Thornhill: Much to be thankful for

Dear readers, I cannot think of a way to put this delicately. These days, gender roles are changing. No longer is the kitchen solely a woman’s domain. No longer are executives all male. Homemakers come in all shapes, sizes, and sexes, as do skilled laborers. Even at my house, jobs are equal employment opportunities.

I am absolutely tickled by the fact that Darling Hubby is a good cook, and definitely a great canner. He’s also pretty good at cleaning, which is great because I’m absolutely not. Everyone pitches in on laundry, animal care and dishes, things which just a short time ago would have been “women’s work.”

Granted, Darling Hubby does the vast majority of the lawn and farm work, a fact for which I am eminently grateful. Still, sometimes he needs a helping hand, and the kids and I pitch in. Baling and stacking hay is usually a family chore (when we bale squares), Darling Son gets to mow the lawn and we all fail miserably at staying ahead of the weeds. Just the other day, Hubs really outdid himself bringing in firewood: three whole seasoned trees, just waiting to be split and stacked for the winter.

Now, mind you, when we first moved out here, he split all of our wood manually, with a sledgehammer, maul and wedge. As wonderful of a workout as that was, neither one of us is getting any younger and realized that a hydraulic log splitter would be a wise investment for us. That particular evening, one person wouldn’t have been able to split all of that wood, let alone stack it. So I volunteered.

The first chunks were pretty easy. I like to think I’m pretty strong for my age, and I’m not afraid of a good workout. They were only a foot or so thick, after all. It’s rather satisfying watching the wedge power its way through a log, seeing the grain split and the pieces fall away. Tossing the splits into a pile is another good feeling, seeing the pile grow and knowing that’s your warmth for this winter. And breaking a sweat doing honest work on a crisp fall evening, well, that’s just plain satisfying. Then I noticed the big logs.

These weren’t any sissy logs. We’re talking two-foot-long, three-foot diameter chunks of wood. There wasn’t any way I was lifting those bad boys up onto any splitter platform. We had to stand the splitter vertically, with the idea that I’d roll the log up to it, and split multiple times. Dear reader, rolling logs of that size over uneven ground to the splitter, wrestling them into an upright position under the wedge, stabilizing them with a foot, then straightening up to work the press is not something I’d recommend for the faint of heart (or back). Most of these weren’t nice clean, satisfying splits either. There were funky knots, or the angle was wrong and the grain didn’t separate cleanly. Some couldn’t even be dislodged by a few kicks or yanks. Believe me, I tried. Then I had to reposition the pieces a time or two for additional splits.

To add to the joy, after the first few my back decided that standing up in between splits was overrated. And unless I miraculously turned into a duck and waddled along behind them, there wasn’t any other way to move them to where I needed them. At least in that position, I got a good up close and personal look at one log which happened to be jam-packed with carpenter ants. Thankfully, the cold had made them sluggish and slow, otherwise, I might have gotten to experience antsy pants from a doubled-up position. While I’m sure the sight would have been entertaining, the ensuing hollering would have probably spooked the horses. Doggedly, I continued.

As the light faded into dusk, I finally split the last monster log and helped Darling Hubby load the last pile of splits onto the truck to take to the woodpile. I was sweaty, sore and oddly satisfied. We had just added several weeks’ worth of wood to our winter stockpile. This year I actually had sweat equity in the outdoor work not just stacking it inside and building the fire. And as I stretched my aching back, I rejoiced in a hard job done that Darling Hubby didn’t have to do all himself. It felt good to lighten his load even a little bit.

As Thanksgiving draws near this year, I’m thankful for a loving God, an amazing family, health and strength, and an outstanding community. Love each other, help each other, and watch out for carpenter ants, y’all.

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