Thursday, September 29, 2011

Will "curse you" work instead?

Just when you think things can't possibly get any loopier, you can now get docked in a school classroom for saying "Bless you!" after someone sneezes. Read the article here.

The Vacaville, CA teacher says the practice is "disrespectful and disruptive." Oh, and docking a kid 25 points for being courteous isn't?

The teacher says the policy has nothing to do with religion (yeah right) but says the phrase is "just a outdated practice and disrupts class time."

Let me see... start the stopwatch... "Bless you!" Elapsed time: one second. Oooh, pretty disruptive. Not to mention disrespectful.

The article notes, "After parents complained about students losing points...[the teacher] decided to stop the practice." However he says he will "just find another way to discipline" students for saying "bless you" in class. Sounds vindictive to me.

Among the comments that followed the article:

• I am a committed atheist and strive to sweep fairytales and superstitions from my classroom. But I would never countenance such intolerance. It appears that the teacher is the one who is displaying contempt, intolerance and simple bad manners to children.

• That's what wrong with public schools. They spend more time denying our heritage than teaching it. FIRE HIM!!!!

• When students meet him outside the classroom such as passing him in the hall "Bless You" should become the standard greeting from ALL students towards this particular teacher.

And people wonder why we homeschool....

Canning peaches

In looking over the inventory in my canning closet, I realized I was a bit short on fruit. I have plenty of apple pie filling canned up, but just plain fruit? Not so much.

So when I saw peaches on sale for $0.79/lb at a fruit stand in Coeur d'Alene, I bought two boxes.

The peaches were a little under ripe, so I let them sit for a few days to ripen. As a result, I lost some due to rot, and of course some we ate fresh. But I canned the majority of them.

To loosen the skin on peaches, dip them in near-boiling water for a minute or two...

...then put them in a bowl of cold water.

After this, the skins come right off.

Peeled peaches.

Slicing the peeled peaches.

I got into a nice rhythm. While a batch of peaches sat in the hot water, I peeled the cooled peaches. While new peaches were cooling, I sliced the peeled peaches. Et cetera.

And I filled jars as I went.

When all the peaches were processed, this was the mess in the sink.

This all got dumped in the compost pile, which made the yellow jackets very very happy.

Meanwhile I made the syrup. I prefer a light syrup, which is a 2:1 ratio of water:sugar.

I also scalded my Tattler lids and gaskets.

I ended up with 19 quarts of peaches.

Adding boiling syrup to the jars.

I wiped the rims of the jars and then I was ready to put on the lids and gaskets.

Putting on the rings.

Peaches are canned using a water bath. My biggest pots held a total of eleven jars at a time. For quarts, they process for 30 minutes at a rolling boil.

Finished jars. These will be a wonderful addition to my pantry inventory.

Technical difficulties? Apparently so.....

Twice in the last 24 hours, I've had readers email me privately asking if I've banned them from posting comments, because every time they try to post, nothing comes through.

Rest assured I haven't banned anyone! The only comments I delete (and this is rare) are those that are too snarky, vicious, or profanity-filled to be permitted. (And once in a blue moon an ad for Viagra comes through. Zip, gone!)

But I figure if two people are having troubles posting comments, there may be more.

Unfortunately I'm not a computer-savvy person, so I can't address the technical side of the difficulties. However in the past when this kind of issue has arisen, it turned out to be someone had recently reset or changed some of the parameters on their browser.

Rest assured I haven't changed anything on my end, and I most certainly haven't banished anyone from posting! I'm so sorry for those who are experiencing problems and hope whatever is blocking them gets resolved shortly.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Awwww shucks -- cute pic!

I received an email this evening as follows:

Dear Patrice,

Thank you for all your effort and dedication to your blog and for allowing those of us planning a move to the Redoubt a daily opportunity to live vicariously through you! I look forward to your posts and thoroughly enjoy your insight. The pictures are grand as well!

We have received a copy of your book, The Simplicity Primer, and I thought you might enjoy knowing that the entire family is taken with it - including my 2.5 year old son. Here he is in the "library" "reading" The Simplicity Primer. (picture attached)

He sits in that rocking chair often and chooses a book that becomes a favorite for a period of time. Yours has been the "one" for some time now! I thought it would be fun to share this with you, so I snapped a photo and was quite surprised it turned out half way descent.

Thank you again.

Blessings and peace,


Is this too cute for words or what??

