We’ve been picking at our woodpile these past three weeks or so. No real ‘burn’, just a few ‘take-the-chill-offs’. But, as you know, each little piece detracts from the pile and today, when I went to fill the in-house-cradle, I noticed that the first of our twelve rows was 2/3 gone.
“Sheesh, Sal. Wood pile is a-dwindlin’ already! We were so happy to have that woodshed full and now, in a blink, we are almost down to eleven rows. I’d say we used close to 5% of the pile already and we have yet to have a full day’s fire.”
“All the more reason to make plans to go south. Seems everyone up here, when they are talking about getting away from the winter for a bit, throws out the line, ‘and we’ll save some wood!”
That’s pretty funny. Spend a week or so traveling and a few thousand dollars and the first goal of the trip is saving the woodpile! But, it’s true. You see, you can’t buy the wood. There is no one to go get the wood but you. Wood is all about you working hard and very little else except a bit of danger and a lot of sore muscles.
The wood has to be processed from standing or wind-fallen logs to trimmed and lengthed. Then it has to be hauled and floated and hauled again. Then you lift it up the highline on the winch to get the wood length (about ten-footers as a rule) to the ‘bucking’ cradle. And from there you buck it into ’rounds’, split it, carry it and stack it.
We try to do that when we have Woofers or young, strong people to help but most of it is done by me and Sal.
The hardest part of the job for Sally is setting the chokes on the 10-footers I have cut and deposited at the foot of the hill we live on. Our ‘living level’ or elevation is about 75 feet up and about 125 feet from the lagoon where the logs await hauling. Sally has to wrap a choke (heavy nylon belt) around each one, attach it and then haul on the block and tackle (each log length weighs between 200 and 400 pounds) until the log is clear of the ground and hanging at a 45 degree angle.
Sal weighs 125 pounds – give or take – and if the log is too heavy, she is just left hanging in the air and swinging back and forth. The log doesn’t move despite the 4 to one ratio of the b&t. I then have to go down the hill and cut that one into two shorter lengths.
When that is done and the log is cinched off, she gives me a sign sorta like the whistle-punk she is acting like and I haul it up on the gas-powered winch to the top, disconnect it, roll it out of the way and send the b&t back down for another. We have to do about 50-60 10-footer logs each year, sometimes a bit more. Sal is pretty tough by the time we have the logs up.
We are very fortunate. The house is well insulated and the stove is ideally placed. I researched the stoves quite a bit and decided on a great little Pacific Energy Artisan model (out of production now) and it is very efficient and attractive. We use – maybe – a wheelbarrow full every two days at the coldest time of the year. We have neighbours who use two a day when it is cold. Three to four cords will last us as a rule. Most people plan on 6. Many use much more.
It is a very simple concept, wood heat. But it is not so simple to do. They say wood warms you at least twice – when you are getting it in and then again when burning it in the winter.
I’d add a third time: sometimes it so beautiful and comforting that the heat does not seem like the prime reason for having a fire. I am embarrassed to admit that I have spent more than just a few hours staring at the fire after a long hard day and somehow feeling real good about it.
That part of wood heat is easy to do.