IS there any human endeavour which is more satisfying than splitting logs?

I spent a blissful morning the other day swinging a satisfyingly large axe with gay abandon, cutting large slices of pine into combustible chunks, while being taught the finer points of how to use and sharpen a chainsaw by Willie, master of the dark arts of agricultural pursuits.

I was not entrusted with the roaring machine of course, and indeed almost had the axe taken off me when the head flew off in the direction of the chainsaw user after one particularly vigorous swing.

I did disappear up to the hip into an undetected rabbit hole at one point, but even that was not enough to take the edge off another fine outdoor adventure.

We chopped enough logs to fill the tractor’s capacious bucket twice over, with the log shed already almost a quarter full.

There’s plenty more timber to go at over the next few weeks to ensure that the home fires keep burning for the winter that sadly is not too far away.

Chopping logs is one of the things I miss most since the heating requirements of Hextol Towers were transferred to the hands of the oil companies, at the insistence of Mrs Hextol.

Our open coal fire with built-in back boiler served us well for many years, and it was part of my morning routine to rake out the ashes, dump them in the bin, and then lay a new fire, with rolled up newspaper, kindling sticks and a few handfuls of coal.

If the sticks were a bit damp, it occasionally took a while to get going, but with the old broadsheet Courant as a top notch bleazer, it was usually well away before the rest of the household arose from their slumbers.

The only drawback about using an old newspaper as a bleazer was that no matter how thoroughly you had read the paper, there was always an interesting item that had escaped your attention.

But before you could finish reading it, it would start to brown and curl and then burst into flames, requiring instant crumpling and stuffing up the chimney, usually starting a small chimney fire.

I was aghast when Mrs Hextol said she had arranged for oil heating to be installed, as coal fires made too much mess.

I protested that it was me who chopped sticks, carried coal and cleaned out the grate each morning, but she indicated that the morning clean out was only half the problem.

She said: “I don’t know how you do it, but you have ashes and dust strewn all over the house, and no matter how much I dust, there’s always more raining down.

“Cinders jump out of the fire and burn holes in the rug, and when you and the lads are at work, it’s me that has to stoke the fire up.”

She has never really forgotten the fact that some years ago, our extremely elderly cat was stretched out asleep in front of a fire which was dying down last thing at night, with the fireguard removed because all the children had gone to bed.

But there was still some life in the dying embers, and a spark suddenly shot out and landed on the cat.

In its advanced stage of feline dementia, it did not move, and it was only when we detected the pungent aroma of burning fur that I shouted out: “That bloody cat’s on fire.”

I shot forward to beat out the flames, but with a burst of speed belying its age, it made a dash for the curtains, trailing smoke and flames like a downed Messerschmitt 109.

I only just managed to grab it by the tail and haul it in –but it was not in the least bit grateful when I flapped out the flames before the whole house went up.

Open coal fires are fairly rare now, with most sold fuel users opting for closed in stoves which are doubtless much more fuel efficient, but lack the appeal of a cosy fire crackling away in the grate.

Visitors would scoff at the fact we still had an open fire, but they were invariably the ones who would spend their entire visit standing on the hearth rug with arms and legs akimbo.

And many’s the time, when power cuts have struck, the open fire was pressed into service as a boiler of water and maker of perfect toast – something that is still beyond even the most up to date oil boiler.