Book review from a Seattle progressive

Recently I received an email from a woman named Audrey, who lives in Seattle. She sent her thoughts and impressions of The Simplicity Primer. I was very, very glad to get her review because I've always wondered how the book would impact the Simplicity community in the Pacific northwest.

The simplicity movement is big -- huge -- in the Pacific northwest. Many simplicity authors reside in Seattle or Portland or vicinity. But I have not reached out toward these communities because, almost to a person, they reside on the extreme far left end of the spectrum and I felt they wouldn't care for my perspective.

So this is my first review from the far left.

Having been in the "simplicity movement" since 1986, in Seattle, with some of the early people (Cecile Andrews, Duane Elgin and Robin & Dominguez) every time a new book catches my eye I give it a read. Having read yours I felt drawn to give some feedback.

My life isn't perfect, but whose is? But I do live in a 100+ year old house of 600 square feet, eat game, buy meat and eggs from my country friends, have a huge garden, cook from scratch, eschew TV, cable, dish, internet, books, getting my needs met at my local library. My clothes, excluding socks and underwear come from thrift stores. I drive a 30 year old car, they were simpler then, it gives me no trouble. I have been living the life for a long time.

But you really got off track with #354. "Move to where there are like-minded people."
[NOTE: The text of this tip is copied below.] Whoa, sister! That sort of attitude fosters an "us versus them", red state/blue state, bunker mentality that engenders things like the Aryan Nations. I made a choice to move here 16 years ago and I'm not leaving. I suppose people see me as an eccentric, radical, commie-pinko but I was raised by parents who had a mantra, "what other people think of you is none of your business." What we have to try to do is find the common ground, sometimes it may be only that we are of the same species. My buddy thinks Glen Beck is god and I think he's a wing-nut but we have endless discussions on techniques for organic gardening. I trade him homemade bread for rototilling. We get along, somehow.

Regarding religion... My parents raised the six of us on "the golden rule", do unto others, etc. We were encouraged to explore, read and be free-thinkers; some of us have religion and others don't. Personally, I do not deny the existence of god, I just haven't seen it proven scientifically. Maybe god is quantum mechanics or string theory. I guess I am a militant agnostic; I don't know and YOU don't either. If you don't have the resilience and strength of character to handle life's challenges and religion gives you that, go for it. Some of us, however, prefer freedom FROM religion.

The Green Movement is a sinister plot to move us to Socialism?!? Whoa! What sort of Tea Party Kool Aid you drinking?!?
[NOTE: The text of this tip is also copied below.] If we don't get this climate change thing back to 350ppm nothing will matter. You are a breeder, just what sort of world are your grandchildren going to have to cope with? I personally don't think there is time to get things fixed but we all need to do what we can. The underlying problem is that the corporate concerns who run politics in this country have a vested interest in keeping the status quo and deriving short-term profits at the expense of our children's future. Maybe green politics is one response, but personally I think armed insurrection is a better idea.

I found alot of things in your book to like and agree with. I probably sound retro but I think if people have kids under 18 there should be no divorce unless there is a documented history of abuse. Work it out. Too many kids in poverty, on welfare, not getting a fair start in life and being a burden to the taxpayer besides. This business of sexualizing young girls, WTF!! Don't tell ME this is feminism! My mother, Susan Sontag and Bella Abzug are rolling in their graves. I laughed hard at the "country living" sequence. When I moved here most people thought I was a few bricks short of a load and the others were saying "such a beautiful place, why aren't you living in the country?" My response was, "are you [expletive deleted] nuts?!? I GREW UP IN THE COUNTRY! I KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE! In town; I turn on the faucet and water comes out, I flush the toilet it goes to the sewer, Donny Mueller picks up the trash every Thursday, the city plows the street when it snows. Living in the country is over-rated." Yes, it is nice...IF you are prepared to deal with it. Plus it costs money. I live alot more frugally and with alot less hassle in town. Not to mention, now that I am officially in "old bag" status, it is more prudent.

Best wishes with your publishing career and other business interests.



Here are the specific points from the book which Audrey referenced:

354. Move to a Place with Like-Minded People
If moving to a different town or even state is in your plans for a simpler life, take warning: make sure you investigate your destination area to see if you’re among like-minded people.

Beyond the usual red-state-blue-state demographics, it is wise to be aware that there are certain places where the political or social climate may not be to your liking. If you have strong political beliefs, for instance, and you move to an area where the majority of people are at the opposite end of the spectrum, you’re going to be miserable.

Be sure to research your target location thoroughly. Subscribe to the local newspapers. Visit. Rent for awhile, if you can.

