My old log cutting bench has seen its last season:

As I was sketching out a new, improved design, I remembered something that friend and helper Alex mentioned a few years ago. She said she’d made a log cutting system involving uprights with many logs stacked on top of each other. I guestimated she meant something like this:

This is how many logs you can cut in a couple of minutes, the first time you used it:

It’s a huge efficiency in time and energy (physical and fossil fuel). There’s at least one log lift less required than with the previous bench, and it may be close to perfect. It will also mean only one large pile of sawdust (for animal bedding and compost toilets), instead of several small piles with the old, portable bench.

This is a Mark I experiment to see if the gaps and angles work. It’s based on the width and blade length of my chainsaw, to produce the 40 cm lengths required for our main woodburner. We have a second burner that uses 25 cm lengths and I’m still thinking about that.

(Worth mentioning that, going into my fourth winter in a yurt, I’ve never been so prepared when it comes to fire wood. I have dry wood in various locations, and have even got the beginnings of a pile for next winter.)

(Also worth mentioning that I’m hating the new blogger interface that I’ve been forcibly migrated onto. Instead of struggling with it, I’m going to start looking for another platform. I’ve stopped following other blogs that have migrated but please bear with me.)

A few months ago, the woods behind the Shack were utter chaos. I’d started coppicing the sweet chestnut so we’d have wood for next winter and, in five to seven years, a steady supply of poles for fencing, yurt maintenance, firewood, furniture and whatever else we decide to have a go at.

But I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. So I would cut an overstood chestnut down, chop the generally straight trunk into two-ish-metre lengths and leave the awkward top bits lying around. Often, I would work until I was too tired to lift the chainsaw and so bits of trunk would be lying around too – hither and, to my shame, thither. Which meant at some stage I would have to go back in later with a billhook and tidy up.

That stage came a few weeks ago and closed a chapter on this silly, knees-bent-running-around working practice.

Now, when I go in to cut coppice, I take a chainsaw AND a billhook – and tidy up as I go. Seems simple, doesn’t it? (I also stop a few minutes before I am exhausted.) I suspect, with a not very sad backward glance, I may be growing up.

Here’s what the woods behind the shack look like now:

The mud on the left in the foreground is one edge of what will be the pond. The box on the right there is full of Interesting Rocks found while digging out a tree stump for the pond and trench for the pipe running from the sand filter. Got some real beauties in there, I can tell you.

I’ve known many Steves in my time. To be fair, almost all of them musicians.

(Twenty years ago today, I could have put a jaw-droppingly good band together, using nothing but Steves. But then I wouldn’t have been in it.)

I don’t know if my new friend, Steve, plays anything. I do know he’s a Michelin-star chef. And he knows exactly what to do with a chainsaw.

SAFETY WARNING BY WAY OF A(N APPARENTLY TRUE) STORY: This guy asked this other guy for a quote to cut down this tree. He was quoted, say, €200. “Bloody hell,” this guy says. “You can buy a chainsaw for that!” A short time later, this article appeared in the local newspaper. This guy had died. Severed an artery in his leg. With a (presumably €200) chainsaw.

Not in this lifetime do I want to find myself floating away from my body thinking: “Well that was stupid.” Which is how I found myself spending a very wet afternoon with Steve last week, learning how to live with yet another seriously dangerous piece of farm machinery.

The rules of chainsaw use are fairly simple:
o Wear chainsaw trousers.
o And steel toe-capped boots.
o And a helmet.
o And gloves.
o Stop when you’re tired.
o And never use a chainsaw when you’re alone.

Steve told me that last one as he dropped me off at the end of the day. I thought he was kidding. After all, I now know how to use a chainsaw. But he added: “Someone needs to be able to use a phone.”

By way of a thank you for saving me from possible injury or death (especially as I’m uninsured), here’s a link to Steve’s website. He’s running gourmet cookery courses this summer from nearby Beaumont’s Moulin de la Ville. Very exclusive. So don’t tell anyone.