Isn’t it funny, how your sense of what is beautiful changes with the seasons? In the spring and summer, it’s the flora and the fauna and the gorgeous garden veggies that we are so hungry for, that catches my eye. It’s what is beautiful to me. During the winter, though, the woodpile in the shed is the most beautiful thing around.
We have a casual system here at our place, concerning our firewood supply. It’s pretty simple. We put up as much wood as we can in two or three long weekends during the summer and fall, and hope that it’ll be enough. Then, when it gets cold, we start to burn it. That’s it.
Enough. Enough for what? Enough to keep us cozy and warm from October through April, basically. It’s a tall order for two or three weekends’ worth of toil. And it’s hard work–Bryan wields the chain saw; Timothy and I take turns with the log-splitter; we all carry and pitch and load.
My Dad always says that putting up firewood will warm you three times--one time when you’re cutting and splitting it, the second time when you’re hauling it, and lastly when you’re burning it. You get a lot of warmth out of an armful of firewood, all things considered. Actually I think he may say that it warms you up two times–I probably added the hauling part, since we’ve been doing so much of that since Timothy got his full-time job in the city. Hmph. He’s such a handy chap to have around, I knew I’d miss him when he got a paying job, and I surely do.
I kinda feel like bragging on this tall, quiet, smart son of mine, but maybe you get bored of my mama bragging, Gentle Reader? So I’ll just leave it at this: I’m mighty proud of that boy.
We moved into an old depot that had been converted into a house nearly 13 years ago. When we moved in, it was divided into three apartments. It’s not what you’d call energy efficient. It’s not what you’d call sane. It’s not what you’d call easy to keep warm. It’s big, and drafty, and strange, and it’s hard to heat. When we moved in, there were three kitchens and six bathrooms. Every stinkin’ room (yup, including all those kitchens and bathrooms) had carpet and wallpaper from the 70s. We’ve worked to update much of it, including ripping up most of the (shag!) carpeting several years ago, and finishing the lovely old wood floors underneath. We have a long ways to go, however, before I’d consider it to be a finished project. I’m not inviting the photographers from Better Homes and Gardens to drop in any time soon, let’s say. Not that they’d want to come, except, perhaps, for a ghastly “before” series of photos.
You can read more about our place in this post that I wrote about our continuing basement remodeling project, if you’re hard up for things to read. Warning, though, there are pictures of mummified mice. Some folks aren’t crazy about that sort of thing, I guess.
Anyway. One of the first things we did to our place was to install two wood stoves, since winter came and brrr, was it cold. We put one on the three-season porch (our “party room” and our “project room” and our “big walk-in cooler room”) and one in the living room. From that day forward, we started “zone heating.” The living room–where we keep the wood stove burning, all day long–is the warmest part of the house, although the heat from that stove really radiates throughout a big portion of the house.
We have an electric furnace–actually, two of them–that we run all winter, but they cost a lot to run, and if we also burn wood in the wood stove in the living room, we’re much warmer and more cozy. And the furnaces don’t have to run nearly as much. That wood heat is so comforting and makes our place cozy. And keeps a little bit more cash in our checking account.
I like it that I can make a fire in the living room wood stove in the mornings, and even if I have to leave and can’t feed the fire throughout the day, that stove will put out heat from the fire, and then the coals, all day long. It is so efficient and so warming. We’ve cooked on it on occasion, and it’s always a comfort when the inevitable happens–a winter storm knocks out our electricity for a day or more. I always sigh and count my blessings that though we don’t have water or lights or any of the modern conveniences that we are so hooked on, by gum, we have heat.
Also, we keep a pot full of water on the wood stove, which steams away all day long and adds moisture to the air in the house. The winter air here in Nebraska tends to be very very dry, and this added moisture really helps us not to dry up like prunes. We hang wet towels on the baby fence that we installed around the stove, and they put out moisture, too.
It’s a warm, cozy gathering spot. When we do sit down, if we’re not at the dinner table, we’re usually clustered around the stove. That’s where the most comfortable furniture is located, where my pathetic little knitting project sits, where Amalia’s journal and Bible and current reading book is stacked, where Bryan’s projects and iPad and director’s script waits. That’s where little Mack’s ever-present collection of Legos is scattered. His dog-earred copy of Calvin and Hobbes, alas. Near the wood stove.
I read on Ben Hewitt’s blog the other day that he has a rule that he adheres to on his farm: “Half your wood and half your hay by Groundhog Day.” Now we don’t have big animals on our farm, so we don’t have to worry about running out of hay. But I am a little worried about running out of wood this year. I’m sure we’ve used more than half of our wood already, and we’ve just passed Groundhog Day. And we are having some really cold weather this year.
I have a nice relationship with a tree-trimmer who works in our area. He brings me a load or two of firewood (and, if I’m lucky, a load or two of wood chips, too) when he’s cutting trees in the area, and I pay him with a fresh pie, or a pan of Texas Sheet Cake, or some chewy butterscotch bars. He grins really big and fixes his eyes on my face. He’s subconsciously (don’t tell me this isn’t true, please) imprinting on me, that lady with the insane fondness for wood and wood chips, who makes big quantities of baked goodies. He’s saying to himself: “Bring this crazy woman more wood. More wood chips. Get homemade goodies in return. Don’t forget this woman.”
I overheard one of the fellows who was riding with him one week, ask him “What does she do with all those wood chips?” He gestured toward my large garden and orchard, all gloriously mulched with wood chips. “I don’t know, I guess she uses them out there,” he said, a little bewildered, himself. He was preoccupied with his wondering, I suppose, about what might be baking in my kitchen today.
My mom and dad, though they are edging close to their 80s, still are cutting and splitting and hauling their own firewood. Their wood piles are things of beauty: Mom does the stacking, and every space is used with precision. Some day I’ll take a picture and share it with you. You’d be impressed. Dad actually splits some of their wood into beautiful squarish pieces, to help Mom make the woodpiles extra-glorious. Someday I’ll share a picture with you, but not in the same post with the pictures of our loosely-constructed, hastily-tossed woodpile. It just wouldn’t be fitting. It might just make my woodpile blush with envy.
I hope that I’m still cutting and splitting and hauling my own firewood when I’m 80 years old. That kind of work, I think, has helped keep Mom and Dad healthy and strong. And warm.
Come spring, I’ll not give that woodpile (if there’s any left by then) much of a glance. But for now, it really is the prettiest thing on our place.
Hey, I’m linking up with The Prairie Homestead’s weekly Blog Hop. Come on over!
Also I’m be-bopping over with the nice folks over at the From the Farm blog hop. Fun!
- “CRUNCH TIME!” Stromboli
- Melodrama, February, horses in the house, and whatnot