Here's the Scoop: Nov. 18, 2009
For the first time in well, ever, I have our firewood supply ready long before snow is piled porch-high. Yup, the wood is all split and neatly stacked. OK, truth in firewood reporting here: “neatly” may not be the appropriate term to apply in this instance. If I were a romance novelist given to flowery descriptive passages, I would probably have referred to the pile as something like: “The winter’s fuel was carefully placed for optimum drying atmosphere in a sturdy, yet serpentine pattern.”
Nitpickers who gawk at my woodpile would certainly argue with the word “sturdy” also, but I don’t really care. I’m happy that the wood is off the ground and has adequate air-flow.
I realize that having one’s wood supply in order before the start of winter shouldn’t seem like an achievement worthy of celebration. Real wood-burning folks have several years’ supply of wood under cover. The pieces are piled up in neat (in this case the word accurately applies) patterns, with amazingly little difference in the size of the chunks. The moisture content is lower than a snail’s butt. The wood possessed by these wood-burning fanatics (I mean that in the nice sense) is so crispy that matches are hardly needed to ignite it — probably a hard stare will do the trick.
My wood is not like this. At all.
Still, my wood-readiness skills have steadily improved. Over the years, I’ve written a few columns about wood-burning. Because I have this year’s supply in such good shape, I started thinking back to how this situation compares to previous years’ wood stockpiles. Warmly, is the best word.
Free is key
Coming from a long line of thrifty (cheap) family members, I always learned that no one pays for firewood. It defeats the purpose. Well, if you do have to pay for firewood, you fork over as little money as possible.
I assisted my brother with wood-cutting for a number of years. This was time consuming. And hard work. We eventually discovered a place that sold scrap wood really inexpensively. If you took the leftover slabs, they were free. The price was right. It must have actually been too good — the mill went out of business.
Mixed in with wood-gathering procedure was my Scrounging Period. As the name implies, if pieces of wood were lying around (unpiled, of course) left behind from, say, a right-of-way clearing project, I could not stand to see them rotting by the roadside. Let me tell you, a Honda Civic can hold plenty of wood, if it’s packed properly. I guess it would have more appropriate if I had been picking up this wood in a Honda Ac-cord!
After a few years of this, time became more scarce and the cheap way of wood collecting became a burden. I eventually broke with family tradition and decided to buy wood. It was delivered to within a few feet of my stacking place. Even though this wood was split in half, it still wasn’t small enough for our purposes. So, after delivery, the wood usually remained in place for a long time, losing out to other projects at hand.
This year, though, other projects had dwindled. The wood was the most important work at hand. Sure, I realize that I should be working a year or so ahead with my wood supply. But I’ll settle for small victories. For this season, I’m just happy I won’t be trudging outside in mid-January, splitting pieces and then using the blow-dryer on them before sticking them in the fireplace.
Not only is this method time-consuming and inefficient, but I’m pretty sure the family handbook dedicates a chapter to the reasons not to blow-dry firewood.