There is joy in finding yourself among others who share your values. When we moved to Idaho, for instance, we found to our delight that we were among neighbors who cherish independence, family values, and thrift just as we do.

We know of a couple who purchased property recently in our area. They had wildly different viewpoints from those of their immediate neighbors. Wildly different. I met them once or twice and they seemed like nice folks, but I sensed trouble ahead because of their different attitudes and viewpoints. In our brief conversations, they immediately launched into their personal philosophies in a rather belligerent, defensive manner…almost as if they sensed they were different. I don’t know all the details, but their property was up for sale again within a year.

Relocation is much simpler if you know you’ll be welcomed in your new neighborhood.

244. Support Green Living, Not the Green Movement
We are urged to consider the sustainability and impact of our choices in order to think “green.” I find this to be a high calling, one worthy of everyone’s attention.

I support green living. I try to live by the principles of green living. It’s all so sensible—and simplifying. However, I do not support the green political movement because these activists are using “green” to advance Socialism. And Socialism, as any student of history will tell you, does not make anyone’s life simple. Socialism takes away independence. Sustainability increases independence. Which makes more sense to you?

Columnist Rebecca Hagelin writes, “If you let people control their own destinies, there's no limit to what they can achieve. But if you bind them with the straitjacket of central planning, smother their creativity with over-regulation, fence them in with high tariffs and take their hard-earned money with high taxes, you kill their dreams even as you wreck an economy.” [Emphasis added.]

But the march toward Socialism is subtle, and prettily wrapped up in 100% recycled green wrapping paper. After all, as commentator Walter Williams points out, there’s less resistance if liberty is taken away a little at a time. This year, light bulbs. Next year, temperature controls in your house. After that…who knows?

History has demonstrated the destructive results of Socialism. Become green and independent, not part of a collectivist society. Think for yourself. Only then will your life simplify, unless, of course, you prefer the simplicity of no longer having any choices at all.

Here is the reply I sent to Audrey:

Good morning, Audrey:

Thank you for taking the time to write regarding my book The Simplicity Primer. Like you, I’ve spent many years both living and reading about the simple life, including the authors you mention (Andrews, Elgin, Robin & Dominguez, etc.). I admire the way you’re conducting your life in conformity with your beliefs. Not many people have managed to do that, so you’re to be commended.

With regard to the tip to which you took exception (#354, Move to a Place With Like-Minded People), please remember that the ideas in the book are suggestions, not requirements. While I’m pleased you’re able to find common ground with your buddy who listens to Glenn Beck, you also mention how you moved to Seattle from a rural location, presumably because the social and political climate were more to your liking. In other words, you moved to a place with like-minded people. I find nothing wrong with living among people who share one’s beliefs, and believe me it has nothing to do with a “us versus them” bunker mentality, much less anything whatever to do with the Aryan Nations (yuck, pitooey).

Regarding religion: I think you’ll agree that the Simplicity Primer is a rarity among simplicity literature in that it’s written from the perspective of a conservative Christian. The premise of the entire book is that simplicity is achieved through making the right choices. I’ve chosen to embrace religion; you’ve chosen to do otherwise. If you’re satisfied with your choice, then you’ve achieved simplicity in that category.

I do maintain that the Green political movement advances socialism. We live a lifestyle that is “greener” than 95% of America, but it’s our choice to do so. My quarrel with the green movement is it is dedicated to passing legislation forcing others to conform to their agenda, i.e. phasing out incandescent light bulbs or regulating home temperatures. Such legislation reduces choices and increases unconstitutional authority. We keep our home cool and we use (mostly) CFL’s, but that’s our choice and I don’t believe there is any constitutional justification forcing anyone else to live the way we think they should live.

I thoroughly, absolutely, one-hundred-percent agree with your assessment of country living. LOL – sometimes I think I spend half my time convincing people NOT to move rural since (as you well know) country living is only for those willing to put up with a lot of hassle, grief, inconvenience, and even danger. We love it here, but then we don’t have to commute through snow drifts to a job (we work at home) or school (we homeschool), so we’re willing to put up with a lot of inconvenience. Life is indeed much simpler in many regards in the city, but we don’t like the crowded conditions or noise factor. It’s quite literally a case of “to each his own” when in comes to choosing a place to live.

I find myself in complete agreement with many of the things you wrote in your email. I wish we lived closer as I suspect we could have some lively and fascinating conversations over a nice pot of chai tea.

