Adventures of a Woodcutter
The Start of an Interesting Day
I love to spend time in the woods in the fall. The changing leaves and the smell of summer fading away are invigorating. I heat my home exclusively with wood throughout the winter months. In addition I occasionally sell a few face cord of wood just to bring in a little extra money.
I went to the woods the other day to begin cutting an order of 6 face cord. A face cord of wood is 16”x 48”x 8’. A full cord is equal to 3 face cord. I can usually cut about 5-6 face cord in about 2 hrs. It then takes me another 2-3 hrs. to get it loaded into my truck and trailer. I have an old Ford F250 pickup and a 16’ double axle trailer I drive right into the woods as close to where I’m cutting as possible. Since I don’t have a tractor with a loader bucket I have to load it all one arm load at a time.
The woods where I’m gathering my firewood is in a small town in Western New York called Angelica. The terrain in this area is rolling hills and valleys with many varieties of trees. Everything from sugar maple, red and white oak, hickory, ash, beech, and a whole assortment of pines and spruce grow in this area. We had a logging company harvest the woods for timber about 3 years ago and they took a lot of oak, hickory, and ash. The loggers are only interested in the large diameter portion of the tree that is straight and free of limbs and knots, so the remaining “tops” from those trees are what I cut for firewood.
In order to get to the location where I’ve been cutting, I travel down a long driveway (if you want to call it that…it’s more like a dirt path that has had the vegetation and topsoil scraped off down to the hard pan clay underneath) and up several steep sections of hill to get to the top, approximately ¾ of a mile into the woods. The driveway has not had any gravel spread over it yet, so when it’s wet, it’s extremely slippery.
Approx. 3-4 face cord prior to cutting.
The Little Voice in My Head said...
This day started out similar to most other days as I prepared myself for a day of working in the woods. I was gathering all my tools (i.e.…chainsaw, ax, pry bar, gas, oil, etc.) when I happen to pass by a shovel leaning up against the wall. As I looked at it, a thought popped into my head: “I should bring that shovel with me today.” Almost as fast as it arrived, I dismissed the idea as I thought to myself, “Don’t be ridiculous, what in the world will you need a shovel for? I am going to the woods to cut firewood.” So, I left the shovel behind.
As I arrived at my chosen spot, I scoped out a few “tops” in the area that I would cut to get my load started. After using up one tank of fuel in my chainsaw I was taking a short break and decided to search for some more “tops” to complete my load. I located a nice pile that was not to far from where I was now. However, I would need to move my truck and trailer a little closer so it was not as far to carry it to get it loaded. I very carefully identified where I would move my vehicle so I would be as close as possible to the wood without getting too far down the side of the hill. I selected a specific tree that I would use as a marker to make sure I didn’t go too far.
I then walked back up to the area where I had been working and started loading. Everything I had cut so far was about a half of a trailer load. Normally I would load the back of the truck as well, but for today I decided I would just load the trailer so when I got home I could unhook the trailer and be able to use my truck without having to unload any wood. Or, at least that was the plan at the moment.
The Best Layed Plans
As I backed my trailer into the spot that I had so carefully checked out, I felt the back of the truck drop down over the edge of a knoll. I looked to my right and there was the wood I wanted to load. I immediately thought to myself, “Oh no! I must have backed up to far.” I looked in my side mirror and didn’t see my marker tree. I looked out the driver’s side window, and there it was next to my door. Somehow I had been looking at the wrong tree as I backed the trailer into place and now I was down the hill further than I wanted to be. I knew immediately, this was not good!!
I tried to move forward. Nothing! Tires spinning like crazy on that wet slippery clay. I looked behind me…the ground leveled out a little bit more, so I thought, “If I back up a little bit more I may be able to get a running start and get up the hill.”
So, I backed up a little bit more. Put the truck in forward and…no go. More spinning tires! I was able to move forward a couple of feet, but then as the hill got steeper, I would lose traction and start spinning again. At this point, I remembered two things that helped to put my mind at ease. 1.) As long as I can get my vehicle to move forward and back just a little bit, then I’m not really stuck. It’s when you’re sunk in to the axles and the wheels just free spin that you are really in trouble. 2.) My friend is always telling me I need to add some weight in the back of my truck to get more traction. So I thought, OK, I’ll add some weight and see what happens.
I had some wood cut nearby that I threw into the back of the truck. I was hesitant to load too much because I thought if I start sinking into the mud too much I will need to unload everything to get unstuck.
The weight in the truck seemed to help. I was able to move a little more than with it empty. My next thought was I needed to remove some weight from the trailer. Since the weight in the truck seemed to be helping I transferred some wood from the trailer into the back of the truck. This helped a little more, but wasn’t quite enough to get the truck and trailer up over the knoll. I was able to move forward and back about 10 feet.
Unfortunately the more I moved forward and back the deeper the ruts were starting to get. I needed to come up with a new plan. “Worse case scenario” I thought, “maybe I can get the truck out if I unhook the trailer.”
I transferred as much wood as possible from the trailer into the back of the truck. I then backed up as far as possible to give myself plenty of running room. I unhooked the trailer and hit the gas! Tires spinning and mud flying I managed to move forward about 30 feet. Not quite enough. I backed up and hit it again! One thing I noticed, as I got the tires spinning the heat would dry out the surface of the clay and give me a little more traction. Here we go again…one more try. Tires spinning, mud flying, the rear of the truck swerving from side to side…up over the knoll and onto the top of the hill.
Hooray!!! I’m out!
God Provides A Way
Unfortunately my victory dance soon turned to “Oooh? Now what do I do about my trailer?”
It’s at this point that I wished I had brought that dumb shovel with me. Up the driveway a little ways (about 500 feet away) there was an area that we had spread some gravel to provide traction on a steep part of the hill. I found an old 5 gallon plastic bucket and used it to scoop up some of the gravel. I then poured the gravel into the ruts that I had made going down to my trailer.
“At this rate it will take me till midnight to haul enough gravel to fill these ruts.”
I then remembered an old 25 gallon plastic garbage can that I had seen earlier near some other debris that someone had dumped in the woods. I used the bucket to fill the garbage can and that streamlined my make shift gravel hauling process. I managed to scoop enough gravel so that I could spread a thin layer on the surface of the clay the entire length of the ruts all the way back down the side of the hill to my trailer.
Next, I did what some people might consider to be totally insane…I backed down the hill in the ruts and hooked up my trailer.
As a Christian, I believe God was with me that day. He inspired me to bring the shovel (which I mistakenly ignored). He provided me with solutions to what may have seemed like impossible circumstances. He gave me opportunity to exercise patience which I have regularly asked Him for. And He provided me with the means (a bucket and a garbage can) to solve my problems. It’s up to us to believe, listen, and respond when God speaks to us. At times it may be very subtle such as a thought or inkling and at other times it will be a little more obvious such as a bucket or a garbage can. It may not be the answer we wanted, such as a big tractor to pull me up the hill, but it will be an answer just the same.
As I lowered the hitch on my trailer down unto the ball connected to my truck, I was so confident that I was finally listening to God that I even hooked up the lights. I got in my truck, put it in gear, and drove up the hill without spinning a single wheel. Praise the Lord!