Testing My Physical Limits (or how not to use a log splitter)

OR how not to use a log splitter.

Fallen trees. We got ’em in spades.

Luckily the property came equipped with five years worth of wood stove fuel in raw form!
There are piles of trees like this all over the Queendom. We are thankful that they are (mostly) all bucked and piled up.

There must be 75 fallen trees around the Queendom, at least. Some have just recently come down in the ‘great storm of 2012’ and some have been lying around for a few years, with grasses growing over top and in-between. Right away, I knew that measures needed to be taken so that we (I?) didn’t have to cut them all by hand with an axe.

Suddenly a log splitter seems like a great idea!

So yet another purchase was made upon moving to the Queendom – a log splitter. This gas-powered, 5 hp machine has a splitting force of 20 tonnes with a 23 cm splitting wedge. This was a power tool to behold! Upon purchase, we simply hitched it to the back of the car and rolled it home in no time flat. Of course we had to try it out right away. To start it, you pull the ol’ starter cord a few times and soon it is roaring. Operating it takes no effort at all. You simply move a handle forward to chop and back once the cut is made. The only strength required is in chainsawing the tree into rounds and moving those log rounds onto the splitter. It is honestly my dream tool! Now, when I survey the Queendom and see all the fallen trees, I don’t get a heavy sinking feeling. Instead, I contemplate all the wood stove fuel that is just waiting to be refined into a more useable form.

We decided to spend a day splitting and stacking wood. We had a great division of labour (for me!) where FM would heave the log rounds onto the splitter and I would operate the chopping lever (princess work) and then throw the smaller chopped pieces into a huge pile. This assembly line was chugging along quite nicely when suddenly FM got an urgent pager call from work and had to go inside to deal with it. Now, I could have used this opportunity to begin the task of stacking the chopped wood. But no. Wanting to be a true rough n’ tumble country girl, I decided that I would carry on doing both tasks myself. It would be slower but progress would be made. Besides, FM would be back out in just a few minutes.

Here, FM demonstrates the ease of cutting a few cords of wood without even breaking a sweat.

I must add here that I am no delicate flower. Although I am considered petite, I am strong, stubborn and not afraid to test the limits of my strength. There is little that will stop me and that is probably due to being raised in a house of three rowdy brothers and being treated no differently (so says me!).

So, I carried on where FM had left off. The douglas fir log rounds were large – a diameter of about 60 cm – and heavy. It wasn’t too difficult to roll them along to the splitter, but it took a lot of strength to lift them up. I was careful to select the smaller ones and to always lift with my legs. I worked like this for a while, but then, quite suddenly, I didn’t feel so well. I felt a strain up in my shoulder and a slight wave of nausea. I shut down the splitter and worked at stacking wood for a while.

The next day, my shoulder socket and my back ached a bit. The following day, it seemed worse. In fact, I quietly suffered indistinct pain for about ten days. I was able to locate a tender spot just under my bra line and finally decided that a trip to the walk-in clinic was in order. The doctor heard a rattle in my chest and sent me to the radiology lab for chest x-rays.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, I had torn intercostal muscle (between the ribs) when I was lifting and twisting, trying to get those rounds onto the splitter. The tear was sore but the bigger concern was the resulting fluid build-up which was partially collapsing my lung.

Hmmm … no wonder I was fearful of sneezing for 3 weeks! (BTW it looks like my liver survived my twenties after all)

And so ends my story. After few weeks of being afraid to cough, laugh or sneeze, I was back in full form, answering the demands of the Queendom. I suppose there is a moral in there somewhere or simply a lesson about acting your age, but I don’t like to dwell on that kind of thing.

2 thoughts on “Testing My Physical Limits (or how not to use a log splitter)

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