Click images to enlarge.
Viewed from the porch.
In these photos, you’ll see my wood-yard and “workshop” beneath the big white oak in the front yard. The shop is composed of a 20” chunk of wood for a stool, and a 12” chunk for my workbench. It’s mostly just axe-work and hatchet work that I do there. The stool also gives me a place to catch my breath when I’m cutting and splitting firewood. There’s a big white oak in the back yard that would serve just as well for such a workshop, but it’s at the edge of the woods and tends to be a bit mosquito-ridden. Besides, the wood rack needs to be near the drive-way so that strangers can pull alongside to load their pickups. I’ve had the rack there for a couple years now, but I had to refurbish it this year.
First, the runners on the ground (one white oak, one bitternut hickory) had deteriorated just enough that the bark was loose and bug infested. I used my eye-hoe to cut any grass growing around them and scrape off the bark and remove it from the area. Then I swept the poles with a broom to remove any loose material. Following that, I poured a mix of about ¾ cup of Twenty Mule Team Borax and one gallon of water over the two poles to make them less susceptible to fungus and insect damage. I don’t know if that mix was the right strength, it just seemed adequate to me.
Secondly, the rather puny stakes that had been at the ends of the stack rotted off this past summer. I found a couple reasonably straight saplings in the nearby woods that were a bit bigger than what I’d originally used and cut them off at double the length of my cane. The poles ended up being 70 inches long, and about 1-1/2” at the small end. One was a dead black gum and the other a live red oak. I gave them a long point on the small end with my trusty little Boy Scout hatchet (one of my favorite tools). Then, I made holes with a crowbar where I wanted them to go by raising the bar over my head and driving it into the soil. Following that I’d ream the hole a bit, then repeat the process until I felt that the hole was both deep and wide enough to accept the pole. I tapped the poles home with a few blows from my 14 pound sledge until they were even heights. (Incidentally, no country place is complete without an old-fashioned crowbar. Mine is an inch thick and 54” long. The tempered bar was forged to a point on one end, and flat on the other. It appears to have been made from an ancient drive shaft. I’ve used it to move logs, stones, buildings, and timbers and have set many a tomato stake and bean pole with it, the latter not too deeply, of course.)
Thirdly, the baler twine from post top to post top had gone bad on me. I looked around for more baler twine, but I’d apparently used up the few pieces that a neighbor gave me when I first made the rack. Growing up, baler twine seemed like grass and autumn leaves, one of those things in life of which there would always be aplenty. Even though I used it for dozens of purposes, there were times that we would accumulate so much used twine that we’d have to load it onto the farm trailer and dump it somewhere to get it out of the barn. These days, I’d dearly love to have a few barrels full of used twine. It’s strange, sometimes, the things that can become valuable to us. I could probably still buy a two-roll bale of the new stuff at a farm supply place, but I have neither the money, nor a good place to store it. I looked in the basement for something else that might work, but found nothing, so I ended up buying 50 feet of American made camo parachute cord, found in the sporting goods section at Chinamart for about $5, just to get the eight feet plus that I needed. I found a bundle over in the hardware section for a dollar less, but it was made in China, so I paid the extra dollar.
It’s eight feet between the posts of the rack, so I made a mark four feet up on each post so that it would show the needed height to make a face-cord of firewood. (Actually, I made them at 4’1” so no-one could complain that I was shorting them, plus I always round the top of the stack slightly, for the same reason.) For 50 years, my grandfather and father sold such a measure as a “cord rick,” a common term in this area at one time. However, the term was gradually replaced by the modern term “face cord.” I quit using the old term when some dufus with a dictionary tried to argue me into selling him a full cord for the cord rick price. He stopped just short of threatening to take me to court. I told him that I’d buy every full cord of wood that he could find at that price, then easily resell it to folks happy to pay the price at which I had it advertised. He finally hung up on me.