance of living on an intact planet. If we all continue with business as usual, that's not going to happen.
Time is one of the most important -- and scarce -- factors in doing things the right way. Riding your bike vs. taking the car. Growing and preparing a meal using your own fuel rather than going to a restaurant or grocery store. Teaching your kids vs. dumping them at a daycare or school. Time is of primary importance.
For most families, both parents hold jobs outside the home, often both full-time. As a result of time constraints we don't even have the option of doing things the right way. I'm beginning to think that this is a package deal; doing things the right way may very well require removing yourself from the security of full time jobs, and in many cases taking an effective vow of poverty. Is it better to remain part of the machine that will kill you and everyone you love, but provide for your immediate comfort and convenience?