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December 24, 2016: Burnin’ Wood

This morning, as I passed the woodshed, I couldn’t help but smile. The woodshed was nearly full, nearly, it’s December and we’ve been cutting into this year’s stash. Last year at this time we had less wood on hand than we do now. This was even though we were experiencing record warm temperatures. Finally, I thought, we have our wood act together.

My statement has been fourteen years in the making. When Pete and I decided to purchase the place we called Squalor Holler – this was in 2003, we really had no idea what becoming what some call “wood burners” would entail. If we’d known, we still would have gone and purchased the place. However, we would have done a

Ranger checks out the wood block

better job in prioritizing all the tasks that go hand-in-hand with such an endeavor.

It was late August, 2003. We’d finally finished unpacking the school bus/moving van, and in fact sold it. Next thing on the list of things to do read: Cut firewood. Pete went to town and purchased a used chainsaw. Turned out that it was what he called a piece of s___. No matter. He downed and bucked trees into rounds and I rolled them into a pile. He, by hand, split some of this wood. We tossed a tarp over the rest, and fastened it down with leftover wood.

Our first fall fire was memorable, but not in a good way. Green wood, old leaky woodstove, bad combination. Thick gray smoke billowed out the sides of the door. “Stove needs a new gasket,” Pete remarked. “No, need new stove,” I said. It didn’t help that at the time, our two-room loft cabin was uninsulated. And so that winter I wore multiple layers and spent considerable time under every blanket that we owned.

Over the next few years we prioritized – this was out of necessity. We bought a new stove, insulated the cabin, built a woodshed, and, finally, filled that woodshed with wood – we filled one side with seasoned wood and the other with green wood. We then used the seasoned wood and when it was empty, designated it the green wood side for next year.

We now follow a set wood cutting/gathering/stacking/burning routine. Our primary wood source is our own property. Our secondary source is neighbors. This year, our neighbor Karen called us in September and said that she had some trees she wanted taken out and did we want the wood? Pete said yes, and shortly thereafter, got his woodcutting gear together. He sharpened the chainsaw, and retrieved his chaps and helmet from the Black Hole. (This is our gear storage cabin. I named it this because things disappear in there, never to be seen again.) Fish Habitat, our 1975 Dodge pickup truck (named such by its former owner who said that it would make for good fish breeding grounds) is on hiatus, so Pete took the Tundra. He drove to Karen’s place and then cut the logs into rounds. Shortly thereafter, I rode my horse over to Karen’s place (it’s three miles distant from ours) and tied her to a tree.

Riding the horse to and from the wood cutting site – this my version of multi-tasking. This way the truck gets loaded in a timely fashion and the horse gets some exercise. Other more fun things (such as going for a bike ride or hike) are, when we are working on our wood act, get put on hold until the task is done. This is of course out of necessity – otherwise we’d later stick our feet in the propane oven and sulk – us having become living examples of the adage “You play you pay.”

Pete drove home and unloaded the wood. I used the splitter and in this way quartered the wood. We share this wonderful piece of machinery with a few other families; therefore, I have to drop what I’m doing and get the job done fast. Pete then did as he usually does, and stacked the wood in the shed. Since October, every few days, we drag muck buckets full of seasoned wood into the cabin, and empty them into the kitchen wood box. Pete routinely splits the kindling with an axe. I’ve learned that attempting to start a fire without it is a waste of time. However, birch bark works just fine.

Most visitors, when we in passing point to the full shed, all say the same thing: “getting all that wood must have been a lot of work.” I used to affirm this by going into great deal about every single step of the process. However, the glazed eyes made me pull up short. And so now, rather than elaborate, I simply say “Uh huh.”

Next: 112. 12/25/16: Mo ho Mo Jo

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