The scent of freshly split wood, the anticipation of an evening relaxing before a roaring fire - two reasons why many of us enjoy cold, dark winter nights.  

The experience is even better if you prepare your own firewood.  Whether you use an axe, saw or log splitter, chopping wood is chore - but fun too and deeply satisfying.  

In fact it’s surprising just how entertaining a pile of logs can be. Read on to find out how wood is ‘logs’ of fun.

Log splitting fun

The best log splitters are obviously the professionals - lumberjacks.  And what do the men and women of the forest do during their time off?  Try to out do each other at lumberjacking of course.  

The annual world lumberjacking contest is held each year in Wisconsin.  Events include, sawing, chain sawing and pole climbing.  But the most fun event is the log roll.

Competitors wearing spiked shoes jump on to a floating log and get it rolling.  The aim of the game, is to dislodge your opponent by fancy and unexpected footwork.  If at the end of the allotted time, neither roller has been dislodged, the competitors move to a smaller log and start all over again.

Logs of festivity

Well, Odin has many names and identities.  In December, he becomes, Jul - a tubby, elderly chap with a long white beard.  He rode through the world on his eight legged horse, giving presents to the good, and punishing the bad.  Ring any bells?

The modern incarnation of the ancient Scandinavian feast is Yuletide or Christmas.  The ‘yule log’ was originally an entire tree, brought in to heat the feasting hall through the festive period.  With the invention of central heating, our yule logs are now more usually made of  chocolate.  Way more tasty than a spruce tree.

Logs of height

It’s not exactly a log - but near enough.  You can have a lot of fun with a pole.  Pole vaulting became an olympic sport in 1896.  It’s origins are most widely associated with the inhabitants of Holland and the English Fens.  Low lying countryside criss-crossed by drainage ditches could make getting from A to B a wet and mucky business.  But armed with a decent pole, less soggy progress could be made by leaping from dry tussock to tussock.  

In time, those with a  competitive spirit began to organise contests and the first roots of the sport took hold in Germany.  The technical leap that features among today’s track and field events was developed by our friends over the pond in America, but the most brilliant pole vaulter of them all was undoubtedly Sergey Bubka - he set world outdoor and indoor records in the early 1990s - records that stand to this day.  That’s one high flier.

Celtic log chucking

The sport otherwise known as tossing the caber.  The Highland games are a celebration of celtic culture and sport.  The athleticism of the men and women of the glens tends, like the food North of the border, to be of the heavy variety.  Events like the stone put and the hammer throw emphasise brute strength rather than speed and suppleness.  

Instead, these qualities are on display during the dancing contests.Heaviest of all the events is the caber toss.  A long tapered pole of unknown length and weight is thrown end over end, the best ‘tosser’ being the one who achieves a ‘twelve noon’ landing for the log.

Child’s play

Chopping wood is a man’s job - right?  Wrong.  We’d baulk at the idea of putting a razor sharp axe into the hands of a child, but if you lived in the Wild West of old - your log splitters were your children.  

The concept of childhood is a modern one.  On the American frontier, everyone had to pull their weight.  By the age of three, kids would be fetching water, gathering kindling, collecting eggs, and even swilling out chamber pots.  By the ripe old age of 12, girls and boys were looking after babies, repairing clothes, hunting, doing the milking - and - chopping the firewood.  But wood could still be fun.  Many of the toys of the day were whittled from sticks by hardworking but doting fathers.