In Norway, we spent most of our working time splitting wood. Our hosts, Silje and Øyvind, own a wood-splitting machine, so this was not back-breaking work. It was, however, mentally frustrating at times. Jason and I became well-versed in the idiosyncrasies of different types of wood. Ash is by far the easiest to split. The pale white wood pops apart.
Other types, though, are more challenging. I found that you have to look for the spot where the log wants to split apart. Sometimes that’s a slight discoloration, or a spot where the bark has already separated a bit. But some logs just don’t want to split apart. Big knots deep inside seemingly innocuous logs will skewer the direction of the cut, sometimes only removing the tiniest sliver of bark. In larger logs, the axe blade of the machine will become stuck inside the flesh of the log, and requires a hammer to release it.
Over dinner one night, Øyvind told us that Norwegians refer to such logs as vriompeis. This means “a tough log to split.” But a vriompeis can also refer to a person. This is someone who demands his or her own way and is unwilling to compromise. This is not unlike our phrase in English “a tough row to hoe,” though that refers to a situation, not a person.
I have to wonder if the trick to working with a vriompeis is to do one of the things we did: try to find where it wants to split; bludgeon it with a hand axe until splits into manageable pieces, or toss it in the discard pile.