Although most of the civilized world hopes for and works towards the end of sexism, there are still several tasks that unwillingly many of us associate with a certain sex – and cutting wood and running a wood stove is unfortunately still one of them.
TINJA, HER WOLVES, AND HER WOOD BURNER –
Again and again men and women knock down preconceptions concerning gender specific activities, from the stay at home dad, to the hyper successful CEO woman, from the knitting marathon runner David Babcock, to Tatiana Kashirina the three time weightlifting world champion.
Few stories illustrate this better than that of Tinja Myllykangas. Tinja, a Finnish biology graduate, decided to move from the city of Jyväskylä to the wilderness of Lapland, taking off the grid living to the Artic circle.
Tinja and her huskies © Ms. Myllykangas
Far from the comforts of modern civilization, and enduring temperatures that can drop as low as -45°C, Tinja relies on candles for light and a wood burning stove for heat. She runs a husky farm as well as dogsledding tours, and lives a life immersed in nature. Apart from her boyfriend Alex, Tinja’s only company are her dogs(some of whom are part wolf) and horses – the nearest town being 180 miles away. She told Portolano, the French photographer that shadowed her for two weeks, that she likes being alone: “I think being alone is the most peaceful way of life there is.”
Tinja in her element © VisitFinland
Poetic as it may sound, this type of solitude and detachment requires mental, emotional, and physical strength. Portlano told MailOnline that Tinja has to “break the ice of the river every morning to get her water,” something that many would consider a task better suited for a burly man than a slender blue eyed female.
The lack of electricity and running water makes Tinja’s dependence on wood burning and water collecting critical to her survival, and although an extreme example, it goes to show that a division of activities based on gender is an outdated social concept.
The stereotypical image of a person chopping wood is an axe wielding bearded man, wearing a checkered shirt. But as Tinja and so many women before her have proven, cutting wood and running a wood burner, be it for your survival or enjoyment, is in no way an exclusively male activity.
Tinja and her wood stove © VisitFinland
Finland’s frozen wilderness
Man or woman, if you own a wood burning stove in an urban area such as London, you do not go around chopping down trees in the park and carrying them home – It might be slightly frowned upon. You generally source wood and have it delivered. Although this might be considered by purists to remove some of the pleasure associated with having a wood burning stove, it is what I believe the majority of us do.
But where there’s a will there’s a way, and there is no reason why anybody that wants to split their own logs cannot. Like most things in life, wood splitting is much more a matter of practice and technique than that of brute physical strength. In this instance, brute force without technique will generally end up doing you more harm than good.
THE NOVELIST THAT SPLITS WOOD –
Claire Cameron, the Canadian writer and author of the best seller, The Bear, posted on her website an article titled “How to split wood like a woman.” In her article Cameron starts off by stating that, “While there are many women who are accomplished wood splitters, I bet that there are many more who would enjoy it,” and then goes on to describe several techniques and good wood splitting practices. She emphasises the importance of wearing safety gear: sturdy shoes, protective eye gear and work gloves, as well as choosing the right axe for your build.
All her tips are just as useful for a man as for a woman: use a chopping block, select a manageable sized log, tap your axe into the log.The important thing here is, that she is not only showing and telling people how to go about it, but that she is actually axing preconceptions. She is a writer and a woman, and here she is wielding an axe instead of a pen and splitting wood with it.
The truth is, log burners only really need small bits of kindling and a small number of split logs at a time to burn properly. There is a wide spread misconception that the more wood you put into the firebox the hotter it will burn, but the opposite is actually true. A smaller fire with more oxygen will generally burn hotter. So no matter your gender, there is no need to use big heavy logs in your stove. Not that heavy would be a problem for the female weight lifting world champion who could probably carry a reasonably sized tree under her arm.