Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Choose your weapon

Well over thirty years ago, closer to forty, I had a job working in the Lake District doing things like building dry stone walls, getting rid of invasive species in woodland and building paths. It was a job creation scheme so we eschewed machinery. Why use a JCB to dig a ditch - better to employ twenty lads with shovels. We had chain saws but I didn't like them. I didn't like the way they jumped in the air at start up or bounced against the wood as you began. Visions of severed limbs danced before my eyes. Better a big axe or a sledge hammer. For some reason a vision of my foot cleaved asunder must be beyond my imagination. I've continued to prefer hand tools. In fact I didn't buy an electric drill (though I've borrowed several) until about two years ago. 

In inland Alicante it gets cold. I've mentioned this before, several times before.  Indeed it is one of our main concerns from December to April. Keeping warm inside. Outside is fine. Pleasant. Inside though it's Hell's freezer.

Rural Spain in winter smells of woodsmoke. Nearly everyone in the countryside has a fireplace though I'm always amazed at the number of Spaniards who seem not to notice that it's freezing and sit around in completely unheated homes apparently out of choice. And in those fireplaces we burn wood. Some houses have open fires and some have wood burners, the ones with doors, the cast iron ones being better than the sheet steel ones. Maybe better heeled residents have the upmarket pellet burners.

We have a woodburner but it had to be small to fit into the fireplace we inherited and we didn't upgrade to a larger model when we got a new fireplace and chimney to complement our new roof. The stove heats the living room nicely but it will only take shortish bits of wood which means that any wood that goes in it has to be the right sort of length and girth. Wood never comes in stove sized chunks even when we pay good money to buy some from a supplier. Some is OK but the majority needs sawing, hacking or smashing to size.

I used an axe when we first got here. This involved a lot of protective clothing as wood splinters and flying bits of wood attempted to gouge out my eyes. I spent the winter covered in bruises lots of them on my forehead. I broke two axes before I decided this was a complete waste of time and went back to calor gas type heaters running off gas bottles. But for some reason this year a small pile of wood that we had at the back of the house attracted Maggie's attention and we had a fire in the woodburner. That supply didn't last long so I cut up lots of other bits of wood that we had around. Old bed bases, wooden palettes. The detritus of country living. But then there were only quite hefty logs left.

In the local ironmongers we asked about hatchets and axes and we were directed to a large sledge hammer with a blade on one side. Brilliant for opening (i.e. splitting) logs said the shop owner. He was a liar. I asked later, in another shop, about an axe but 50€ seemed a bit steep especially as I'd had trouble with the handles breaking in the past so I didn't buy one. The sledge hammer bounced off the logs. Wedges said our pals as we talked wood cutting over Saturday morning coffee. The huge car boot sale organised by the TIM magazine over at Salinas on Sunday provided me with two steel wedges in return for a wedge of cash. Cutting wood seems to be an expensive business.

The wedges and sledge hammer work well. I may well break my back splitting the logs or have a heart attack with the effort but at least I've not been reduced to buying one of those nasty chain saws or even worse ordering some ready cut stuff from the "leña man."

1 comment:

Maggie said...

This is hard work, time to relax, visit a few bodegas and enjoy a wine tasting session - I can organise this for you at