What the Well-Dressed Woodsman is Wearing This Season

In my world of fashion “practicality” is the buzzword this season (and in every season). In this photo you can see what the “well dressed woodsman” is wearing this year… and it doesn’t change much from year to year since dressing sensibly just never goes out of style.

well-dressed-woodsman

I bought my chainsaw pants and boots 15 years ago when we moved to the woods. They are a hassle to put on and hotter than heck when I wear them during warm weather, which is one of the reasons I always make a point of cutting my firewood during the winter. There are no “nicks” where the chainsaw has accidentally made contact, so apparently I have been using my chainsaw properly, but this is what insurance policies are for. This is especially important when you’re alone in the woods with a machine that could tear through an artery like butter. Attached to my suspenders is a 1999-style cell phone holder that I bought for 50¢ to hold my walkie-talkie. If I’m working on one of the those trees that I can’t get a good read on, I call Michelle on the walkie talkie just before I drop it, and then I call her back in 10 minutes. So far I’ve called back every time! I’m not sure we’ve ever discussed our strategy if I don’t call back.

My newest haute couture fashion accessory is my totally awesome and manly “cumberbund/girdle” wrapped around my waist, just above my pants. I found this item recently at our favorite thrift shop, “Bibles For Missions,” which still has great prices. (Now that thrifting is trendy we find that the prices in thrift stores have gone up to the point of absurdity!) I was hunting for hockey equipment last fall and I saw this thing in the pile. I wasn’t sure what it was, since nothing in a thrift shop is labeled, and that’s half the fun. Buying stuff when you aren’t really sure what it is. But I had a pretty good idea it was a brace for someone who needed back support. It said “XL” and I’m a “M” at best, but I figured that I could always fold parts over and stitch them up to make it tighter if need be. It actually fits just fine, and it came with another set of suspenders, since one set is hardly enough.

I have been blessed with a good back. My Dad’s back is a mess and my neighboour friend Ken wrecked his at work. When you heat with wood and run a CSA a good back is pretty important. So I make sure to do a lot of stretching every morning, I am getting smarter about moving heavy things, and I limit how much firewood I’ll do in a day. So I’m wearing my jaunty new cumberbund/girdle/back support “proactively.” It’s not to give my back support per se, but it’s there to remind me to smarten up and be careful. You can get your hips and knees replaced but backs are not replaceable last time I checked. It’s weird too because I don’t usually like tight things around my waist. When I buy new underwear the first thing I do is cut the elastic waistband. But I like this girdle thingee. It’s like a constant reminder “lift with your knees, you idiot.”

There’s also something that you can’t see under my mother-in-law’s pastel woodland scene sweatshirt (which I grabbed from a box of secondhand clothes) and that’s the tensor bandages that I wear on my elbows. I’ve got tennis elbow even though I’ve never played tennis, so I’m trying to relieve some stress on them too. The supports are just big pieces of rubbery foam with Velcro to fold over and secure them. So now when I finish work for the day and I start taking off my elbow braces and cumber bunds it sounds like a Velcro trade show around here. It’s pretty awesome.

You might also notice a timer hanging from my neck. It’s there to remind me that the “diversion” load is on. This is a good thing. It means that the batteries are fully charged and so I’m diverting excess electricity from our solar panels to the 2nd of three hot water tanks to heat our water. Our friend Bill the engineer automated his diversion load but for me, I just watch the sun and keep an eye on the wind turbine. When the batteries are fully charged a brake shuts down the wind turbine. I hate the thought of wasting energy, so at that point I turn my diversion load on manually. I’m a huge fan of low-tech solutions.

woodsman-full-shot

What you can’t see in this photo is the endorphin-induced “buzz” that comes with heating with wood that I have cut and split myself. In a fashion show those runway models just look bored and disinterested, because I guess it’s not cool to be happy about the ridiculous clothes they’re wearing that are totally functionless and unaffordable anyway. I, on the other hand, generally have an incredible sense of peace and well being while I’m cutting firewood. Actually, it tends to last all day… or all firewood season for that matter.

I started to write this blog post late Sunday afternoon after I had quit working because I was so bagged. I went into the office and got distracted replying to some emails, and then I got hungry and so I didn’t get it written. I figured that by Monday morning the buzz would be gone and instead I’d write a rant about the impending apocalypse that the myriad of meteors being captured on film portends. I saw a NASA Scientist tell Congress that there’s 30% chance we will get hit by one of those “end of the world as we know it” meteors and that we won’t even see coming! But you know, even on Monday morning I was still buzzing!

Heating with firewood is the greatest thing … ever!

It doesn’t matter how many books we sell, how much (or little) money we make, how many people come to our workshops, or how much produce we get out of our garden, there is just nothing like admiring a wood pile filled with firewood that you’ve cut and dragged and split and stacked. It’s carbon neutral, and it reassures me that I know where my next winter’s home heating will come from. And someone else’s well water hasn’t been contaminated because of natural gas fracking in their area.

Heating with wood is something humans have been doing for a really, really long time. It’s too bad we got away from it. It’s marvelous heat. It warms you to the bone. And cutting firewood, is just a blast. We could win the drug war by making everyone who buys drugs cut firewood all winter. No prison term for them, just a winter in the woods cutting and splitting wood. They’d lose their interest in an artificial buzz, because the firewood buzz is so genuine.

* * * * * * *

Two reminders from Michelle;

1. We appreciate your donations. The “Tip Jar” is on the righthand side of the page. Thanks to John, Dark & Wendy for their recent gifts!

2. The next workshop here at Sunflower Farm is Saturday, May 4. Email me (michelle at aztext dot com) to let me know you’d like to come!

4 Responses to “What the Well-Dressed Woodsman is Wearing This Season”

  • Linda Proudlove:

    We live in west central Alberta, and we also heat with wood, but the only wood available is poplar and spruce. The burn doesn’t last as long, so it takes more wood, but that just means more of a buzz.

  • Jeff:

    With your suspenders, green pants and helmet, you remind me of my wildland firefighting days. You look like just one of us. However, you have a much better message – live carbon neutral and sustainably, unlike our current (U.S.) mindset of “do whatever it takes to put it out, no matter the cost”. Don’t get me started on fighting wildfires in the U.S. – it’s crazy. Be safe, don’t hurt yourself and be green! All the best!

  • Brian:

    Hey
    Been reading your blog for a bit now, but do have a question about the picture above…is that Poplar you are cutting up? If so, how does it hold the heat? What is the average burn time for a block? We use mostly hardwoods here but we are getting overgrown with poplar and I was wondering how it would work as fire wood.

  • Ken and Madeline Snider:

    Really admire your new attire Cam. Great picture
    MAdeline

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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