I have a personal goal of becoming a wood connoisseur in my lifetime, and I really hope this cheesy wish trickles over to my son, Hawksley, because he'd be a stud. A dorky stud, but a stud none the less. Before you yawn and think burning wood is the most boring thing to happen to autumn and winter, here me out:
Wood fireplace cocktails, you guys! Metaphorical cocktails, of course - but cocktails!
What the heck is this? Well, if you have a wood-burning fireplace/stove, heating system, or you like having a couple fires outside, I'd encourage you to think about the wood you choose to burn since there is a smorgasbord of options. You can create a really mindful, whimsical and feel-good experience when you're adding this powerful fire energy to your life.
For example, you're lighting your first fire of the season: add some smoky birch to kick things off; a dash of oak and maple to really bring the heat, and a splash of cherry to sweeten the fragrance. Delish, delish, delish. (Actually, cherry wood gives off a sweet aroma with very little smoke, and it makes the whole place ultra dreamy.)
And since wood is such a big piece of the lumberjack and jill lifestyle, let's chat about wood before we get into the other sassy and necessary woodland living attributes required for this vibe.
Here are woods I am familiar with for those of you thinking about your wood selections this year:
Oak: burns for a long time, and throws a lot of heat, but it's proven hella hard to actually get going. It's a hardwood, making it ideal for the primary wood source in fires. Last year, we bought a few cords of oak and it proved to be a lot of work - with a lot of kindling used up. It's also hard to split and requires about a year to be seasoned correctly (you really want this to be ultra dry), but it burns forevvvvver so you get your money's worth.
Maple: another good option, and similar to oak, this is another hardwood that will throw a lot of heat. It is hard to split though, so rally up your axes and hatchets. You should be able to find this wood readily at lumber yards, however if you harvest it yourself, it will take a long time to season.
Pine: a softwood that burns quite messily, popping and splaying a lot, sending out hot embers. It's full of sap and resin and it's not an ideal choice for full-time burners but it's quick and dirty in a pinch or for outdoor fires. If you've got little ones or pets, I'd recommend another wood. Pine can also build up a lot of creosote in your fireplace (dangerous for chimney fires), so I'd reserve it for outdoor use.
Cedar: another softwood, cedar is similar to pine and burns messy - popping and sparking - but it is an ideal kindling choice. Abandon all that newspaper! This is a way better option. The oils in this wood make it super hot and quick to catch. You'll definitely want to add some to your wood cocktail! Opt for cedar over pine if you're
Birch: white birch burns quickly, making it a good one to use to get your fire going, but black birch is dense and will burn for a long time in comparison. White birch is good to pair it with hardwoods like oak and maple, or black birch so you aren't using up as much kindling to ignite your fire. If you use white birch solely (papery bark), it will burn quickly, causing you to top it off a lot. But honestly, these types are gorgeous in fireplaces thanks to their stunning bark.
Cherry: this has the best aroma when burned, and it is a high quality wood. It throws medium heat, but will also spark a bit so it's best not to use with open fire systems. It's also much easier to split than oak and maple. I'm telling you, this wood is very chi chi for those wood cocktails.
I promise lighting morning and evening fires is a seriously addictive culture and super healing to the spirit. So once you jump on the wood train, you've hit the ground running toward that lumberjack and lumberjill lifestyle.
Being a lumberjack and jill is all about survival and knowing your land. Sure, you can get thrifty, but having a sound knowledge of practicality with woodland living is what it's all about. Slow living, big loving, and respecting your land are at the core of lumberjack and jill's lives. Plus, being cozy, loving your home, and kissing your babies and puppies before bed are all better when you do it under the cabin you built for yourself.
HOW TO LIVE LIKE A
LUMBERJACK + LUMBERJILL
1. THEY GET SEASONED
It goes without saying, a lumberjack and lumberjill know their forest. But more importantly they know which wood works for what. When making indoor fires, make sure your wood is seasoned, meaning it has been under cover for six to twelve months. Wood with a moisture rating of 20% burns the best and the cleanest. Seasoning isn't just meant for steak! For your outdoor fires, it's OK to have "green" wood, or wood that has been freshly chopped with a higher moisture rating, but it just might make your job harder. Get familiar with cedar kindling or quick-burning wood like birch. Or have a couple fire starters handy at all times.
2. THEY OPT FOR COZY
If you've ever worn flannel, you know how soft and cozy it is. And don't forget long johns for those cool mornings spent outside hiking with your dog or checking on the seasoning of your wood. Lumberjack and jill approved fabrics and materials include denim, plaid anything, flannel, heavy cotton, hide, wool and fleece. Daily mandatory garments include heavy wool socks and plaid underwear or overshirts. Fresh, clean, well-hydrated skin is also mandatory.
3. THEY HAVE WILD HAIR
Lumberjills may not want to ban their razors since they are still all about natural and feel-good self-care, but they are all about letting the hair on their head run wild. Toque hair anyone? Your hair's natural texture is always best. Try going to bed with wet hair to get some real volume and oomph in the morning. Your roots will stand taller, and your hair will have more body. If your roots get oily opt for some dry shampoo or baby powder. If your hair gets really knotty in the morning, brush it out and wrap it in a little top knot while you do your makeup, and let that pretty flow cascade when you're ready to hit the door. Or sleep with a small chignon or braid in your hair to ensure some great natural volume. And lumberjacks? Don't you dare remove an inch of body hair. Your man-pony, beard and chest hair better be fully intact. I'm talking borderline grizzly bear. But like, invest in some sweet smelling beard oil.