Thank you for your kind wishes and once again, I appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts and opinions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Foggy deer

In the quiet, foggy, pearly pre-dawn light this morning, I saw some deer in our yard. Here's the doe:

Here's the same photo with the colors adjusted to compensate for the dim light.

Here's one of her fawns.

Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

You should have seen me, creeping around the barn and poking the camera lens through cracks and knotholes, trying to take photos without being seen.

Here are both the fawns. Even though they're bigger, they still have their spots.

I was probably about 15 feet away from the doe at this point, peering through a crack in the barn wall.

The light was still pretty dim so these photos are grainy at best.

I noticed one of the fawns going around the corner of the barn, so I snuck into the chicken coop entry and stepped quietly out with my camera already adjusted to a zoom. I'm about ten feet away and the fawn looked at me with agitation.

Moments later she was gone with a flash of white tail.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wood Cutting 101 by Husband of the Boss

Since we seem to be getting ready to start getting our firewood together for the soon-to-be-arriving winter (and to relieve the embarrassment of my VERY beautiful wife over her last post), I've decided to provide you all with my sage advice on wood cutting. It was published somewhere or other a couple of years ago. Hope it helps.

One of the most basic and fundamental skills needed by anyone aspiring to a Country Lifestyle is that of the wood butcher or firewood cutter. Firewood and its timely gathering is of extreme importance not only in keeping a warm home, but also in showing your neighbors who you are.

Out here in Northern Idaho, most everyone uses wood heat, either as a secondary source or in many cases as the only means of keeping the house and shop warm during the cold nine months of the year. The correct display of your firewood is also important. A full wood shed, or stack upon stack of cut and split wood, tells your neighbors that you “get it.” You understand country living.

Now I can hear you out there, your whiney, smog-roughened voices crying out, “I want to be thought of that way, Don! I want to be a real woodsman!” Of course you do. And who wouldn’t? And as usual, I’m here to help. I promise that if you will heed the following words of wisdom, you too will be able to hold your head (or some other remaining appendage) up proudly in the presence of real woodsmen with country names like Stumpy, Lefty, or One-Eyed Pete.

First of all, let me dispel a couple of the old saws (get it? saws? Oh I’m good!) that you may have heard in your soon-to-be pre-country life. The most famous of the old sayings is undoubtedly “Heating with wood warms you twice,” referring not only to the burning but the cutting as well.

What nonsense. If you do it right, firewood will warm you at least six or seven times. By the time you’ve hauled your saw to the woods, realized that the chain is still dull from cutting all that roofing tin last year, gone back to the truck for a file, sharpened the saw while balancing it on an old stump, started cutting only to run out of gas (back to the truck for the can), realized that the log you are working on is either too heavy to turn (where’s the peavey?) or hollow and full of yellow jackets (a full-tilt run while shucking off all your clothing can be quite warming)…well, you’ve already got at least three or four good heats without even getting a stick into the truck. My friend and neighbor Percival Hughs claims that one time he got 27 warms out of a single batch of firewood, but he’s a professional and seasoned woodsman and therefore should not be trusted.

When should you start collecting firewood for the next year? Many of my friends start cutting firewood for the next year before they’ve even finished burning the current season’s supply. Others cut small amounts throughout the year, stacking their cords from youngest to oldest, then burning that wood in the same order, beginning with the oldest cut and therefore the driest wood.

Me? I usually begin cutting my winter’s firewood about two or three days after the first snow fall. Wait until your wife starts to complain about frost forming on the house plants or the dogs having to break through a crust of ice on the indoor water bowl. This delay adds a certain immediacy to the job that is quite bracing (see, another chance for a warming!). Unlike my lazy neighbors, I don’t mind doing concentrated, some might even say frenzied labor. After all, while they are all out lolly-gagging around, hunting elk or ice fishing, I can be found (sometimes with the aid of a search party) slogging though two or three feet of snow, trying to guess if the next mound of snow in my path is a downed tree or a hibernating bear.

So far you may have noticed that all we’ve talked about are logs that are already on the ground. While this is, in my opinion, their preferred state, occasionally dead or dying trees need to be helped to attain the horizontal.

Tree felling has been described as a difficult and dangerous profession requiring great skill and experience. But this is an exaggeration at best. After all, a tree is really nothing more than a vegetable; a multi-ton, 100-foot-high carrot, if you will. Since gravity and power tools are our friends in this endeavor, getting that carrot on the ground is not difficult. The trick is making sure that the tree falls where you want it to.

