The axe is a tool I venerate, they are able to perform a myriad of tasks in the woodworking shop, around the yard and in the forest. When I lived in the city it was a tool relegated to the shop, definitely something you could not just carry around openly. Now that we live in the country it is a tool within arms reach and one that I seldom go without on my excursions. Each of my axes has a tale associated with it.
On walks in the woods I typically carry my 2lb Norlund Forest Axe.
When we lived in Kimberley, BC Hanna and Liam found this axe head in the dirt while playing with there friends in a vacant lot. It was dull and rusty but with a little grinding, polishing and a new hickory handle it has become the axe I now use most often. An appealing tomahawk style blade forged in the 70’s with a comfortable 27″ handle. It’s design is ideal for slashing through brush on trails, and has just the right length to use as a walking support on steep climbs. It’s shape makes it an excellent grapple to pull with or hang onto trees. This axe is also my choice for limbing trees that I cut for firewood or lumber.
Around the mill I most often use my small Plumb broad axe. I grew up using this tool in conjunction with a draw knife when peeling posts, rails and timbers. In the late 60’s my father purchased this axe, I believe at a Farm auction. At that time he worked in the woods as a Feller and as a side job he also peeled railroad ties for CN Rail. The axe did not have a proper handle on it so he replaced it with one provided by CNR. The handle still has the faint CNR logo imprinted on it. When my father passed away I inherited this little axe which I cherish every time I use it. It has the perfect weight for chopping small limbs and digging into areas where the draw-knife can’t reach. It’s shape also makes it a perfect tool for roughing out tenons and other joinery when I’m timber-framing or as a finishing tool on hand hewn timbers.
The patriarch in my axe collection is the Gränsfors Bruk Broad-axe forged by Lennart Petterson.
I purchased this axe in the late 80’s after finishing my courses in Timber-Framing and Lofting. This axe became very useful on many projects over the years including my first house and homestead. One of the least memorable occasions for this axe was when Tracey decided to use it. We were living in a tiny house in Edmonton and Tracey had a keen interest in various home crafts one of which included making Mosaic Stepping Stones. She would purchase second hand glass and stoneware plates and smash them into pieces for the mosaic patterns on her Stepping Stones. I came home from work one afternoon and found the leather sheath on my axe shredded to bits. I pulled it off the axe and found the cutting edge also fractured and gouged out. She hadn’t been able to find a hammer so grabbing the axe and not thinking she mistakenly used the wrong end to smash her plates with it. I diligently honed the frayed steel back into a fine cutting edge The leather sheath remained tattered for several years until I finally met a fine leather artisan in Kimberley who was able to make a new one. He even repaired the old sheath so now I have a backup which I don’t foresee as ever needing ….. fingers crossed.
There are several other axes in my tool collection including a wonderful Fiskars splitting axe which I purchased earlier this year. It made light work of splitting the 5 cords of wood in storage for the coming winter. I also have another wonderful 2 lb tomahawk style axe head that requires a handle. Maybe a shorter handle on this one to use around the chopping block for kindling and other hatchet type tasks. My toolbox also has a carpenters hatchet which I seldom use. Stored away in the attic are a couple of Mountaineering and Climbing axes. One of the mountaineering axes was my companion to many of the highest peaks in the Rockies and it has traveled to the top of all the major Volcanoes on the North American West Coast ….. but that’s another story.
It’s been far to cold to mill lumber over the past couple weeks, however it’s perfect weather for working in the woods. I’ve taken this opportunity to clear an area of forest which will become the Disposal Field for our on-sight Sewage System.
After several days of slogging through 3 to 4 feet of snow just over half an acre has been transformed into an open space producing several cords of firewood and over 60 good sized logs which I will be mill into timbers for the house. Once the Disposal Field is in place we will develop an orchard within the remaining portions of this site.
The next project is to clean out some of the fallen and dead debris in the forest surrounding the building site and expanding the garden area on the east side of the house. With a forecast for warm weather on the weekend skidding logs out will also be a priority, to get them to the mill.
We’ve had a fair bit of real winter weather lately, two feet of snow and counting plus a dash of rain to top of the fresh snow. Yesterday morning we were greeted to a beautiful sunrise after some major snow. This was short lived as the weather turned white once more.
The view this morning is quite different, yet pretty in its own way.
Nature has such a eloquent manner of decorating herself for a Yuletide spirit. Cones, Icicles and a frosting of snow embellish the trees with a festive ambiance.
Along with all the other hustle and bustle around the house shoveling piles of snow has become the main activity over the past week. The mill has sat silent for quite a while now, hope it doesn’t feel neglected.