4. THEY KNOW THEIR WOOD
Hardwoods are going to provide you with the most heat when burned, whereas softwoods may burn more quickly and actually be a "messier" burn, meaning they spark and cause a lot of soot and creosote. Pine's high sap content eliminates it from being your main wood source - although it makes a really great wall feature. And while cedar is also a softwood and kindling extraordinaire, when it lines your ceiling and roof something magical happens to your home. Trust me. It's all over my walls and ceilings. Birch is good in a fire, but also striking when piled together in a bundle, since the white bark is a high contrast wood. And any log with a 15-inch minimum diameter makes great extra seating. So basically, even though you should burn wood in your fireplace/stove, lumberjack and jills also display it all over their homes, too.
5. THEY HAVE ONE BEST FRIEND
While we would all love to have a half-breed dire wolf or fox, having a dog of any breed is a wise idea. Not only will your furry pal provide you with endless love and entertainment - and an extra cuddle buddy - but their senses are fortunately keener then ours. Pets can alert us to dangers such as other wild animals in the woods, or even fires when we are asleep. Not to mention, you can give them a really nice sprawling home in the wilderness. And the days and nights are just less lonely when your best friend is around. And definitely not as scary. Let's be real: it gets dark in the woods.
6. THEY HAVE A TOOL FOR THAT
Sometimes the job calls for a hatchet, and sometimes it calls for an axe. Other times it calls for a chainsaw, and then those nasty times call for a wood splitter. A hatchet is a tiny axe that you can hold in one hand and really hack off something - like bark or a tiny branch, but an axe calls for two hands, and some serious wood chopping/wood splitting action. A chainsaw is for those meatier pieces of wood - the ones you can't get your arms around for a good hug (or lazy people who have chopped too much with their axe, and by lazy I mean - HI!). And the wood splitter is a lovely contraption that does all the work for you for many hundred dollars. So you can say, "Hey Ralph! Help me clean up this maple cord so we can toss a couple logs down the wood chute so Chandra stops giving me grief about the wood stove!" (This is my life)
7. THEY ARE NOT GREEN
A lumberjack and jill would never call themselves "green" or eco-friendly because they don't even have to think about trying to be more earth-conscious. Their lives aren't spent trying harder to have a smaller footprint because their lifestyle already calls for living off their land and using what they have. Their coffee grinds go onto the ashes in their fireplace/pit to prevent ash dust when cleaning the fireplace; their ashes go into their garden to infuse the soil with nitrates; their garden veggies go into their bellies, and their leftovers go into their compost because that's just the way it is. They use less electricity because they know the power of candle and firelight, and they make less garbage because they make most things from scratch.
8. THEY MASTER AN INSTRUMENT
There isn't always a lot of things to do in the evenings without cable and wifi (full disclosure: I have wifi), so many a lumberjack and lumberjill find themselves scouring over sheet music for their instrument of choice. With many evening hours ahead of them, and a requirement of 10,000 hours of instrumental play to become a master, woodland folk always devour music. Popular instrument choices are the guitar, fiddle and banjo - because strings and wood! And if we're being serious, every lumberjack and jill always have one guilty pleasure song up their sleeve, like Shania Twain's "Man, I feel like a Woman," or an indie-acoustic version of Robyn's, "Call your Girlfriend." I personally tweak Lady Gaga's, "Pokerface" into a cool jazz rendition.
9. THEY HAVE PROPER PLUMBING
Let's be real: this is a modern guide to woodland living, and while there is something robust about an outhouse and showering outdoors, a modern lumberjack and jill come inside to have a little rainforest shower or soak in the tub. Their muscles ache from chopping wood all day, and they know the value in taking care of their bodies so they can continue working the next day. Besides, they like to shower together because the smell of wood chips are an aphrodisiac.
Note: naked midnight bathing in lake water will always be acceptable. That's how I made my first born! (JK)
10. THEY AREN'T AFRAID TO BUILD
Maybe it's a new picnic-table-style dining table, a new woodshed, or an addition to the cabin/lodge, lumberjack and jill are not afraid to get building. In fact, they relish in it! They're always looking for ways to create and improve what they have and there is a deep satisfaction in doing it themselves. They love nesting and making their home the greatest place on earth, and that means always working on it and enjoying it. They love to maintain their home and land, and are always brimming with ideas and ways to improve the place they love most. Because you take care of what you love.
11. THEY HAVE TWO NAMES
Whether it's Nixon Grey, Anna Sue, Vanessa Rae or Fox Mulder, lumberjack and jills have two names. I don't know why, but it's just a rule. You can really pick whatever you want, (Dibs on Asher Lo and Maple Rain!) but you have to respond to the two names. No nicknames or abbreviations allowed. This is a two-name game. Bobby Joe, Carla Mae, Beatrice Rose, Weston Lane, Joe Lynn - all acceptable. If you do not adopt this two-name feature you must merely go by your last name only and risk people butchering it. Alexander. Henry. Coates. Perrier. Main. Fogg. Cumberbach. Defenbacher. Maciejkow (oooo... should have opted for the two name option). Lumberjack and lumberjill culture, you guys. Welcome!
12. THEY ARE GAMERS
PS4, X-box, Sega? NO SIR! These woodland creatures are experts at crib, blackjack, chase the ace, Rumikub and dominoes. There is no better way to welcome the weekend then starting a Rumikub or Settlers of Catan tournament, only to wake up with a pot of coffee and a game of crib to start the day. Did I mention TV and wifi were minimal? Card games are where it's at. And lumberjack and jills are hella competitive so those best of five tourneys can quickly turn into best of seven and best of ten with a lightning round.