Old time tree-fallers (understandably rare) spend years learning to recognize the subtle “tells” of the tree: the asymmetrical growth, prevailing winds, root structure and the like. With this information and years of experience, they can put the tree on the ground within inches of where they will tell you afterwards that they meant for it to fall. If you have the time and no other visible means of support, this is an OK way to determine fall.

But if you’re in a hurry for a rosily glowing wood stove (because its 15 below zero, your hands are numb to the elbow, and the dogs are eying your ice fishing saw), there is a much faster way to determine where your future firewood will fall.

First, eye all possible ways that the tree could fall. Then make sure you have a “safe” line of retreat. Make your initial cuts in alignment with the direction you wish the tree to fall. Make your fall, and prepare to start cutting firewood.

This process will be made much easier by the fact that your truck will now be acting (to the best of its ability) as a sawhorse under the newly fallen tree. I don't know what it is; a tree can be leaning 45 degrees from the horizontal and will make a 180 sweep while falling to land on a truck. Possibly some kind of magnetism; but please note: when I say “your truck,” of course I mean “not my truck.” My truck was unaccountably un-start-able just before I went to cut firewood, necessitating the borrowing of your truck.

Since most country folk never bother to take their keys out of their vehicles when they park them, the available supply of borrow-able vehicles is only limited by the distance to the next neighbor’s house. (Other limitations will present themselves after your first wood cutting foray, but we will cover those in a later chapter concerning life-threatening wounds and their treatment.)

Now some of you who are “less country savvy” may be thinking, “Isn’t that a lot like stealing, Don?” Ha ha, well of course it would be if you didn’t write a note to leave with your neighbor, explaining in suitably vague terms the emergency that necessitated the borrowing the truck.

Caution: Remember to leave the note in a place where your neighbor can find it. It won’t do any good if you just drop it out the window of the truck as you drive away, or leave it stuck in the screen door where a blast of wind might carry it off. I like to leave my notes on the dash board of the borrowed vehicle.

Remember, after getting your firewood in, make sure to return the borrowed vehicle promptly even if that requires a tow truck. You might even get it back before your neighbor knows it was borrowed. If this occurs, you can remove the note from the dash board. After all, why confuse the poor fellow? However if your neighbor is waiting for you, possibly with the new shotgun he really wants to demonstrate, make sure that you are ready to explain to him the many benefits he has gained in loaning you his vehicle, like the lower wind resistance and the decreased insurance costs that the reduced profile of his truck now provides.

This might be a good time to address some of the equipment you will need for firewood gathering.

Aside from someone else’s truck, you’ll want a good chain saw. Unfortunately, no one has ever created such a thing. Oh, there are lots of great chain saws, but they always belong to someone else. Ask any woodsman about his chain saw and be prepared for a love story that would make Casanova blush. THEIR chain saw starts up first time on a below zero morning, cuts eight cords of firewood on a single tank of gas, then comes home and wakes their owner gently with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. MY chain saw, no matter how new or expensive, won’t start unless it is first warmed to room temperature (that’s normal room temperature, not my room temperature, because I still haven’t cut any fire wood).

Simply owning a chainsaw, whether operating or not, is not enough of course. You will also need chainsaw files for sharpening the saw after you cut into the nails you put into the tree the previous year during that unfortunate episode while constructing the kid’s tree house. (Honestly, who thinks about wind resistance when installing a slide?) Anyway, you will need a good selection of files, each of a specific diameter to fit all of the possible chain sizes available, except of course for the chain you currently have on your saw.

Sharpening a chain is an art. The saw must be balanced and braced so that each draw of the file sharpens each tooth at the same angle and to the same depth. Or so the guys down at the saw shop always tell me after they stop laughing. Personally, I think it’s just an attempt to get more business.

I happen to be an expert at sharpening a chain. Many professionals are willing to settle for a chain that will cut quickly and straight. But I’ve raised the “bar,” as it were, and all of my saw cuts now form perfect arcs through the wood, with the blade sometimes even coming out again on the same side of the log that it went in. This will come in very handy if I ever get around to building a log cabin.

Another tool that’s very handy to have with you is the peavey, a spike and hook arrangement on the end of a stout pole, not to be confused with the neighbor whose truck you borrowed. The peavey is very useful for rolling those heavy logs over onto your feet. I don’t think that was the original design concept, but that’s what it always does to me.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Now why would I want a tool like that?” Shame on you. Wood cutting is not simply about avoiding death by freezing; it’s also a lifestyle display. Having a peavey in the back of your truck when you arrive for your Loyal Order of the Grouse Lodge meeting shows the guys that you are one of them.

