Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wood Chopping and Wooden Windows

One of the luxuries I remember having during my childhood was the moments I shared with my siblings and mother in the backyard of our house in Kung Ping Road. And indeed we had to carry one very important chores as children and that was to was to chop or splice the ramin wood pieces into smaller pieces for the Foochow stove. My father bought the ramin wood pieces by the lorry. So there was plenty of work to do.

I remember that most evenings were lovely, under the shade of the rubber trees. We could often hear the explosion of the rubber seeds when they ripen for dispersion and germination.

Our mother would be seated on a stool, usually doing some other chores like picking the bits out of rice, or washing the vegetables in the metal basin.

Chopping the wood was such a wonderful chore actually. My sister would pile the wood up neatly in the wood rack inside the house,as she was always the neat one. We had a shed for the bigger pieces of ramin, our chickens and rabbits and the small pieces of wood would be stacked neatly in the rack next to our stove in the house.

All the windows in our kitchen were the Foochow style wooden vertical panels which we could slide and then these planks would close all the fixed plank openings.This was an ingenious wooden window, not seen today in modern houses in view of our insecurity today. Not a single metal was used, except the very basic nails of course. My grandfather and his carpenters actually were very frugal in the use of wood and metal.

I am still searching for this kind of window to photograph. Somehow I don't seem to be able to forget them. We demolished our dear eight bedroomed house in 1978. This house had a lot of memories for me, some sad (when my father died suddenly), but mainly happy. I do hope that if I cannot get a photo of this kind of window, a cousin, or a relative could draw a picture. My grandfather's house in Sungei Merah also had a set of this kind of window in the kitchen.

The windows in our living were the coloured glass panels - brown, green and red, very typical of the 40's in South East Asia. On the first floor living room,we had these big long windows which opened out. Fresh air would flow freely because they were big. All the other windows were wooden ones which opened out and fixed with good solid brass hinges. The ground floor windows had simple iron bars. Glass and aluminium were not yet introduced to Sibu then.

One of my favourite duties as the eldest in the family was to slide the vertical planks each evening. And then it would be up the stairs for the night - a time of rest and or lots of studying.

I read that chopping wood is therapeutic -----here goes one of the articles:

Added reference:The Many Benefits of Chopping Your Own Firewood
By Alana Tanner

If you're still one of the millions of people who have real wood burning fireplaces you may be buying your wood precut. But there are still several of you who are doing it the old fashioned way and chopping your wood supply every year. For some people this is a nuisance, for others it's therapeutic. Here are several reasons why you should consider chopping your own.

1. Exercise. Obviously swinging an axe over and over again against a piece of wood is hard physical labor, especially after a long time. You will definitely feel this in your muscles. But if you do it regularly you can build up a rhythm and a swing pattern that will become a single fluid motion. Much like a golfer has a perfect swing, you need a perfect swing to cleanly cut a piece of wood, especially if you want to accomplish a full cut in a single pass.

2. Relaxation. This may seem like a contradiction to the exercise point above, but while your body is working your mind can relax. There isn't much thought required when chopping wood, other than to pay attention and not cut off a body part. Many people have expressed a sense a calm and peace, the repetitive motion reminds them of a simpler time and gives them a chance to appreciate an honest days work and think of other pleasures in life they enjoy.

3. Stimulation. In addition to relaxing your mind you will often find that you think more clearly and can come up with answers to a variety of problems just because of the physical stimulation and exercise you experienced. Those who exercise regularly often agree that it clears the fog in their mind and gets their blood pumping through those sleepy brain cells.

4. Save money and maintain a healthy stock of wood. The basic purpose is, of course, to have enough wood to keep the fire warm through the winter. If you have the time it's easier to do your chopping in the cooler spring and summer months so you aren't baking or freezing as you perform this chore. By chopping it yourself you won't have to buy the wood or pay someone to chop it for you. This is especially beneficial if you have more time than money.

5. Education and bonding. If you have preteen or teenage children it can be of great benefit for them if you have them help with this activity. They need a chance to learn what it feels like to swing an axe like their ancestors did. This moment of bonding can also help bring your family closer without the use of a television. Use this opportunity to teach your kids the benefit of hard work, the satisfaction of a job well done, and to appreciate what money is able to buy.

If you're storing firewood every year consider one of our homemade firewood racks or read our steps on how to build a firewood rack.

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