Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Self-sufficiency Quotient - Reprise

As hard as it may be to believe, besides Valentine's Day there is another equally compelling reason for the purchase of new wood splitting tools and it is that Raj and I are in the process of upping my self-sufficiency quotient in advance of Raj's departure for India.  At the end of the month Raj leaves The Fahm and travels to Delhi for the birth of Jacob and Vini's child, Raj's first grandchild. The timing of the birth couldn 't be better; Raj is also due back in India for Round 2 of his 3-part dental procedure begun last spring.

As before, Raj will be gone for two months, though unlike last time, I will not be in Berkeley among family and friends; instead I will be here at The Fahm, surrounded by 3 cats, a multitude of rodentia, and Winter.  I will be alone here - except for Sophie and Bill Sandburg, David and the Lovely Monique, David Holmes, Tim and Lucy, Stephanie Spratt, Dean and Kristen, Marley, Astha...hey!  I guess I won't be so alone here after all!  And, as an extra special treat, Our Friend Cheryl arrives next month for our Annual Rummikub Marathon, a tradition dating back to our days as housemates in Santa Cruz.

However, it is my plan to be as self-sufficient as possible on my solo adventure here at The Fahm, and to that end, Raj has been tutoring and mentoring me in certain basics, like splitting wood.  We use the stove in the kitchen all the time - partly for warmth, partly for ambiance, partly because it's fun.  We use the fireplace in the French Room if we want to be really comfortable there during cold weather; the flow of warm air doesn't make it into the French Room  quite as efficiently as to the rest of the house, and despite having double-paned glass in the French doors, the room can run a little chilly without the fire. 

Both uses above are optional, however, and not really required for heat since the advent of New Shiny last Fall.  That is, until there is a power outage.  Once the power goes out, the furnace will stop as well and it won't be long before The Fahm feels like a mausoleum.  If there is a prolonged power outage, the kitchen wood stove would be essential, and my ability to add fuel to the fire, as it were, is also critical.  I've had issues with my hands and arms that have improved enough that I can now grip and control both the splitting maul and the hatchet, and this is very big/good news for me in ways that extend far beyond my wood supply.

We bought a cord of wood which arrived late Thursday afternoon, and was dumped just outside the Coal Room.  Our job is to split the wood into finer lengths than as delivered, before stashing everything in the Coal Room, before the next snow. Yesterday morning we went to Overlook Services to get our blades, and the salesman told us to take our choices outside and try them out before purchasing.  It was there, in the frozen icy parking lot that I received my first wood splitting lesson from Raj, and some additional input from the salesman who wandered out to check on our progress.

Now, I am no stranger to tools; I use power tools in my art and have used various sports tools since I could toddle. But the fine art of wood splitting is a new sport, so to speak, and it isn't nearly as easy as it looks when you see someone who knows what they're doing Raj split wood.  We paid for our tools and gloves and socks and headed home where shortly thereafter I found myself having another tutoring session in wood splitting.  Here is what I learned: hitting the wood properly with the splitting maul is every bit as satisfying as connecting bat to ball, say, as one might when hitting a solid line drive; the thunk/clink song of wood under pressure is the very same, as well as the sense of accomplishment.  I laughed out loud the first time I split a log in two, it felt that good.

Properly swinging the splitting maul is absolutely key; it is the weight of the maul that does the actual splitting while my job is just to guide the blade and control the thing if/when I miss.  The closest physical description I can concoct is something like a cross between a pro volleyball serve and a batter's swing at the plate.  And judging by the soreness of various body parts today, I would say that wood splitting is an excellent upper body workout, as well as getting in some core training...WHO KNEW??  I ended up splitting a small pile of wood in yesterday's first stab; today I look forward to more of the same.