The Locust Patch

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.

Piled Wood

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.

Cognitive Dissonance

9 thoughts on “The Locust Patch”

  1. Good call Cog, helping ‘Jim’ out…
    Will definitely help you in impressing the locals.

    “That new big city guy is really a pretty good man to have around.”

    I grew up in a rural setting, and I know how we looked at new city folk who moved into the area. Most of the time they weren’t like you.

    1. I also grew up in a rural setting, though not as rural as I am now. So I also understand the ‘local’ mindset. Bottom line we are doing what needs to be done because it needs to be done and not to impress the locals……though that is a definite side benefit.

      Our neighbor “Jim” needed help during the recent “blizzard” and Mrs. Cog, the child unit and I all jumped in to help. It was what we needed to do because someone else needed help. You can find an article about it under On the Mountain > Weather > The February 2014 Blizzard.

      The 4th generation neighbor further down the road, the one who came by with the bucket loader/backhoe in the article, had been ‘cool’ with us since we moved in. He has been pleasant and helpful enough, but distant. However, since he saw how we helped out “Jim” during the blizzard, both he and his wife have been down right neighborly.

      The change in their demeanor has been remarkable. It pleases us that we are showing the locals that we are are also quality people….even if we are (former) city people. :)

      Cognitive Dissonance

        1. I have a pet saying, “Where you stand depends upon where you sit“. Meaning perspective is everything when comparing opinions, wealth, health and whether something is hilly or flat. Our perspective is often determined or greatly influenced by prior experience and/or ingrained beliefs rather than true awareness or empathy. :)

          Whenever I post images of the land around here I am always disappointed that the slope is often understated. It occurred to me the other day how much depth perception plays into our ability to perceive slope, height and distance. I was again reminded of it today when I was headed down the mountain and North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain popped into view when I rounded a corner. It looked so close, yet I knew it was well over 30 miles away.

          I took several pictures and was once again disappointed with the results. I could see an additional 20 miles beyond Pilot Mountain, yet in the pictures I took that perspective was lost. I cant’ wait until 3D personal photography is common place.

          Cognitive Dissonance

  2. Locust is very insect and rot resistant , great for posts and pilings sunk in the ground . Cut your length and strip the bark and let it dry a year or so in the air. There are some houses in my area sixty and seventy years old sitting on old original locust posts and this is in marshy intertidal areas

    1. @Whoopsing

      I have yet to come across small enough locust that I can prepare as you suggest. We have a decorative split rail fence on the property and the posts are locust. The former owner was very proud to point that out. They have been in the ground for well over 15 years and show no signs of rot.

      Natures version of ‘pressure treated wood’. :)

      Cognitive Dissonance

  3. Hi, Cog – This is a great post, one that reminds us that extending ourselves for someone else is the essence of being a good neighbor. It all comes back around. We live in the country too and, when I told my ‘SO’ (significant other, for future ref) about your site and some of your posts – including this one – he was mightily impressed. Growing up Mennonite (we also enjoyed the videos of group house-moving, btw :), he has lived by this principle his entire life and still considers mutual help and assistance part and parcel of ‘living rural’, as do I. Community is a form of relationship, not a physical place. It’s something that includes everyone who is physically a part of a place, whatever their age, abilities, background, etc. It’s a choice and a decision about impacting and supporting your own environment. You are doing just the right thing, with just the right spirit, Cog. It will be noticed and remembered by those around you. :) L/L

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