How much chuck could a woodchuck chuck?

How much ‘chuck’? ‘Chock’? How much wood, would he? Could he?

I always thought that the chuck a woodchuck (groundhog)  might chuck (if he could) was referring to FOOD. You know, like a ‘chuckwagon’ was where they prepared and carried the food for the lines of pioneers heading west…  But apparently, the chuck referred to in this instance is actually a ‘block of wood’. Which makes more sense, I suppose.

As we’ll be hearing a lot about groundhogs in the next few days, as well, this seems a fitting title to this blog posting in more ways than one.  Richard has been working hard all of January to start getting in our supply of wood for next year.  He’s just starting with deadfall that haven’t started to rot yet, and as we eventually want a few trails through the woods, he’s so far been sticking to where we want the trail to ‘meander’.  So, on both his new snowshoes and his skiis, and with both borrowed and newly-purchased toboggans, we have been carting wood back and forth from the back woodlot to the front of our barn, where he’s then been splitting it.

While we want to be eco-friendly (and plan to replant as much as we take out) and while there has been much discussion of late about ’emissions’ from woodstoves across the world ( Nick Waddell states ” Across the country, the burning of wood for heat is under fire. In Montreal, it is already illegal to install a new wood burning stove, except for those that use energy efficient wood pellets, like the ones that have caught on in parts of Europe)  Paris DID reverse its ban on woodstoves, when it was proved that the fine-particle emissions were NOT as high as had originally been thought.  New Brunswick is 85% forest, and with the present horror of fossil fuels and fights over the pipelines ruining what remains of clean water in the world, DRY HARDWOOD is still one of the more eco-friendly ways to heat.  Someday, perhaps, we’ll be able to heat entirely with solar, somehow, but for now – it’s wood from our woodlot!

Our wood furnace, as you might remember from this earlier photo is connected to hot water pipes, which connect into radiators that are on the baseboards of most of the rooms at Blue Belldon Farm.  (Of course, we have a back-up oil furnace that ALSO heats those water pipes, but we’ve only used less than 1/2 a tank of oil all year, compared to going through 5 tanks of propane last year in Ontario with a very similar radiator system.  SURELY that’s better for the environment!  It certainly is better for pocketbook!)

our wood furnace, kept burning day and night!

Of course, with the gigantic  wind and freezing rain storm all of N.B. had this week, many were without power. We only lost ours for four hours – from 1 to 5 a.m., so were very lucky, as there are some near Moncton and along the ocean who have been without for 5 days now!  This system of ours wouldn’t heat the house without electricity, as it has to be pumped into the pipes. We’re hoping to have this rectified soon with a battery or outside generator, but during this week’s storm we simply kept the furnace fire going, and also built one in the living room fireplace, which has the best ‘pull’ up the chimney of any of the old houses in which I’ve ever lived ( a lot!). And the temp of the living room is kept at LEAST 10 degrees warmer with just the simple lighting of that fire, although most fireplaces LOSE heat rather than offering it… we are LUCKY with the care and engineering that went in to this particular fireplace!

To remind you, here is the back room (living room) fireplace that actually DOES heat the room, unlike so many!~ Richard and Smitty at Christmas

Our radiator system does not look like the radiators I had growing up, or which I had in a lot of cottages in which I resided while in the U.K. They were big monsters, made lots of clunking and noise, and when they were ‘bled’, they could spew some nasty things out at you in a forceful stream:

The radiators in my bedroom, and most of the rest of the house my grandparents built, and in which we all lived, weren’t the ornately decorative Victorian ones you sometimes see. They just were enormous and essentially ugly,  and took up a lot of space (although awfully handy to hang wet clothes on, or towels you’d like warm for after your bath, admittedly! )4

While these are now considered ‘vintagely trendy’ and are collectors’ items, apparently, I prefer our more subtle baseboard radiators, that look almost like electric, if you look at them at all!


Dense hardwoods like maple, oak, birch and cherry are some of the better woods for heating. The best hardwoods in these parts for wood are maple, birch and beech. We seem to have a lot of beech in our woods, reminiscent of my favourite woodland walks in England, so I really don’t want to lose our beech! (When I worked as a guide for the provincial parks system in the early 1990s, my supervisor pointed out that the best way to recognize a beech tree was that its trunk looks just like an elephant’s leg. I’ve never forgotten that simple tip!4

Richard’s brother from Saint John works as an engineer on the big ships down there, and he gave my mountain man one of his old “snowsuits” (what do you call them on an adult?)  Whilst the colour goes against every fibre of my being (I believe you should wear clothes that fit INTO Nature, not make you an objectionable embellishment on the horizon), they WERE free, and you know how accident prone Richard is – although we are always joined by walkie-talkie, he might still need that bright orange on someday, not just for me to find him but, God forbid, the medi-vac helicopters!

Above – First Richard snowshoes out the 1/4 mile or so to our forest (behind the barn). He drags his tools with him, and although we have since bought a bigger, sturdier sled with taller sides, this borrowed one did the trick!  He has to shovel some of the deadfall out first to access it!

Then, above, Richard cuts the tree into large log shapes, and moves all the way along the tree.  Those logs are then piled two or three at a time, and bless him, he hauls them on toboggan all the way back to the barnyard/driveway. Now, we’ve always planned to have a draft cross to help just pull the logs out, so that R. can do all the cutting near the house, too.  We are presently looking at this guy-  Percheron cross, which I’ve owned before, and already trained to the task:


But for now, Richard must be his own woodchucker.  The next stage is to split all the logs, and some of them are MAJORLY thick buggers:


This was the best of all the action shots I took showing the power you need to get into. the middle of these. These logs are, of course, always easier to split in very cold temperatures, and we do have a small electric wood splitter (that only works in WARMER temperatures) so it’s been trial and error every day to see which kind of splitting would be done, depending on the weather and the thermometer!


Once Richard can get these split in two, the splitting into smaller, burnable pieces is easier.  And Smitty is almost always on hand to help, if he isn’t busy chasing ski-dooers off our land!



And then, after several proud days in the bush, and 3 already-fallen, but not-yet rotting trees, Richard proudly shows off his trailer-full of our OWN wood, which will be left inside the barn to dry out for next winter’s heating, which our two mothers helped to stack in the basement for us!  (ages 76 and 78!)




This, folks, is self-sufficient living at its best.  Makes a person feel ‘down-right proud’!

And, in our woods, with Rasmussen Brook trickling along below, (despite minus 20 temperatures some days,) and glinting in the  bright sunshine, the peaceful hush of a winter’s afternoon (when the chainsaw is turned off!) at Blue Belldon Farm is muchly appreciated!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you haven’t heard Richard do his chainsaw impression, by the way, it’s worth a listen. One is the priming and warm-up, and the other is the actual ‘cutting’. He doesn’t have enough breath left in him to do the whole production in one go anymore, apparently!

And, to return to ‘woodchucks’ – since Groundhog Day is only a few days away, if you haven’t seen one of my favourite British clips, you may want to see this young lad calling “Alan”.  But, since Alan isn’t responding, maybe it’s “Steve”.

It’s part of this hilarious series – check out all the episodes if you laughed, and ENJOY!



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