Chopping Firewood

By Molly Butler

“Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.”

This quote is often attributed to Henry Ford, who perhaps read it in Henry David Thoreau’s work, quoting his driver when he recorded the phrase. In 1808, Joseph Dennie wrote, “The proverb of the country is that wood warms a man twice.” And who knows if he came to this understanding himself or simply captured a saying of the common man. It was the mindset of a young, hopeful nation: deriving meaning and joy from hard work.

I often think of this phrase when I am working around the yard, especially while I’m getting used to the heft of an ax or finding the motivation to do something tedious or hard. Labor does not always come with an immediate payoff, but one can find meaning and reward within the doing itself. It is a happier way of working. Nothing is wasted.

A principle of permaculture is that all components should serve multiple functions. Animal fencing also allows vines to climb. A fruiting tree blocks the wind and creates shade. Chickens provide eggs, fertilizer, soil aeration and pest control. In nature, all things serve multiple, perhaps infinite purposes. From the microscopic creatures in the soil to the rabbits chewing up, burrowing in, and fertilizing the yard, to the hawks returning the nutrients of their prey to the soil, feeding the tree it perches on, protecting the landscape from becoming overrun; all things serve one another. All problems are solutions. The purpose is never singular. The “why” exists everywhere.

It’s hard to chop wood that will never warm us again.

It stretches the mind to think of everything serving multiple purposes. It gives one pause in buying that specialty gadget or cutting down a fruitless tree. These days, many people feel disconnected from their labor and purpose. I know I have struggled with this. It’s hard to feel meaningful when work calls us to sit at a desk and send emails, to chip away at problems that are not our own or when we never feel the satisfaction of a finished task, just an endless chase for “growth” and exponential quotas, or when our truly meaningful job is misunderstood or not valued by the community. Healthcare, sanitation and food service workers especially have felt the whiplash of public validation and depreciation over the last few years. These days, labor is hard, not necessarily physically but psychically. Empty, endless, meaningless work wears on the soul. When the “why” begins and ends with a paycheck, it is hard to wake up with a sense of purpose. It’s hard to chop wood that will never warm us again.

I do not have an answer. Maybe it’s exploring ways to create meaning within our job. Maybe it’s finding the “why” outside of our work. Maybe we must create meaning for one another. I don’t know. I suppose each of us finds our own solution. All I know is, when I chop my firewood, I am warmed twice.


Rise and shine! The Pioneer Power Swap Meet & Flea Market begins at 6 a.m. Head to the Pioneer Power Show in Le Sueur for this massive swap meet and flea market with something for everyone: antiques, collectibles, garden supplies, tools, tractors, equipment and more! Plus, you can enjoy the food vendors scattered throughout the grounds. This event will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota invites all children with special needs or sensory challenges and their families to come play during their Special Needs Accessibility Playtime (SNAP) Night! Explore the museum and play with fewer visitors and more freedom. To plan your playtime, check out their sensory accommodations here.

Have a tasty Friday! Hilltop Hy-Vee will help you prepare five wholesome family freezer meals in just one hour! Register here to join in; the class will begin at noon. Cork & Key invites you to enjoy two tastings: one for beer lovers and one for wine lovers! Tasting takes place from 4-6 p.m. Watch their event page for details. Morgan Creek Vineyard in New Ulm invites you to sample and save from 5-8 p.m. with 10% off and VIP options!

Artists and art lovers, be sure to get out and about this weekend. Vincent Kenobbie debuts his exhibition, “Conversations Between the Veil,” at the 410 Project this Friday! Stop by for an opening reception from 7-9 p.m. and enjoy the show from 2-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Mankato Makerspace will be hosting Sun Catcher classes this Friday, from 3-6 p.m. or 6-9 p.m. The cost is $80 with materials included. All skill levels are welcome.

Crista Bohlman will be at Indian Island Winery performing all your favorites to pair with great wine and food, playing from 6-8:30 p.m. The WOW! Zone of Mankato will host Another Time Around from 6-9 p.m., and Pert Near Sandstone will perform with Pistol Whippin Party Penguins at the Mankato Brewery. Doors are at 7 p.m., and this 21+ show begins at 8 p.m. The What’s Up Lounge will host Mankato Rugby’s 50-Year Reunion show, featuring BAD JUJU. The cover is $10 for this 21+ show; doors are at 8:30 p.m. Finally, catch the Fat City All-Stars at The Square Deal beginning at 9:30 p.m.


Once again, the Pioneer Power Swap Meet & Flea Market will be open all day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Le Sueur. Join Nicollet Bike & Ski Shop for a Saturday Gravel Ride! Meet at 7 a.m. at the shop for a 25–35-mile ride along the beautiful back roads of the river valley. Gravel or Cyclocross bikes are recommended, with a 15-18 mph average. Plus, don’t miss Vincent Kenobbie’s work at the 410 Project, open 2-6 p.m.

It’s the 15th annual Record Store Day! Stop by Tune Town to celebrate! Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with 20 customers allowed at a time. You can purchase as many RSD releases as you’d like; limit one title per customer. Enjoy FREE swag and refreshments while you shop! Don’t miss this opportunity to shop small and stock up on tunes! Speaking of shopping, don’t miss the Mankato Area Spring Shop Hop! This Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., grab your passport and stop by the 23 participating locations! Watch their event page for more details. While you’re out and about, stop by the River Hills Mall for their Pop Up Market, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with vendors and crafters to shop!

Let’s play! Indian Island Winery will host Bingo at the winery, with registration, games and raffles starting at noon. Bingo kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Lego Club will meet at the Blue Earth County Library from 1-3 p.m., and Atlantis Hobby will host a Magic the Gathering: Streets of New Capenna Pre-Release starting at 6 p.m.

Wind down your Saturday with some live music! Amy Manette will perform 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Indian Island Winery, or you can unWINED with Andy Tackett at Chankaska Creek beginning at 6 p.m. Bill Litzau & Open Highway Acoustic Duo will be at Minnesota Wing Kings in St. Peter starting at 7 p.m. The What’s Up Lounge will host a whole lineup this Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. Check out the list and purchase your tickets here. Or, head to the Blue Boat for a Totally Tubular ‘80s Drag Show hosted by Drag Me With a Spoon. Tease up your hair and grab your aqua net; the show starts at 8 p.m.


It’s your last day to swing by the Pioneer Power Swap Meet & Flea Market in Le Sueur, open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The April Pop Up Market will be open at the River Hills Mall, featuring local vendors and crafts, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nate Boots will be performing his alt-folk tunes at Patrick’s on Third in St. Peter from 4-7 p.m.

The Ney Nature Center invites kiddos ages 8-11 to come on a KidVenture! This exploratory, youth-guided program will explore the pond, track critters and give kids the chance to create their own adventures. Dress for the weather! Register here to join in.

Added Value: Permaculture Principle 2

If you are a gardener or interested in incorporating multi-functional elements into your yard or home, there are plenty of great resources available online to get you started. Check out this article by Deep Green Permaculture, or watch this video by Jent’s Hedge for a cute example. Use this principle anywhere it fits in your life; in your garden, home, routine, work or business.


Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.