In the beginning, it was our plan to make this place profitable. Not screaming rich mind you, just a few bucks to see us through the long winters. We were one of the first households to plant a large garden and sell fresh produce and eggs way out here in the backwoods. That was 20 years ago, now it is common for families to sell their extra produce out here. Back in the early days when living in the woods was a novelty item, seasonal campers and travelers stopped by our Upper Peninsula homestead mostly for the ambiance. They loved taking the 50 cent tour of our place and were often excited about the chance sighting of wild life. More than half of our tourists come up from the big cities like Chicago or Milwaukee.
“Oh, I wish we could live like this.” the tourist would say. “Living in the woods close to nature must be so relaxing and spiritual.”
Then often they would mention not being able to give up their conveniences like shopping and hot showers. (Sorry, I have to say your stilettos would be a hazard out here. I generally wear Rocky boots myself.)
The tourist saw, they purchased, they got back into their air conditioned vehicle and drove back down the long winding driveway. Happy to have had experienced a brief encounter with an earthy forest dweller living among the wild things and patting themselves on the back for snagging fresh garden produce in the middle of no where.
And so it was that our son-in-law and daughter chose to move to our area after living in another state for several years. They wanted a more natural atmosphere in which to raise their children, and who could blame them. When they came for a visit, son-in-law said he loved the earthy feel and relaxed atmosphere of the deep forest, too. Dear daughter, Son-in-law and their two children moved their belongings into temporary storage and stayed with us in our tiny cabin for a few months while they secured jobs and found a house of their own. Two months into their stay dear father-in-law announced it was wood cutting season. He had set a week aside for this particular chore and it happened to come up while they were here. (How convenient, eh?)
Son-in-law was a ripe old age of 28 at the time. A strapping young man who figured himself fit and tough and besides, he considered the exercise would do him good. But more importantly, he wasn’t going to be showed up by his wifes’ parents, especially given that we were nearly 30 years older than him.
Husband and son-in-law bonded, spending a full week cutting, splitting and stacking 10 cords of wood. (a cord is roughly 16″ pieces of split firewood stacked in a 4′ X 4′ X 8’rectangle) By the time they were done, son-in-law came into the cabin and threw himself in a chair and emphatically announced that he was;
“I amnever ever going to cut another piece of firewood as long as I live! That is freaking hard work, my hands are blistered, my back is killing me and every molecule in my body aches. That’s it, I’m done, never again!” “You got any Motrin?”
This particular year we were lucky enough to have had the 10 cords of 8 foot long logs delivered via a semi-truck. Instead of the timberman taking his truck load of hardwood logs to the papermill, he dropped the load in our driveway, for a price of course. It is a service some timbermen provide to the families in the woods, depending, of course, on the price the papermill is paying at the time.
The two men whittled down the 10 cords of 20 foot long, 8 foot tall(in the center) pile of various sized hardwood logs with the modern convenience of chainsaws, a wood splitter and a pickup truck. Most every other year, it is just Hubby and I cutting, splitting and stacking. This kid was only 28 years old and in pretty good shape but himself from the Chicago area, had worked a cushy job for the last half dozen years. He and our daughter are representative of most of young American families.
Imagine for a moment, the supply chain has completely stopped. No trucks delivering goods and services anywhere for whatever reason. This 10 cords of wood has to still be gathered as stumpage from the woods, hauled to the homestead and sawed, split and stacked all by hand. No chainsaw, no hydraulic wood splitter and no truck to haul it with. Let that image squirm around in your brain for a moment. No chainsaw, no hydraulic wood splitter and no truck. Winter is coming closer every day, what would this average family do?
In the picture (right) you will find wood cutting hand tools your great grandfather may have used. Timber men and lumber jacks spent a couple of hours cutting through a large pine with the two man saw. The smaller trees could be cut using only a really sharp axe. A large, hard oak tree could take several hours and a shift change of men to get through. It takes a team of healthy, fit, strong men to hand cut 10 cords of firewood. I seriously believe it would take two strong people most of the warmer months to bring home the amount of wood needed to heat and cook with for an entire season. (It is impossible to drag home felled trees by hand in 3 feet of snow.)
Living outside civilization is really hard work and for those whose think bugging out to a bunker in the backwoods is the answer to survival, please consider the hard work that you will be facing. Will there still be time to do all the other chores that need tending to? Eh, just thinking ahead here.
As an aside; I would suspect it is why the early lumber jacks and those living outside normal civilization put on a pair of longjohns in the fall, sewed them up in the front and wore the heavy longjohns the entire winter! (It is the reason for the flap in the back)