Maybe later today, if time permits, I’ll take the kids sledding. School has been cancelled for the last two days and they are going totally bonkers not to mention driving Tracey and myself nuts.
It’s been a hectic month, too much to do with not enough time in the day to do everything that has to be done. The weather has been pleasant and outdoor activity has been very enjoyable, no more black-flies or mosquitoes to contend with.
Silas enjoys his time outside in the fields, woods and yard. Large piles of leaves are gathered around the yard and neighboring kids have been seen floating around.
The saw-mill finally arrived and the milling has begun. The pile of logs is now revealing its inner beauty.
So far I’ve only been able to slice up a few logs, full time milling will have to wait till other errands around the house and property are completed.
On a more sour note I’ve also had to spend time dealing with the mess left in the wake of logging adjacent to our property. The land owner (proprietors of Hunter Mountain Chalets) and the logging company (C.D. Blue Forestry Ltd.) have completely destroyed our road that accesses the back reaches of our property. Along with this they have severely compromised the integrity of the main road up the mountain along with the ghastly mess on the raped piece of land just below us. Its disgusting that these forestry companies hide behind glitzy websites that only show choice photos and descriptions of their work. At the same time hiding behind associations like the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association http://www.nslffpa.org/ An organization that stipulates certain guidelines for proper logging procedures and forest management, however seems like very few companies registered with this group even remotely follow any of these guidelines.
What used to be road along our property has now become a quagmire and resembles more of a ditch or eroded river bed than a road. The muck is over a foot deep and pools of running water have developed everywhere.
The roadbed has been pushed aside and is a foot to two lower than its previous level. The rape of our forests and abuse of public property in our area is a contentious issue however it requires direct action and I will take every available means at my disposal to deal with it. Heads are going to roll so to speak and I will post further developments as they happen.
Now that a routine has been created with the kids in school again I’ve fallen into a daily ritual of taking Silas for an extended walk through the woods and meadows around here.
Silas explodes with excitement as I prepare him for our adventure. Outside we are greeted by a heavy dew that has settled on everything overnight and rubber boots are in order. The cool nights help keep the pesky bugs away so we can enjoy an unhindered stroll. We begin our trip down the path behind the barn and into the woods.
It’s a big world out here for this little “man” and countless stops are made along the way to explore anything new and intriguing. Once down the path we usually enter the woods. The trees here are pine which were intensively block planted in the mid to late 70’s to replace the forests decimated by the spruce bud worm outbreak at the time. A pest that was created and propagated by poor forest management practices at the time which continue to this day. Anyways I’m digressing here and will save this rant for a later post. Once we enter these woods Silas has free range to explore and play among the trees.
The forest floor in these woods is almost completely void of any undergrowth due to the dense canopy the trees create, allowing very little sunlight in. Also contributing to this virtual dead zone is the dense mat of pine needles on the ground. We follow the straight rows of trees for at least half a mile before making a slow detour back out among the more densely packed natural forest. The world viewed through Silas’s eyes is much different than that of grownups and I enjoy taking this time to get down and absorb his perspective.
After a couple or three miles of strolling among our wilderness we slowly saunter back. He is never very enthusiastic to return home but with a little coaxing he plods back up to the house.
Tracey enjoys the free time she gets while Silas is out of the house, this provides much needed time for her to catch up on errands and orders she has to complete. Silas will be two years old next month and the boundless energy he now shows is just a precursor of what to expect over the next few years. I just hope he will continue to enjoy strolling through the woods and meadows with his dad when he is older.
Everything in the garden is coming up nicely with the warm damp weather. The humidity and heat over the past few days has made working outside a bit unbearable, especially since it’s necessary to wear long sleeves and pants along with a hoody in most cases to keep the bugs from eating you alive.
We finally received our certificate to “poop” on the mountain this week. A document that states we can construct and install an onsite sewage disposal system as specified by the Province of Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. Eleven pieces of photocopied paper that cost $1500 and are based on a site evaluation that took less than 10 minutes. 11 pieces of paper that have delayed all construction and progress at the building site. Now I can finally complete and submit our building plan for the Building Permit.
The reclaimed windows are installed in the shop and I’ve made proper storm doors for the entrance. The doors have a navy blue water base dye applied and were then sealed with a penetrating natural oil varnish. The trim is going up this week once I finish sealing all the frames.
Now we hope the weather will cooperate as progress on the house commences.
Once again our mountainside will be under attack, the property bordering the south side of our driveway will be clear-cut in the coming weeks.
