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Friday, February 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Midstokke: Easy is for the experienced

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

Sometimes life in the woods is too easy and so I make poor decisions, usually a succession of them in rapid-fire order, just so I don’t get too soft. If I get too soft, I might decide that things like curbside trash removal, plowed roads and riding a cruiser bike seem attractive. And that would, of course, be awful for any number of reasons that I can’t come up with right now.

Once, I lived in the city for a minute before I bought this granite knob in the Selkirks. I rode my little blue Schwinn Collegiate around town with a basket on the front. I had a lot of free time because I never had to chop firewood or hunt ground squirrels. With that free time, I pursued vain and selfish hobbies like yoga and napping. Sometimes, I even read books for pleasure. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t know what I was missing.

At that time, I didn’t even own any work gloves. Now, baskets of work gloves are the interior decor at my house. Sometimes they are on sale at the feed store register 2-for-1, and my person and I will come home with bags full of leather gloves and grins like we scored at the candy shop.

He is bizarrely optimistic and does the cutest things with those gloves. He puts them in pairs and labels them. It’s like he almost expects to go out and find a basket of right and left gloves five minutes later, when everyone knows that right gloves have a magical magnetic force that draws them together and propels left gloves into a parallel universe where coffee mug handles are on the other side of the cup. I love him for his naivete.

It is also partly out of this love that I demonstrate the art of poor choices, rash decisions and bad ideas. I was doing just this as I split wood with two right gloves the other day. The inexperienced mountain person might do something conservative like get their wood in the spring. I actually had a city friend say that to me in November when we were headed to harvest firewood. “Funny, that’s a spring job in our family,” she said. We both scoffed at her but reserved our comments so as not to induce flatlander shame. Anyone getting firewood in spring probably has some cute little cosmetic fireplace that burns about 12 logs a year for a holiday party.

Real backwoods folk know to procrastinate until they are sure winter is even going to happen, what with climate change and all. Or if they don’t want to get soft, they skip that step and buy some at an inflated price from an ill-reputed source sometime in December and have it dumped in a totally inconvenient location so they can schlep the stuff toward the shed while acquiring minor joint injuries. For best effect, the wood is still in table-size rounds, wet, and something that will most definitely cause a chimney fire by January.

By that time, the remainder of that unsplit pile will acquire a snow load, compacting it soundly into the frost heave until spring thaw. Unless one wants to not get soft. “Hey, Lumberlover, if you shovel a path to that pile of frozen, soggy timber out there today, I’ll split it.” This is essentially foreplay at our house. Other mountain courtship rituals include putting the ski racks on my car and installing an irrigation system in the garden.

Splitting rounds of wood that large takes the kind of force typically only applied in lifesaving measures, like when moms lift cars off their children or something. Other people might use a wood splitter, but I prefer to swing a maul the weight of a gravestone because I like having arthritic shoulders and the back of a rugby player. Wet and frozen wood is actually harder to split than seasoned wood, and this can really help develop those calluses.

All of these qualities will be perfect for my June wedding, where a stash of left gloves will be given to my new husband as a dowry. In the meantime, we’re still trying to figure out where to register for cords of tamarack and fir. If having firewood delivered seems a bit soft, we’ll simply store it a few hundred yards from the house.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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