I have had a discussion a few times with friends and co-workers: Is splitting firewood recreational or is it work; to put it simply, is firewood splitting fun? I fall into the “fun” camp. Admittedly, this is from a privileged perspective. The fires that I have split wood for are campfires, backyard fire pits, and fireplaces that are in houses otherwise heated by electricity or natural gas. The people who have to cut and split cords of wood as their primary heat source tend to fall into the “work/ not fun” camp.
At this point, there is very little reason for me to cut and split wood. I don’t need to have wood fires to stay warm or cook. If I choose to burn wood, I could certainly buy it, but there can be great rewards in time spent with a pile of wood and a splitting maul.
Aldo Leopold wrote “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” He wrote that at a time when a person would at least get a physical paper check for their work and have to write a check to buy oil for a furnace. Now, much of this happens electronically and we can think even less about what it takes to have food on the table and a warm house in the winter. Every once in a while getting heat from hard labor and something that grew from the earth can reconnect us with our world.
Beyond that connection, there can be a lot of satisfaction in pounding a splitting maul on a piece of stubborn wood until it splits in two.
A few notes on splitting wood:
Splitting wood is a lot of work. So is getting wood cut to fireplace length and getting it to your backyard for splitting. Tree companies may charge more to cut firewood and leave it than to haul it away, simply because it takes longer. Finding wood to split can be tricky. If you keep your eye out when you see tree work is being done, sometimes you can find a little here and there. Ask first before taking wood.
Spitting wood is messy. A wood-spitting area will not fit well in a tidy landscape. It will trash your grass.
Not all wood is created equal. If you have a source of wood, make sure it is good to split and burn. Some wood is ridiculously hard to split (elm). Some wood does not burn clean (pine.)
Hand-splitting wood is hard physical labor. If your doctor doesn’t want you shoveling snow in the winter, she probably will not be thrilled if you tell her that you have picked up wood splitting as a new hobby.