Monday, September 17, 2012

Following the Leader

In Nagano the soba is in bloom, the dragonflies crowd the sky, the apples ripen on the trees, and the matsuri kick off. It's fall in other words.

And winter is coming.

Unlike Game of Thrones, my Iron Throne wouldn't be swords but axes and chainsaws. When we built the house, we made the decision, or rather I made the demand, that we would have a wood burning stove. Said stove would be from America, not a tiny little Japanese one, but a nice sized American one that would put out enough heat to make the winter comfortable.

And boy did it, last winter was the first time I spent the bulk of the cold season happy. The stove kept the house at about 72'ish most of the time (Which doesn't sound like much, except that one must understand that our previous house was lucky to get about 10 degrees C warmer than the outside air and it gets COLD in Nagano, and that was with the electric and kerosene heaters going full bore. At night we might be 2 to 3 degrees warmer than the below freezing temps outside) and we discovered, much to Beloved's pleasure, that laundry placed up on the second floor would be bone dry by the end of the day, no longer did we have to take a week to dry the laundry during the winter, no longer was I slapped in the face by wet clothing in the morning after taking a shower.

The only issue was... wood. Back in the States we did have a wood stove, but it wasn't used as the primary (Actually in our case, only) source of heat for the house so I didn't really get just how much wood a family could go through. It doesn't help that while I'm thinking cords of wood, Japan sells them in bundles. We thought a hundred bundles would be ok, until we learned that we would go through about 4 or 5 of them a day during the coldest part of winter, which lasted a month.

The cost was... annoying to say the very least, though I have to admit that it worked out far cheaper than paying for either the power or the kerosene. This summer however I had been on the hunt for cheaper wood, i.e. stuff that I would have to cut and split myself. And yeah, I got it alright. A friend of mine who owns an apple orchard gave me a few truckloads of apple and pear wood and then another friend got a neighbor of his who was getting rid of his garage to give me all of that wood. Finally, our neighbor, the farmer who always gives us stuff, cut down a pine tree in his yard and gave us that as well.

Yes, I KNOW you're not supposed to burn pine as the majority fuel, but it don't hurt as a starter.

For most of the summer as the days got too hot, the wood more or less lived under blue tarps that I had staked down to protect it from the rains. This holiday weekend though... well, it was time to get that wood cut, the dry stuff stacked for this winter and the wet, new wood, stacked for next winter.

For two days I've been entertaining myself with both my chainsaw and splitting ax, picking up some lovely blisters and some killer sore muscles in the process.

But of course, Daddy cannot possibly be outside playing the warm sunshine without having little boys to play along with him, right?

You do NOT play with these
Day one was just Makoto as Daddy was doing a lot of work with the chainsaw (Yeah, two-year-old and a chainsaw, what could possible go wrong with that combination?) so Hikaru spent most of the day screaming from inside as he saw big brother and Daddy outside 'playing' and he wasn't allowed to do so. Still, even though I got a lot of wood cut, I also had some fun with Makoto. Makoto started off trying to help me by stacking wood (He wasn't too bad) but very quickly we ran into the problem of the wood pile got to be over his head and he couldn't reach. So instead Makoto just got to play, which as I kept turning over stacks of wood meant that he got a nature show right in front of his eyes. He met slugs (slimy things are always a big hit with little boys), ants, frogs, termites, crickets (Jumping Jiminy, now I know why our backyard is so bloody noisy at night), and earthworms. Pretty much anything creepy and crawly that would delight a small boy was there right in front of him. He also got to meet some centipedes, which was a problem. Mukade are not to be trifled with. They aren't dangerous, but as anyone who lives in rural Japan knows, being bitten by one hurts. I have never been, thankfully, but Beloved's stories, plus stories of friends who have, lead me to state that the bites feel something between "Oh my merciful God in heaven!" and "Bleeping beep of a beep!", if not inventing new curses on the spot.

Given that I don't want Makoto to get started on more colorful language just yet, we had a quick lesson as to why he should leave the mukade alone.

I forgot however that if you make something sound dangerous, you make it irresistible to little boys. To distract Makoto from hunting mukade, I told him about earthworms and how they eat and poop out dirt (Yes, I know that's not technically true), which worked. Makoto spent the rest of the afternoon harassing earthworms and gleefully announcing that it had pooped dirt on his shoe.

It doesn't take much to entertain a young boy.

The second day was more ax work than saw work and with Beloved off napping, Makoto and Hikaru came out. This ended up with Makoto taking Hikaru around to see all the friends he made yesterday, Mr. Slugs, the crickets, and of course the earthworms. Both boys spent about an hour outside playing with the frogs (Hikaru: "Frog! Frog! Frog! Frog! Frog! Frog! Frog!"), and the earthworms. Actually it got to the point where I looked up from my splitting to find both boys hunkered down in the dirt, cheerfully waving bye to a pair or frantic earthworms they managed to dig up, both coated liberally with mud and dirt.

They were very happy young boys, and since I was still armed with an ax, I didn't have to face too much wrath of Mommy when they came in and showed Beloved just how dirty they got.

I meanwhile just picked up another log to split and stack, after all, winter is coming.
And two days worth of work later

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