Off the Porch: Productive exercise for the woman you love

Jun. 21, 2014 @ 09:40 AM

In today’s modern world, much emphasis has been assigned to the issue of exercise and physical fitness. My daughter, Valarie and son in law, Jeremy, have gotten into running Marathons, half Marathons, and Iron Man competitions. As a result, they look buff, their skin glows with the radiance of one who eats right and cares about their health, and they have the boundless energy that comes with physical fitness.
At one time, Jeremy and Valarie were going to the gym for regular workouts to keep fit. Of course there’s a downside to the gym. You have to pay a monthly fee for your membership and access to the various machines used to keep the human body in good physical condition. Running, swimming, and cycling are all free activities that require no memberships. They do require special equipment. Running shoes are expensive, costing something like $150 per pair and if you run a lot, they don’t last very long. Special swimming trunks are required for events like the Ironman competitions, but they’re reasonable in price compared to the bicycles used. I was amazed to hear a decent bike for this kind of work can cost over $3,000 and you also need special shorts, a helmet, and special shoes that lock into the pedals.
Because I love my wife and have concerns about her health, I encourage her to eat properly and get reasonable exercise. Of course, we’re of retirement age and have a limited income, so I’ve discouraged her from taking up Marathons or Iron Man competitions. I’ve also observed this kind of exercise is somewhat unproductive. Because of my great love for my wife, in recent years I’ve given her equipment to allow her to exercise on a regular basis while actually doing something productive. I’ve given her nice gifts for birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries, but those nice gifts are much more indicative of my concern for her health than baubles or perfume. For recent celebrations, I’ve given Cherie a push lawnmower, a garden tiller, and for our fifteenth wedding anniversary, I gave her a load of sand and paving bricks to allow her to build a patio behind the house. Of course none were as memorable as her birthday present last year. Cherie had the habit of breaking the handles off the splitting axes and sledge hammers around the house, so I got her a combination sledge hammer/splitting axe with a fiberglass handle. It really touched her and I know so because as she opened it I noticed tears in her eyes. Truly, it was a thoughtful and appropriate gift. 
In the last month or two, I’ve been clearing a little of the woods behind the house to allow for expansion of the safety berm of our shooting range. As part of Cherie’s recent exercise regimen, I’ve allowed her to pile the brush and laps cut off the trees that too are small to buck up into firewood.
If you’ve ever taught a woman how to properly build a brushpile, you’d know just how hard it is for women to learn how to make a proper brushpile that will burn well.  It fully took me till complete adulthood before I really learned the ins and outs of cutting wood and building brushpiles and I thought it might be a good idea to jot down a few tips for men teaching their wives brushpiling, or for single women who’d like to understand the basics better, as to make themselves more attractive to eligible men.
Start the brushpile at the correct place
This seems to be a particular issue for women. They simply don’t see the value of positioning the brushpile where it won’t be in the way while it dries out. It also must be far away from valuable trees you wish to retain or the heat of burning it might kill them.
Keep your brushpile tight
Spread out brushpiles don’t burn well and can be in the way while they’re drying out. This is where Cherie had the most trouble. I’ll bet I explained to her a dozen times the importance of brushpile density. The only way you can have a dense brushpile is to continue to pile brush on top of the pile so the weight of the upper brush compacts the brush beneath it. Each lap or limb should be lifted high and tossed to the top of the pile to keep the density down. Remember, brushpiles more than about ten feet in diameter are simply too large for an average sized woman to manage, so keep the brush you’re cutting up shorter than that length.
If you have cedar laps, put them on the bottom
Once the brushpile cures and is ready for burning, cedar laps will assure a good lighting and more consistent burning. Of course, a good dry brushpile will burn just fine without the cedar laps if you haven’t cut any cedars.
Once the brushpile is complete, keep the area around it clear of underbrush
I always have Cherie mow around our brushpiles to avoid a lot of underbrush accumulating around them. This avoids the chances of the area around the pile catching fire when fall comes and I have her to burn them.
The best thing about this is that it’s healthy, productive, and economical exercise for the woman in your life. It’s also quality time together, since you’ll be running the chain saw and supervising her work. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, that a good marriage requires work and if building a brushpile isn’t work, I don’t know what is. Afterwards, a little attention goes a long way. Sometimes after Cherie does a really good job, I take her to Kentucky Fried Chicken as a treat. Remember, a busy wife is a happy wife.
Dick Jones is a freelance outdoor writer who writes nationally for magazines and the net. He recently finished his first book, a memoir of growing up in the South, Off the Porch. He can be contacted at 338 897 3312 or