An evening with the Beast.

This is the Beast:Its appearance on the scene means I am starting to think about the winter. I run two wood-burning stoves, one of which heats my water, and they are usually in action from October to March. That’s a lot of firewood to get ready, and I always go through more than I think is possible. In last year’s exceptional winter, I was reduced to bringing in sacks of frozen logs on a sledge, and I don’t want to repeat the experience.

The Beast, like all my power tools, is a Stihl. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that Stihl produce extremely reliable stuff, which stands up to most of the abuse I inflict on it. Stihl is also subtle, in that they manufacture two- stroke engines which run on a 33:1 mix, as opposed to the 25:1 mix used by most other makes. Rather than mess around making up two separate cans, it just easier to have all power tools from the same manufacturer. Such an easy way to clean up the market….

Anyway, the Beast was bought to cope (among other things) with this:This huge beech blew down in a Boxing day gale four years ago, and has been keeping me warm ever since. Many of the beeches in this part of the world are reaching the end of their lives – they are mostly 150-180 years old, and every strong wind is apt to bring huge limbs down. I still miss this tree, but it is performing a useful final service. The wood barely needs seasoning now, and still has a couple of years to go before terminal rot sets in.Each slice takes about twenty minutes to  cut off and then saw into smaller pieces that I can move to where the splitter will able to reach them. As you can see, I need to sharpen my chain – the saw is pulling to the right, and the cuts from each side of the trunk don’t line up. Chain sharpening is a truly horrible job, and one which I delay as long as possible – not good.Incipient rot makes wonderful patterns in the wood. Cutting this slice has revealed a detailed map of Asia and Australia drawn up by a medieval Chinese cartographer. He’s even got the boundaries between the kingdoms marked, and has coloured the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush in a fetching shade of grey. He seems not to have realised the full extent of India though. I wonder why he hid his map in my tree?

16 thoughts on “An evening with the Beast.

  1. Oh-oh. Chainsaw. Well first I must say I’m surprised to learn about ancient beech trees and that you heat with wood. (We heat with wood too, also in two stoves.) And while I am not afraid to split softwood kindling with an axe, chainsaws are a whole different ballgame. Mr O has a saw too, and he has a most interesting scar on his cheek, like a medieval soldier, where a blade bounced back at him one time. Happily it missed his eye and the rather romantic scar is hard to see after the surgeon’s two hours of work… it took a long time to heal. So you be careful Kininvie. But I do love the stove fires– Max does too. And I think you should frame the map somehow.

  2. Yes, dangerous weapons – but essential if you work with trees as much as I do. I fear the map would shrink and crack if I attempted to preserve it…..I’ll just regard it as one of those interesting pieces of emphemera – and pass on.

  3. Here in north-west Ireland our thoughts are running on similar lines to yours. We got rid of our oil-fired central heating 3 years ago and now have 2 stoves which keep us very toasty indeed.

  4. Who can live without a chain saw? We have two, one runs on petrol and on on electricity… The latter is terribly handy for cutting firewood, whereas theformer has just that little more OOMPF in case we need to take down a tree or 7.

    I didn’t see the map at first, but I did see an old man with very distinctive eyes and a large beard (and something to the right of him that I don’t know quite what is…)

  5. Kininvie I am almost embarrassed to ask… Are you a male or a female? Because I always think of you as a woman but I started doubting. If so you are a really strong one!
    That tree was fantastic and I agree you should frame that map slicing the trunk.
    I loved the meadow you have there too!

    • Alberto, I don’t wish to add gratuitous pornography to my blog, but I suggest you google for “32 naked women with chainsaws” and you will discover all things are possible! (All right, the rest of you can google it too – it’s quite fun, although health and safety experts would have a fit!) As for the meadow you admire – that’s rosebay willowherb, a pernicious and invasive weed (but pretty)

      • I don’t wonder anymore about your gender now. I have a tougher question buzzing in my mind… Are you dress or not when you chainsaw your trees?! I won’t sleep tonight…

  6. Ah all my tools are Stihl too 🙂 I was happily strimming away this morning thinking how easy these noisy, smelly things make some kinds of work. I have to admit to leaving the chainsawing to the estate work chap though. I’m not sure they make chainsaw protective gear in my size!

  7. The map is stunning and obviously of international importance. Shouldn’t you inform the map authorities or local museum or something?

    I only use Stihl because a) they are undoubetdly the best and b) they make the smartest and most fetching chainsaw trousers. I spend much of the winter cutting firewood but luckily this is just adding to a large store and so I’m not up against it like you. Have you really got time for blogging?


    • I used to have a large store, but last Winter put paid to it. I’ve got plenty of small stuff waiting to be sawn, but that big beech is not going to last forever before rot sets in, so I need to deal with it too.

  8. I always figured you as a stong and able woman but seeing the beast, am rather overawd at your capabilities. Your winter tales show how much you live life on the edge and just sharpening that toothed monster would take more than my patience, let alone skill. Maybe the tree dates back to one of the Chinese dynasties and is older than you think.
    p.s. catching up with your posts and would love to try the Cranachan recipe – does it Smirr the vision?

    • Hi Laura… Yes, I’m gardening at the edge in several different ways, although my original thought was ‘at the edge of chaos’ – which is normally how it feels. As for the smirr’d vision, that all depends on the amount of whisky you put in the Cranachan!

  9. Hi Bridget, I admit to still keeping oil central heating, but on the whole I now use it only as a back-up. I don’t know how it is in Ireland, but here in Scotland there’s a sudden fashion for wood-burners. The local farmers used to be happy if I took down their dead trees in exchange for the wood, but now a whole bunch of small firewood businesses are offering them money to do the same. It’s a tough life….

  10. Chainsaws are really infact extremely dangerous, thats why you don’t go anywhere near one or where someone is operating with one because A. it could hit you and tear you apart or B. whatever is being felled could fall on the person next to you.

    -Carlos Hernandez

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