Firewood on the Deck

We have a pile of firewood on the deck.  That isn’t where we keep the firewood, mind you, but there it is.  It came from under the big old spruce tree.  That isn’t where we keep it either.  It migrated to its spot under the tree from the pile next to the garage.  We usually keep the firewood in the garage, not next to it.  The pile is smaller than it was a while ago.

We got a load of firewood delivered last summer.  We let it sit in a pile, near the garage but not right next to it, for several months.  Once it was clear that winter would not hold off any longer, I moved it into its neat stacks in the garage.  I ran into a problem, of course.  The logs that were against the ground were muddy, gunked up with our clay soil.  So I took those pieces and made a smaller pile as I worked.  I ended up with a pile of muddy chunks.

I left the mud encrusted heating fuel there all winter.  I thought I might move it once it got dry enough to move under cover.  But it never got dry enough.  Then the logs got frozen.  And it snowed.  And I left them there.  When spring arrived and the children started to muck about outside without snow, they decided that firewood makes excellent building material for houses and other imaginary buildings.

That is how the wood found its way to the spruce tree.  New construction, using recycled materials, were used for the new building on the deck.  It was not as practical a building as they might have built, but I was proud of my children for their sustainable building practices.  The building has fallen out of use, and its remains were piled up.  I am waiting for the clean up crew to manage the debris.

The muddy wood pile is now fairly dry.  The mud has fallen off.  I need to move that pile out from the flower bed.  Leaving it there could become a problem soon.  The children will need to find other sustainable building materials.  I am going to burn these.

Getting Crap Done

That was the theme of the day.  I was up earlier than I wanted this morning.  Our kids get crabby when they have to get up at 7:00 to get ready for the day.  Today they had the chance to sleep in.  They both were ready to get up at 6:15.  What gives?  So I was up early enough to stir the coals and get the fire going without matches.  Or even kindling.

Saturday has become bill paying day.  I get some satisfaction out of taking care of my debts.  I would prefer not to have so many.  I am working on that one.  Have you seen refinance rates lately?  Crazy low.  Should we wait to see of they get even lower?  If we do it now, we win.  If we do it later, maybe we win more.  Gamble gamble.  Anyway, I paid some bills.  Online and through the mail.  I like online payments.  Less waste, quicker, no stamps required.  But the plow guy doesn’t take online payments.

I baked bread again as well.  It was fair.  Maybe I’m not letting it rise enough.  It was cold today.  It think the thermometer rose to 15 but it was -4 when we rose this morning and stayed in the single digits for hours.  We went for a snowshoe, the four of us, around the front field.  The sun shone without wind so the ten degree air was fine.  We had toast when we got back inside, although the slices were not as tall as I would have liked.

Our compost bin is pretty frozen solid.  It is a tall peak of icy food bits.  Orange peels and pear cores spill through the grate.  C’est la vie, right?  Things will thaw at some point, although we are predicted to have a high temperature of five on Wednesday.  That is the high.  That should kill off some of those wooly adelgids and other invasive species.  Not to mention a few deer ticks.  The disease-carrying blood-sucking bastards.  I added some height to it this afternoon.

Any minute now we have friends on the way.  They plan to drop  off their children and take a night off.  A little sleepover for the tykes.  They should have a fine time.  Hopefully they will keep the strife to a minimum.  If they get too wound, we will plunk them in front of a video with a big bowl of popcorn.  I’m not too proud to say it.  We deprive them of television enough that it will be a treat anyway.  I have a dish of mac and cheese ready to pop in the oven.  That should be a hit, along with butter-soaked fresh bread.  Maybe they will even eat some carrots.

The temperature will get below zero again tonight.  I need to keep the stove stoked.  We’ll keep it warm inside while the vermin freeze to death outside.  I took a bucket of ashes out earlier.  They melted a little snow and they froze into a gray goopy mass.  It was like art.  Only not.  I will make some more art tomorrow.  You watch me.

Fire in the Stove

When I was growing up we had a wood stove to heat our house.  Mostly, this was an economical choice.  It was a lot less expensive to burn wood than oil, especially in our old house with its old furnace.  It got me hooked, however, not just for its penny-wise benefits, but for the heat it produces and the process it requires.

Back in the day we would get a truck load of logs delivered to the house and prep it all summer.  A full-sized logging truck would back down the driveway and unload with the claw.  I remember raising the power line to the house with a long board (safety first!) so the truck would fit under it.  Then we had a pile of logs to cut.

At first my dad did it all, but then I was allowed to help out.  I used the chain saw at some point and I definitely helped split once we had stove length pieces.  We borrowed a homemade log splitter from John Coile, one the tallest men I have ever met, and spent days busting them into logs that would fit into the stove.

We then, of course, had to stack it in the wood shed, rotating through the dry stuff from the previous year.  It was, indeed, a lot of work.  And we still had to start and maintain the fire once winter came.  It saved us money, sure, but I enjoyed all that work.  I learned to love to split wood.  And I learned how to start a fire and keep one going.  Now, married and with my own children, we have a stove and we keep it fired up.

It does save money.  We might get a tank refill of propane that costs us as much as a cord of wood.  We save hundreds of dollars each winter.  I like that the resource is both local and renewable as well.  It produces more greenhouse gases from our house, but probably fewer if you account for extraction and transportation of fossil fuels.  What I really love, however, is the ritual if it all.

I love to rise early on a cold morning, the house chilly, the clouds low, and crank up a fire.  I love to sit next to the stove with a book.  I love to feed the stove, carry in wood, split logs into kindling.  It is more work than turning the thermostat dial, but not all good things come easy.  I have no expectations that heating with wood is simple or takes little labor.  It is a task.  I emptied the ash bucket for the first time this winter, for example.  I had forgotten about that task.  Even that, however, helps us build compost when I dump the ashes on the compost pile.

We have a fire in the stove right now and I sit next to it as I write.  We have enough kindling and firewood indoors to start a fire tomorrow.  We will be warm when we head to bed and the house will cool as we sleep.  When we are gone during the day tomorrow, the propane will kick in.  I can live with that.  When I get home after a day of work away, I will pile up some wood and take a match to it.  Then I will warm my back and know that we will stay toasty, even in the worst of weather.