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Chris Wyatt placed his arsenal of wood-chopping axes on display at his rustic Patterdale Hall property outside of Yellow Springs. (Submitted photo)

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Start chopping

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By Chris Wyatt

Nov. 15, 2022

Tonight, Bob and I are staying out at the Hall; it is very cozy and books are being read. I tended to an axe handle earlier so that has now been sanded and oiled. I’ll wax it during the week. The axe head was forged by the Swedish company Hultafors, who have been making axes since 1697; it really is a lovely thing. Hopefully it will also help break down our giant apple tree that collapsed in the summer. Digging mammals completely collapsed the earth around the tree and it fell over onto the chicken coop. It is a massive apple tree and it seems a shame to cut it up for firewood, but I think that is what is going to happen. I’m sure I’ll use some of the wood for smoking food as well and I have cut one stave to use as a staff. Nothing else on the tree is straight so I won’t get any walking sticks out of it, annoyingly.

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OK, I’m going to read now. I have a strong suspicion that I will be fast asleep by 9 p.m. and that Bob will be awake until 3 a.m. This is a terrific arrangement that will allow me to be lovely and toasty warm all night long.

All went well and Bob and I survived the night. Bobbers slept for nearly 11 hours and I’m not sure he has done that, ever. Magnificent. Then, last night, Karen slept out there alone and fully embraced the fairytale that we are experiencing. I love her with all my heart. She kept the fire going all night and slept well. The next stage is coming. We have to get through a cold snap, which is minor in Ohio terms but severe in British terms. It will be about -8C [ED. NOTE: That’s 17.6 degrees fahrenheit for nonmetric readers] for three days. Starting on Friday I will move to the hall, maybe with little Arch, but maybe not. I missed him the last time I was out there.

Archie and I have a bond. He was hit by a car and nearly died and I stayed by his side after surgery. Then a loose pitbull tried to tear his head off and he survived again. I have spent a lot of time lying with little Arch and he is very much my dog; he sleeps in my armpit every single night. I am new to dog ownership, only getting Betty when I was 47, so discovering that dogs love back was a revelation to me. Archie is an idiot, but he is my idiot and he will tuck into the bed when I go to sleep. The problem is with the mice out at Patterdale Hall; they will drive him crazy. I suppose we will see what happens. The coward in me won’t take him, but the realist knows that the more familiar he becomes with the property, the calmer he will be. Unfortunately, Archie really is an idiot, so testing this hypothesis may be testing.

Lining things up to do before the big freeze is super simple. We need dry wood, multiple cuts. Tinder, kindling and overnighter logs. We have all these, but the fact that they need to be there every day is exciting. My love of axes will really pay off; I am truly in my element. I recently found a rusty, old axe head on the floor of the ‘garage’ out at the hall and I hope to recondition it with the help of my friend John (again). This would bring the axe total to five. This particular axe head is an American felling axe head. It’s heavy with a narrow cut, and on a handle with decent length would be incredibly useful. The other axes I have are splitting axes, a forest axe and a Japanese hatchet, so a good felling axe will add to the collection. The axe head I found on the floor is in bad shape but there are wonderful videos on youtube showing how to recondition these things. It’s another project and something I will love, then I will have to fit a handle to it which will allow me to completely nerd out with our local hardware store owner, and that is a wonderful thing. I walked into the hardware store yesterday to ask if they sharpened axe heads as well as knives. They do, and they offered to loan me an axe while they were sharpening mine. Yellow Springs, Ohio is paradise on earth, where else does stuff like this happen?

It’s happening, we are gearing up for winter. Bob has registered for his spring semester classes and is currently trying to decide if he wants to live on campus or if he wants to stay as a commuter student. We don’t care either way. Once he has a car and has passed his test everything will become much easier for him. However, it’s nice to see that Bob recognizes how wonderful this village is — he is clearly conflicted. Independence or Yellow Springs? This is an utterly different situation to when I went to university; I didn’t live in Yellow Springs.

In other mundane news, the chain is up. Patterdale Hall is safe at last.

*Originally from Manchester, England, Chris Wyatt is an associate professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology at Wright State University. He has lived in Yellow Springs for 16 years, is married and has two teenage children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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