As I mentioned last week, the summer heat should remind us to get our firewood in order or, more to the point, to get our order in for firewood. Soon we will begin using our back decks as refrigerators, which is a bad time to be looking at a pile of green firewood or no wood at all.

We already questioned my practice of using the smallest of branch wood and twigs, but what about those big logs lingering from the last major windstorm? After you talked your brother-in-law into helping cut up the blowdown, you’re typically left with no beer and a big pile of round wood.

The logs are too big for the stove. Asking your wife to bring them nearer to the house is unnecessarily risky. It’s obvious that these big boys have to be split for convenience, then stacked and dried, because round wood tightly retains moisture. Moisture may be good in meatloaf but that’s why we don’t use meatloaf to heat our homes.

My own special technique for splitting logs is about the same technique everyone else has been using for the past millennium. I don’t use an axe as there are better tools for the job. I would like to say I use a powered hydraulic log splitter but the winds of fate and my credit score have not yet pushed me in that direction. Right now my tool of choice is a splitting maul, which is a big steel wedge at the end of a stick (technically known as a “handle”). It’s more efficient than an axe and quieter than a motorized splitter and it’s “mature technology” developed during the Iron Age right around the 8th century BC.

The best time to split wood is after losing an argument to your spouse because of some poorly understood difference between the genders. Splitting wood can be as relaxing as sprinting a quarter mile.

Tree trunk wood generally splits easily because the grain in most species is straight and parts without problems. On the other hand, wood from large branches, tree crotches and certain species that doesn’t give me the satisfaction of cleavage after the first blow goes in my hard-to-split pile. This pile languishes outside unprotected for months waiting for me to kindle an interest in splitting the hard-to-split. In the meantime it arouses the interest of insects, other arthropods and members of many different phyla who waste no time moving in as if the government were subsidizing a major housing development and essentially giving away residential units.

These blocks take a special mindset to split. After positioning the wood on the chopping block, I give the log a few good knocks. This is out of compassion for all the bugs that have taken up housekeeping there. Before I tear their entire world asunder, I like to give them notice to get the hell out before the banging gets fatal.

Some creatures respond but, in spite of the mandatory evacuation notice, a lot of the bugs decide to sit tight and hold on for the ride. Now I don’t know if they are stuck in their homes for cultural reasons or because poverty does not allow them any mobility or if they are just plain stubborn and figure they will take their chances. Well, their chances aren’t very good.

The centipedes and the occasional spotted salamander take their leave, but the sow bugs are hardheaded about evacuating, which is ironic considering they hardly have a head at all. The occasional ant colony is far too invested in the real estate to move out, but once the splitting starts and the bark flies off, everyone wishes they’d heeded the warnings and moved in with their in-laws.

Sometimes it takes a few whacks to open a lead, but really gnarled logs can make the maul just bounce off. When this happens, recompose yourself and get out the steel splitting wedges. You really can’t understand the idiom about “driving a wedge between two people” until you spend some time driving a wedge into blocks of wood that resists all your splitting efforts. The wedge is the unstoppable force that makes short work of your hard-to-split pile.

And when you get all your wedges lodged deep inside a contorted old stump, you can always call on your wife to bring her chain saw — but only if you have not complained that her meatloaf is too dry.