The role of wood in our life off-grid cannot be under estimated. We heat our home exclusively with it, so when trees fall, we use them for firewood and furniture both, depending on the kind and quality. The scrap generated from the wood shop also keep us in kindling.
Most of our neighbors plan months ahead with their wood piles, but ever since Dan’s accident in the fall of 2006, we got into the habit of splitting our firewood in a kind of as-you-go fashion. I appreciate having the weekly chore of gathering firewood. It gets me outside, keeps me strong, keeps me thankful.
In the winter months this chore involves me suiting up – hats, gloves, snow-pants, long johns, fleece, neck warmer, heavy-duty boots. I walk down the hill or up the hill, depending on where the current wood pile is. I uncover the logs and start swinging my ax until I have enough to fill the sled or the wheel barrow, then I pile the logs and haul them up or down the hill, depending.
We do make some preparations. During the halcyon days of summer our family takes periodic weekend-wood-gatherings, heading to the back or front forty. We know what trees have fallen down, which ones Dan will save for furniture, and which ones will make good burning.
A lot of families rely on four-wheel vehicles designed for the rough terrain. A few years ago we inherited a golf-cart. In a use-what-you-have fashion we have begun to rely on it for our wood-hauling chores, but obviously this isn’t what it was designed for. The golf-cart is starting to show signs of resistance, requires gas, and can’t be driven in the snow.
Last weekend, the kids and I dragged the wheelbarrow down the driveway, out onto the road and over to the wood shop. Filling our arms with scrap wood, filling the wheelbarrow, we made a kind of parade hauling it all back up to the house. Yesterday I split wood in the snow and hauled it via red plastic sled. We really need a better way of doing this. One that does not require a dependency on vehicles or fuel. A method that can accommodate all kinds of weather. A method that is kid-friendly and maybe even fun.
Enter one giant Alaskan Malamute in need of a new home.
At ninety-pounds, he is the extra-large version of his breed, and at two-years old, he’s also more than ready for a job. He eagerly followed me yesterday during my two-hour chore, sticking his nose among the logs, following me up and down the hill, and once or twice even grabbing the rope between his teeth and pulling. Malamutes are the oldest and largest sled-dogs in America. I imagine centuries of wood hauling must be crying out to our dog under all that gorgeous fur.
This weekend, Dan researched dog sleds. There are several kinds of designs. We need one with a back and side rails, to keep the logs from rolling out. We won’t be asking him to carry our weight as well, as the wood will be heavy enough. Because Dan does not have the capabilities in his shop for wood bending, he will have to modify the plans he has found.
For a harness, I looked to our local pet shop, but we need the kind with two eye-hooks for the side ropes, to give him support and power. I will have to special order. Helgi is already leash trained, and we are adding more commands daily to what he already knows.
Our task for the winter has begun: to build Helgi a sled for hauling wood, out of wood, and once that sled is built, to train him (and us) how to use it. We invite you to tune in next month to follow our adventure. And please, if you have any experience with this, or know of a good place to acquire resources, leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.