GOT Wood? And Other Grammatical Oopsies


Coming to you with a linguistic background, I gotta tell you, I love language, but despite a Master's in bilingual education, I make my share of mistakes and definitely need an editor. Probably because I have my flaws, I am curious about how others use language. I think language is exciting, creative, expressive and perhaps one of the few places where humans can more readily accept change. We have an ear for new words - most of us think "cutie patootie" is perfect for those things we just want to eat up, but we hate the word "moist" and strongly dislike hearing the coachy types throwing around the idea of "positivity." No doubt, language conjures emotion! Creativity with words is one thing, we either love 'em or hate 'em, but most often, new words remain fairly permanent in our ever increasing cultural vocabulary. You dig?


Play with words all you want, but lots of people would argue, "Don't mess with grammar!" If you do, you risk ridicule, judgement or even prejudice. We have learned in our education system that there is a right and wrong way to use language. Some suffered a million red check marks down the page of fill-in-the-blank grammar practice sheets while others skated through with ease and breeze coming to school already equipped and socialized into the expectations of what is "right." For all kinds of reasons, grammar changes too, just like new single words or usage is introduced, we accept things like "Got Milk?" or Apple's "Think Different." But, when we hear somebody make mistakes with past tense, or subject-verb agreement, we immediately judge their intelligence. As a teacher, I saw children over-generalize the rules, get confused with the rules, or emulate and practice what the cool kids said - even of it wasn't correct - ex. "That's mines." Until rules become internalized, they are flexible. Once a person practices the convention a certain way, and if communication is achieved, it's often good enough. It works, and the brain can move on to a new puzzle. Students who make grammatical mistakes are not less intelligent than others, in fact, sometimes they are better problem solvers. As a functioning society, we need the rule-oriented, the creative, and the puzzlers, but most of all, we need to simply understand each other. Picking up what I'm putting down, mistakes and all?


Let's get to that wood we got! Or... Let me tell you about the wood we have!


William is a wood finder, puller and piler, and as he says, "Flossy, you can fly that plane! Pilot (pile it)! Ha! Do you get it? Pilot sounds like pile it, which is what one must do with split wood. Pile it, Pilot! William's jokes kinda get old, but his sequence through the seasons, unwavering and steadfast. The harvest is in, deer hunting season mostly over, so now it's time to collect dead trees from the woods to heat the house and maybe even have a bit to sell.

Lots of you have wondered about the little red building next to the house. In big words on the front it says, "Heatmor." It's a wood burner that is connected through a water boiler to the forced-air furnace in the house. "It was a fad a few years back," says William. "I bought this in 2005 and don't regret it one bit. Lots of guys put them in, then realized how much work they are. But if you have woods, and are willing to work, it's free." On a city grid, folks have natural gas, but out here, heating options are most often propane, electric or wood. It is a lot of work, but William likes being outside and doing things that make him self-sufficient.

A couple weeks ago you might remember the dump truck was full of mulch for the perennial gardens. This week it is loaded with logs going to a friend who, like us, heats his house with wood, and because he has been helping us out, he and William are trading.

This time of year, the wood splitter and chainsaws are a permanent fixture on the landscape. They also contribute to a new seasonal song of small-engine rumblings and putterings. In the evenings William comes in smelling of gas and full of stories about fixed chains, sharpened blades and mufflers better made in Germany than China. "Why do you have so many chainsaws?" I ask. "Well, you wouldn't take the moped to go get two bags of dog food, now would you?" It's the vehicle for the job. "Big tree, you take a moose of a chainsaw. If you're out in the woods it's nice to have an all-purpose vehicle that's easy to handle - big enough and manageable enough for the smaller stuff too."

I certainly love the ease of turning a dial or pushing a button to warm the house, but there is something empowering and comforting in having the ability to make and control fire to fulfill one's own need for heat. I am certainly not drawn to the work of collecting, splitting and piling wood, but I love the smell of burning wood, and I love that it comes from our own efforts.


Of course, I know all you critical thinkers out there are pondering the carbon footprint, but that will have to be a later conversation. Go solar! As William always points out, "We humans sure haven't done this planet any good." But, are we learning? I hope.


In the country, self-sufficiency still drives many folks to burn wood. That old-time sense of self-sufficiency and control are alive and well in Western Wisconsin where woods are plentiful and wood burners a common sight.

And, if ambition is strong, distraction weak, and the snow not too deep, there will be wood for sale on the farm both this winter and next spring when the store re-opens. If you are in need, contact WM with the info on the website home page. He sells a FACE CORD for $80. What's a face cord vs. a cord of wood? This is how wood quantities are measured. A stack of wood four feet high by 8 feet long is a face cord. William cuts his logs to about 16 inches then splits them. For some smaller wood stoves, you might need shorter logs cut only to 14 inches. Oh, the things we discuss out here in the country!

Stay warm and enjoy your snuggle in time. I see lots of folks have put up Christmas trees and decorated with lights. We may well just nail the whole purpose of this holiday season without the stress of running from here to there for parties!


Sending lots of love from the farm,


Sarah Brenner

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