It’s a bit ironic that just prior to hearing the news from the neighbor about his intentions to clear-cut I’d spent several hours grading and spreading gravel on our drive. Now the driveway will most likely be transformed into a mucky unsightly mess with the heavy equipment going through. In the above photo most if not all the trees to the right will be cut down, forever changing the tranquility of our entrance.
From a birds-eye view atop the tallest tree above our building sight you can see the property that will be impacted. The bottom red line is the neighbors property line at the edge of our drive. The red line through the center of the photo follows the forest canopy just above Rice Brook. Everything between the red lines will be clear-cut, this is the north slope of Rice Brook watershed. More than likely all the softwood on the other side of Rice Brook will also be cut. (the dark green trees above the red line up to the buildings in the distance) ….. for a clearer view click on the photo …..
The view from our windows will be drastically altered once the trees are gone. The land drops quickly a couple hundred feet down the mountain so we may gain a broader view of our lower surroundings, however I tend to believe more of an unsightly tangle of brush, muck and shattered trees will be in store as our future view, not to mention the increased exposure to the wind and elements.
It’s been a frosty weekend. Heavy rain Saturday and barely above freezing yesterday with a brisk wind, not at all nice for putting in a garden or working on the house. Yesterday morning a white skiff of snow was visible on the trees up in the Highlands and the frost we had last night was so hard it decimated many of the bedding plants in the greenhouse. The nasturtiums were hit the hardest, killing most of them.
In the woods and around the yard everything is budding and ready to explode. The maples, elderberry and service-berry trees are in bloom. The fiddle-heads are unfurling slowly and the large leaf buds on the Mountain Ash have unfolded.
It’s time to start harvesting wild herbs again. The first to be picked is Stinging Nettle which is already several inches tall. I have to remember my gloves next time, it was a bit itchy picking this first batch without gloves or cutters. Yarrow is also ready and is next on the list to be picked.
In the herb bed at home the Chives and Soap-wort are growing well. The kitchen herb patch has a “Steam-punk” theme to it this year, I hauled old cast iron stove parts out of the embankment and made them into plant pots. I think it works great but Tracey thinks I’m losing it.
Silas and I have been watching a nesting pair of geese at the beaver-dam. The gander watches us and tries to lead us away from the nest. Silas gets so excited each time we see the geese. He tries to imitate all the bird calls we hear and so far he does the goose call the best. It will be exciting to see the little geese when they hatch in about a week or so.
Today Mothers Day was set in a dense fog, a splendid day for a walk in the tranquil outdoors. I strapped Silas to my back and off we went into the obscure mist. As we crossed the field we could hear Juncos chirping to each other, likely busy catching insects in the wet grass. The cackling of a Northern Flicker echoed through the trees as we entered the forest. Our destination was the Brook winding its way through the forest.
Once we reached the brook Silas was excited to throw rocks and dump handfuls of wet sand into the water. If he had his way we would have stayed here all day, digging in the sand and pitching rocks, but as with anything fun it must come to an end.
When we were done with the play we washed our hands and off we went again to explore the surrounding forest. We left the babbling brook behind and headed back into the woods, it’s important to keep moving otherwise the black-flies will accumulate and start feasting.
As we came out of the forest we discovered a small patch of snow, the vestige of a once 8 foot deep drift deposited there just over a month ago. Silas was anxious to get out of the carrier and play in the snow, again he would have liked to stay here forever but we had to get back home.
The fog had dissipated considerably from when we had first trekked into the forest. A gentle breeze now greeted us as we crossed the field.
The fresh air, play, and steady bouncing motion of the carrier always puts Silas to sleep on these outings. Time to get home so he can have a good nap. When we arrived home Mama had also had a good nap ….. a relaxing and well deserved rest for Mama on Mothers Day.
We’ve finally had a spell of nice weather with temperatures reaching plus 18 Celsius yesterday. When the weather turns nice like this it always seems that there are endless things to get done. Most pressing now is the preparation to start construction on the house.
I’ve been able to get onto our property and have begun working in the woods again. A few trees must be removed since they are far to close to the buildings and will inevitably topple over. They are valuable building material and will become important components in our new home. For now I just peel them in preparation for milling at a later date. The thinner poles will be used for fencing and other landscape components around the property. The new clearing will become our garden area.
Snowdrops and Crocuses have been in bloom for some time and very soon a flurry of daffodils will explode with color through last years brown leaf litter. A pleasing sight and a reminder to take a moment and enjoy the simple beauty and peace surrounding us in our busy life.