This winter I loved the wonderful smell of wood smoke which greeted me almost every day when I came home from work; our neighbor heats his house with wood. No picturesque New England stone walls for him, his property is lined with neatly stacked firewood. I can’t imagine the round the clock effort it takes to use oil or gas as backup and wood as a primary heating source.
We have a small woodstove in our living room and I love it. But the wood we went through on a frigid Sunday afternoon, while watching football or civil war documentaries, (honey, the north won), is telling.
There’s an old saying that wood warms you three times: once when you cut it, again when you split it and finally when you burn it. I can attest to that fact because we’ve had a fireplace, or a woodstove, in every house we’ve lived in for three and a half decades.
Years ago my husband and I trudged the woods we owned behind our house along the shoreline, to clear the standing dead. At the time it seemed like a positive environmental task, and we were broke and didn’t want to pay for firewood.
It had rained that summer morning so it was hot, the woods were sopping wet and the old cart path was rutted with truck tracks filled with muck. We gathered, hauled, cut to length, split and stacked the no-cost logs against the house. It was hard work but the price was right, until we discovered the following year that carpenter ants from the dead wood were eating our porch.
Back when LBJ was in the White House, and I was a teenager, I helped my mom and dad stack (no ants) firewood against the wall on their porch. I noticed that sometimes when I tossed wood up onto the porch, when one log hit another, they made a sound. While we hauled from the pile in the driveway, and stacked the wood neatly, I began tapping the ends of the logs with another log. Each had different tones. Once the wall of wood reached above our heads I tapped the ends to play songs.
There’s something comforting about piles of wood appearing through the summer and then being stacked neatly by the end of fall. The heat source dwindling as winter proceeds is like fleeting insurance against the cold.
But now, because the piles are small and the ground is mushy from spring rains, and the use of fireplaces and woodstoves becomes sporadic, the previous season’s stacked wood becomes a nuisance.
Because we burned only for weekend heat and ambiance on really cold days, our piles of wood last a long time. This means soon we’ll have to remove the stacked wood from just outside our back door. There’s also a pile of long logs my husband hasn’t cut to length and split yet. So that pile will have to be moved also. Moving the piles to an out of site location for the rest of spring and summer means a fourth time to be warmed by wood.
Our neighbor doesn’t have to move his leftover wood because there’s not much left this time of year. And, I don’t smell the comforting fragrance of his heat source because nature is keeping us relatively warm. Now, I’m waiting for the delicious smell of barbecue to greet me when I get home from work.