The Farmer & His Wife
John Taylor loves a real fire.
ON the eastern boundary of our farm, there’s a burn that, over hundreds of years, has worn a channel down to the rocks, leaving sloping sides, now covered with trees.
I love to walk along its top bank with Jip, our sheepdog. The other day there was a pair of dippers sitting on two rocks. They’re so entertaining to watch.
Dippers always remind me of waiters dressed in longtailed evening jackets and white shirts. All they lack is a black bow-tie.
A sadder sight was the three old trees blown down in the gales. I made a mental note to recover them for firewood – nothing beats a real log fire for cheer at any time of year.
In my young days, when money was scarce, we burned little coal but a lot of wood. If there was a fallen tree, we’d hitch up two horses and fasten a chain to the tree and haul it home.
Over the next few nights, Dad and I would saw the tree into suitable lengths, using a two-handed cross cut saw. Then, with a long-handled axe, we’d split the wood into smaller-sized logs for the fire.
Hard labour? It certainly was! But in those days we looked on it as just another of those winter tasks.
Did I ever tell you about the three-day sale of the effects of Mrs Purves of Earlshall? Anne and I went along, not intending to buy anything.
However, as we walked into the sale, Anne took a paddle from the girl on the door. Against its number the girl listed Anne’s name and address.
When a big copper cauldron came under the hammer, Anne waited till the last moment then held up her numbered paddle to make a bid. It was knocked down to her.
I asked Anne why she’d bought it.
She gave me one of her looks and said it would do as a log basket for the lounge.
She was right, of course. Now full of logs, it sits beside the fire and looks the part.
Coming back to those fallen trees by the burn. I thought how things had changed from my dad’s days.
Now there was no need for chains and ropes to haul the tree home.
I went back to the farm, got the chainsaw and the forklift. I cut the tree into three lengths and lifted them with the forklift back to the yard.
There I cut them into small lengths with the chainsaw and as a result I think we have enough wood to keep a roaring fire in our lounge for the next ten years!