Well, that’s all the time I have for now. In our next lesson on firewood collection, I’ll cover other items of interest for the new country-o-phile. Such topics will include: “The Steel -Toed Boot: Essential Safety Apparel or Single Use Shear?”, “Small Engine Fires,” and the real health benefits of cooler home temperatures.

But before I go, let me leave you with this thought. A dead standing tree is not a diabolical, evil, and malevolent creature bent on your destruction (that’s a cow). And nine times out of ten that tree will not try to kill you. So don’t worry. But never fall more than nine trees at a time.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beauty times brains is a constant

Oh my gosh.

A reader just sent me a link to a YouTube video clip showing some of the 2011 Miss USA contestants answering a simple question: Should math be taught in schools?

Watch for yourself. Be sure to pick up your jaw from the floor afterward.

My dad (an engineer and mathematician) used to always say, "Beauty times brains is a constant." Short version: the smarter you are, the less you focus on looks. The more beautiful you are, the less you focus on intelligence. While happily there are exceptions, they sure can't be found in this YouTube clip.

UPDATE: Yep, I'm brain dead. Too many long hours in the shop. Didn't catch that this was a joke.

A ballet of logs

Yesterday afternoon was exciting -- we got our firewood in for the winter!

Over the years it's become harder and harder to obtain the wood we need to heat our home by scrounging half-rotten logs from forest floors or old slash piles. Plus -- and boy, it's hard to admit this -- Don and I are getting older, and scrounging firewood is darned hard work. So this year we bit the bullet and ordered a logging truck of pulp wood to be used for firewood. This is a common practice here in north Idaho.

Yesterday was the big day! The logger, a very nice fellow named Mike, came in the late evening just before sunset.

Mike is an independent logger, and his truck has a self-loader, meaning he can load his own truck.

We had to decide where to yard the logs. We ended up peeling back some of the fencing in the pasture to make a landing.

Here he is coming up the driveway...

You don't really appreciate how big these trucks are until you're standing next to one of them.

Mike climbed into the seat of the loader.

First thing he did was extend the side legs that brace the truck. The loader will be swinging logs wide to one side. Without this brace, the heavily-loaded truck could easily tip over.

Next he yanked the T-posts which held up the fence we peeled back earlier.

Here Don is wrapping the post with a chain...

...and the loader arm yanked them up effortlessly.

He was so skilled in the use of this loader arm that he could perform the most delicate tasks with amazing precision. At one point he lifted a drip irrigation hose out of the way so it wouldn't get crushed. Unfortunately I missed getting a photo of it, but it so impressed me that I asked him to do it again later on so I could get a shot (it was almost dark by then, so I had to use the flash).

At this point the sun went down.

Mike went under the truck to loosen the chains that held the logs together...

...and then he began unloading the logs with the loader arm. He was truly astounding with this tool. Watching him in action was like watching a ballet of logs.

First he laid down four logs (here's two of them) to use as a foundation for the rest of the load. This way the majority of logs won't rot from lying on the ground.

Then he unloaded and unloaded and unloaded, performing a ballet of logs in the twilight.

These logs are salvaged pulpwood. This photo is a bit blurry, but can you see how split up the log is? This log wouldn't be suitable for a lumbermill, so many independent loggers supplement their living by salvaging such logs and selling them for firewood. Those of us who heat exclusively with wood are grateful.

Another split log.

All of these logs have something "wrong" with them, unsuited to mill work, perfect for firewood.

It took about forty-five minutes to unload the whole truck.

(Hamming it up for the camera.)

After it was empty, he used the loader arm to lift the back half of the truck and piggyback it on the front half. This is the standard procedure for empty logging trucks.

Here's the final pile, all twelve cords' worth. I've been doing little happy-dances all day long, thinking about the security of having two years' worth of firewood practically on our doorstep.

After Mike turned the truck engine off and it was quiet once more, Don and Mike and I sat on some logs and chatted for twenty minutes or so as the evening deepened into night. It made me realize once more just how much I appreciate and admire the hard-working blue-collar men and women of this nation, who do their jobs without fuss or fanfare, but without whose efforts life in America would be much much different.

Logging is dangerous work. Mike related how he fell off the loader earlier in the year and landed on his shoulder, necessitating surgery. But he told us this as a matter of fact, not to garner pity. He's typical of the kinds of men I admire, men like my husband who work hard to provide for their families and don't look to the government for a handout every time they get a splinter.

We paid Mike $1100 for that truck load of firewood. It will give us about twelve cords. Worth every penny.