Monday, October 9, 2017

A New Fall Tradition

I don't think it's any secret that we love living in the Black Hills of South Dakota!

Every year, we become more at home here as we add yearly traditions.

Winter is the Great Christmas Tree Hunt -

Spring takes us to Custer State Park to look for the first baby bison of the year -

Summer finds us hiking...and hiking...and hiking...

But until now, we haven't started the fall tradition we've been planning.

We had to collect some equipment, first.

A truck is all important:

A permit is also necessary. We get a permit at the end of November to cut our Christmas tree, but this permit is to cut firewood. Each household can gather/cut/harvest up to twelve cords of firewood a year. There are restrictions, of course. But this program helps clear out the dead wood and downed trees that are part of any forest.

So last Saturday we loaded up the truck and headed out to the forest.

Scouting out the right place was fun, and we finally found the right tree. It was a beetle-killed tree that was blown down in a recent storm.

And this brought out our other necessary equipment: a chainsaw, an ax, and a couple Eagle Scouts who know how to use them. 

We cut limbs and trunks...

Split logs and hauled wood back to the truck... (the hauling was my job)...

And all morning, I was reminded that the days are growing short.

Look at the colors. This was Saturday:

This was the week before:

We've had our first frost, and the higher elevations have seen the first snow. The colors are fading and everything is telling us that winter is coming.

And we're getting ready. The pantry is stocked, the stove is waiting, and the woodpile is growing.

We learned several things on this first outing.

1) The truck works great!

2) The chainsaw is too small for downed trees. The one we have works great on branches, but saving up for a larger chainsaw is on the list.

3) We'll need to rent a wood splitter if we're going to be serious about this.

4) We also need to plan an entire day if we're going to be serious about this.

5) Spending the morning in the woods with our two younger boys is still a lot of fun, even now that they're both in their twenties. :)

Once the temperatures cooled off in the evening, my husband and I were feeling the overused and forgotten muscles that got a workout that morning. So we relaxed with some hot cider. You can find that recipe here: Lazy Sunday Afternoon

I think we've found the perfect fall tradition!

Other than anything dealing with pumpkins, what is your favorite fall tradition?

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:


  1. We just saw a log splitter at Home Depot and I couldn't figure out WHAT it was for almost five minutes. LOL. It looked like something you could do behind a truck, but had a gas tank, and then there were some strange parts... My teen girls and I were flummoxed, even though I grew up with three fireplaces and a load of timber being delivered every other winter. My dad was old school about these things!

    1. A log splitter IS a strange looking contraption!

      We usually get our wood delivered and stacked, already split, and I've already ordered this year's cord of hardwood. But with a hundred square miles of forest just over the hill, it seems like we could get at least part of our wood supply this way!

  2. Jan, what an adventure!! I'm sure I would be sore as well!

    I can't believe your fall color is almost gone. We're just now seeing little peeks of red leaves. :)

    1. Winter comes early in the North! We'll still have some lovely days, but the peak of fall is gone. :(

    2. This is what I love so much about getting to hear from each of you about your area of the country!

  3. I love this, Jan! I can see the fading colors there... and it's just beginning here. The proximity to Lake Ontario lengthens our falls and our leaf peeping!

    Yes and yes about the chainsaw and the wood splitter. Dave has used Huskys and Stihl and likes different things about both. He's also not mechanical, so we have a store with a great mechanic to keep the saws happy... and the wood splitter is a great investment. We've had three in twenty-five years, so if you figure out the cost per year, it's about $200 and he's splitting 60 to 75 cords/year. If you're just doing your own (we sell firewood from the farm) I bet your investment would last indefinitely.

    We've replaced a couple of engines on them... but again, it's over a 25 year span. We heat with wood and having the right saw (Dave mostly uses a 20" chain and bar) and a splitter is a marvelous thing.

    I always like to feel ready for winter. Ever since the ice storm of '91 and reading Laura Ingalls Wilders "The Long Winter", I've worked to make sure my family wouldn't DIE because I was unprepared.


    That's kind of how I think.

    Must save the family!!! :) so a full freezer and pantry is important.

    Thanks for this lovely reminder, Jan!

    1. This thing about being PREPARED! It's ingrained in some of us, isn't it? Pioneer stock showing through, maybe, even many generations later!

      Our youngest son works at the Stihl desk at our local ranch supply store (and is actually in North Dakota for a couple days of training this week). So we're up on our Stihl knowledge, and I'm sure that's the brand of chain saw we'll get. We currently have a 16", and we definitely need one that's a bit larger and a lot more powerful.

      And the wood splitter purchase is up in the air. Renting seems more realistic, given the minuscule city lot we live on now. But we have to look at cost effectiveness, etc.

      For the past six years, we've relied on young men with muscles and an ax when we've needed to split wood, but for some reason they think they have their own lives now. Long afternoons at the wood pile don't come along as often as they used to!

  4. Oh Jan it looked like a good time! Kind of sad we missed out on the fun! You guys could have harnessed up a couple dogs to a sled to help do some heavy work! I know your boys had access to ours! Lol

    1. We'll be doing this again, Katie! We'll let you know when. :)

  5. The pictures look great! Sounds like you had fun!