The nearest neighbor down the road from us has been here about 15 years. In fact he came here with his wife to retire and live far away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. He bought two lots totaling north of 17 acres and built his retirement home. In fact he and the previous owner of our place became good friends and often worked together clearing land and splitting the wood between themselves.
Our neighbor (let's call him Jim) has fast become our friend and, while significantly older than either Mrs. Cog and I, we have found common ground in shared burdens, duties and common welfare. Jim also heats his home with a wood stove boiler and thus goes through a good amount of wood each year. This year's severe winter has depleted his stockpile of wood.
Normally Jim, who is in his mid 80's, works throughout the year cutting and splitting wood for his use and over the years has cleared quite a bit of his 18 acres. But old age has slowed Jim quite a bit and a recent and on going illness has severely depleted him, slowing his wood preparations over the last year dramatically. Thus Jim was staring into the face of a severe winter with woefully depleted supplies of cut and split wood for the boiler.
Jim approached me about two months ago with a proposition. An absentee landowner further down the road and diagonally across from Jim has a patch of Locust on his land near the road and relatively accessible. Most of the Locust trees in this part of Virginia have developed a disease and are either standing dead or in the process of dying.
The landowner would prefer that the Locust be removed so that new growth of other native trees could take hold and fill in the spaces left by the Locust. But he doesn't wish to invest the time or effort removing the Locust himself because he does not live nearby and doesn't really have any use for the wood. The offer was actually made to Jim several years ago, but it slipped Jim's mind until very recently when the offer was again made. Jim promised that the wood would be removed by the summer.
This is where I come in because Jim, knowing that tree felling and bucking works much faster when two people work together, and aware of his advancing age and ill health, asked if I would join him and split the wood that comes out. I quickly accepted since I also needed a constant supply of wood and would rather cut trees elsewhere than on my own land.
However it was quickly evident within 30 minutes of our first work session that Jim was not able to do much other than pick up some branches and poke around. It saddened me to see the dawning realization on his face when he could no longer deny his failing health and weakened state. Yet he still needed the wood and in fact had just taken delivery of a load from a local man who supplies the area. Unfortunately Jim can not afford to do this very often.
What I have been doing since then is simply to cut the wood alone and continue to split it with Jim, loading up the swivel dump cart and haul his share over to his place and stacking it within easy reach of his stove. Jim has repeatedly thanked me profusely, but protested that I should take the lions share of the wood as compensation for my sole efforts. Jim has much pride and I am sure it stung to see his new friend working without him but still providing him his share.
I told Jim how I felt about the situation. The wood I am cutting is not my wood, but wood given to Jim by our mutual neighbor in return for removing it from the land. Our neighbor intended for Jim to benefit from the wood taken from his land since he also knows Jim needs the wood and doesn't have the funds to purchase a winter's supply. I wanted to honor our mutual neighbor's intent so the correct solution was to cut it myself and continue to split the wood with Jim.
I told Jim this and then explained that this way Jim (and me as well) can look his benefactor in the eye and say that he made a deal with me to cut the wood and split it between us. Thus Jim was still benefiting from the gift even though he could not actually physically participate in the cutting. The wood was still going to Jim and he essentially subcontracted the cutting to me in exchange for a share of the wood.
This made sense to Jim and helped sooth his damaged pride. I benefited from gaining wood I could burn that did not deplete my land, Jim received wood that he was unable to purchase nor cut himself and the mutual neighbor landowner has his land cleared. Truly a win-win-win situation for all.
I will keep all updated on how it is going. There are some very large trees I need to drop across the road and it will be interesting to see how quickly I can clear the mess.