Like most people, I sometimes make decisions that I regret. Last week I made one of those decisions, and I have been regretting it ever since. The decision I made was to shave off my beard. On the coldest day of the year. It’s not that I’m worried about my ability to grow another beard, but it’s been, well, cold and for some reason I seemed to forget how much insulation I get on my face from the beard. In hindsight, it was a horrible decision.
I made another decision recently which is turning out to be much better though. I bought a double-bit ax for use around the property, and I could not be happier.
Amy doesn’t want me to cut down any live, healthy trees out here for fire wood, so I am relegated to cutting only trees that are already dead and/or down. Luckily, we’ve had some pretty severe wind this winter and there has been no shortage of trees to buck up and drag out of the woods. I use the chainsaw for almost all of this work. But when I’m cutting what’s called a “widow-maker,” the chainsaw can get pinched in the tree if I misread how the tree will fall. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s good to know that I now have a nice ax to use to chop out the chainsaw.
I got a double-bit for two main reasons. The first is that they have straight handles, so it’s a pretty accurate ax. The other is that I can keep one blade sharp for chopping, and the other a little more dull for splitting. After splitting several cords of wood by hand last year with an eight pound maul, swinging the three and a half pound ax is much, much easier.
I’ll still use the maul for knotty wood or the really big logs. It’s heavy, unwieldy, and gets stuck a lot, but gets the job done. I also have a ten pound mini-sledge to get the maul through the really nasty logs, but that’s a lot of weight to be swinging around all day. The combination of the two pretty much guarantees that I can get any log split, but it might take a long time to get a few pieces of burnable fire wood. Three and a half pounds versus eight is a pretty easy decision.
And speaking of decisions, there is an annual event that starts this week which always makes me happy that I’ve decided to make the northern Adirondacks home: Winter Carnival.
Carnival is what makes a hard winter bearable. Carnival is something that I think everyone who lives in the Saranac Lake region looks forward to. It is like a winter break for everyone. And as an adult, who doesn’t wish that they still got all the vacations that school kids get?
For those of you who don’t know, Winter Carnival is a week long celebration of surviving through the winter. There is a Royal Court, concerts, contests, an Ice Palace, and the whole thing culminates in an unforgettable parade. Outside. In the middle of February. Needless to say, there may be some alcohol involved in one or more of these events.
Back when I was in college, there was a standing rule that my parents were not allowed within fifty miles of Saranac Lake on parade weekend. I’ve grown up a little bit since then, but they still honor the buffer. The parade really brings the community together. People travel from all over the country and world to attend Carnival, and I have yet to hear of anyone coming away disappointed.
It’s a boon to the town, as well as to everyone’s psyche. You have to be pretty tough to survive the winters up here, and Carnival is a great reminder that we’re all in it together, no matter who you vote for or how much you make. We’ve all decided to tough it out up here, and Winter Carnival is our reward.