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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wood Run

The television news said it got down to nearly 20 degrees F last night. If the usual seven-degree difference for Ranchitos held, that meant it was about 13 degrees or so at our house. No wonder everything was covered with a sheen of frost after the sun rose.

It looked like we had enough wood to build about one more good fire. It was time to go for a wood run. We’d talked about it for a while but the reality set in we made plans to make the run this weekend.

To make a wood run you need a truck, a chain saw, some gas, an axe or two, heavy work gloves and a wood cutting permit. Another strong person is a big help but it depends on how many people you can fit in your cab. The problem is that then you need to split the wood with that person – unless everyone is getting warm by the same fire. Don’t forget water and a little something to eat because even though the wood run only takes a couple of hours – the hours are active ones and you can really work up an appetite.

I learned how to chop firewood when I lived in Oregon. I remember learning in the rain. When it was suggested I go chop some wood for the household (there were five of us students sharing a two-story house with two woodstoves and a fireplace), I said “But it’s raining!” My housemates – seasoned Oregoonies all -- chuckled and handed me the maul and sledge hammer and showed me the chopping block and the stack of rounds out back.

Then there was the second-story apartment I rented when I first moved to Taos. It was 10 miles up Taos Canyon, and on the shady side. There were vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. I carried 10 cords of wood up a flight of stairs that year.

But even with all this rich wood burning experience, I’d never gone on a wood run until today.

Rick, Ella, Rick’s brother, Jeff, and I headed west to one of the little mountains just past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The mountain is covered with a green furze of cedar and pinon. There have been a couple of years of drought plus an invasion of bark beetle, so you see that there‘s a lot of dead and down wood for the taking.

Evidence of other wood getting excursions is everywhere. Those who have preferred to carry out the big rounds have left the smaller branches lying in piles. Since our pickup will only carry about a cord, we decided to go for a mixed run of smaller stuff so we wouldn’t have to split so much once we got home.

We took a break under the still living but scrubby remains of a cedar tree. The mound of black gold from the rotting needles and branches was soft.

Coming back we only lost a log or two, jostling under the full load of heavy wood. Our portion will keep us warn until about Christmas time. We need to go up there a couple of times more to get enough wood to keep us through the winter.

There's something about the warmth from a fire you've built yourself out of wood you went up into the mountains to cut yourself -- rather than buying it from one of the wood guys who hang out at the entrance to the rez or calling up Olguin's and having them deliver a cord. It seems to burn hotter and longer. Every time you look at your woodpile, you think: "That's a mighty fine wood pile."


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