‘The measure of a man’s importance is the size and number of his woodpiles’.
I was told this fact many years ago in rural France — it made a great impression — so contradictory was it to the progressive philosophies of my young French friends that I found it oddly reassuring — and still do!
We have woodpiles — burning wood when you have lots of trees is great but trees need cutting down and they don’t go quietly, they have a lot of stored energy and can lash out ferociously. They need logging and drying and wood burns amazingly quickly so you need loads and plenty of room for storage. We have an old barn, thirty feet by twenty feet already full of timber.
Last back end (as they say in Lancashire) we culled a Leylandii hedge, grown 40 feet high in a blink of Mother Nature’s eye. We cut off the branches and burned the brush-wood —
— but when the exalting roar of the chain saw had stalled for the last time we were left with a daunting amount of timber — a mountain where our new workshop was waiting to be built.
There it lay until last week when we were taken in hand!
Not by the Forestry Commission or the satellite snooperage of Rural Affairs, Wales (it was nothing to do with illicit romance in the hills) — it wasn’t even our very grown-up children who, though they never tidied their rooms, now worry about the state of their decrepit parents. No, it was a young neighbour (well relatively young) who knew that all we needed was a tiny push, a little encouragement.
‘I’ll come and help you on Tuesday — I’ve nothing much on this time of the year — I’ll be with you at midday.’
We refused, we protested, we were tempted, we said he’d have to have lunch (would there be meat? — Yes), he accepted, we capitulated, it was arranged and, in the intervening few days, we got on with what we should have been doing for months!
By the time Tuesday came we had started two new woodpiles and that day something strange happened — tree trunks scudded over the ground, whizzed through the air, crashed into trailers, flattened the saw trestle and just about spifflicated two pensioners temporarily under vigorous new management.
Chainsaws started willingly and logs marched to the music of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice jumping happily onto the new woodpiles.
By evening, by some miracle of effort and teamwork, well mainly one man’s effort (we helped as hard as we could and tried not to get in the way) we had uncovered the bare earth where our new workshop is to be sited.
It’s a miracle. Just another of the miracles of living here — Thank you David!