Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America
There has been snow falling for two days now. Father decided it would be a good time to begin to cut wood for the next season. The snow makes it easier to move the heavy loads of felled trees through the woods by sled. We use our horses, but some of the farmers use oxen to pull the sleds. The wood has to be cut and split so it can dry for the next season. Maybe that is why the dried wood is called seasoned wood. I hope the boys bring back some pine cones for the decorations for Christmas. I shall ask. When they come to supper after a day of wood cutting, their clothes smell like pine pitch. It is very difficult to remove pine pitch from your fingers. When I play with pine cones, my fingers get sticky in-between and it is fun to move them slowly apart. The skin on the side of each finger stretches out like a web. But when everything begins to stick to them, I really want them to just be clean.
Father said when there is plenty of snow to move the loads of wood, the price of wood is not as dear.* People in the city have to buy their wood. Mother uses birch, hickory and white oak and ash for baking. She says they make the best heat and provide the best coals. We have seven fireplaces in our house. Father and the boys calculate we will need about forty-four cords each year for cooking, laundry and warmth. Brent and Josh told me that was a lot of wood. I do not really know about cord measurements.
Splitting wood is difficult. The boys set up a solid chopping block that is about twenty inches tall to use as a base to stand a log while it is split. They use a splitting maul with a wooden handle…. also a kindling axe and a poll axe. Wood chopping can be dangerous and Father makes certain the men and the boys have sharp tools and are cautious and alert. Mother told the boys about a five year old boy who was blinded in a wood chopping accident. One of the men who works on the farm is missing the tips of two of his fingers on his left hand because he was not paying attention when he was chopping wood for the fires. If it is cold, the frost may cause the wood to slip on the block.
* In 1807 wood was selling for about $3.00 a cord.
A cord of wood is the amount of wood in a stack of 48-inch logs (or cut logs equaling 48 inches) that is 4 feet high and 8 feet wide.