It struck me yesterday afternoon that if only the EU would stop fussing about the size and straightness of our cucumbers (if, indeed, they do) and fussed instead about the size and straightness of a standard piece of firewood, then stacking the stuff would be a hell of a lot easier.
When we first got our woodburning stove, I did have this romantic notion that we could gather most of the wood we needed ourselves, scavenged from fallen trees in the landlord’s woodland with nothing but a bowsaw and the time to carry it home. The other half has disabused me of this notion, partly by luring me up into the woods on the pretence of photographing badger poo (he knows how to show a girl a good time) and then having me – seeing as I was up there – help him saw up some fallen birch and carry it down from the woods. He’s been doing this on and off all winter and a couple of months of steady effort has accumulated this pile (actually now a little bigger) of wood which will still need to be sawn, split and stacked, then seasoned for a minimum of a year and even then will probably last us at most a month in the depth of the winter. Each length takes probably half a man-hour’s labour, if you include lugging it down from the woods (but not counting the three days recovery time after ferrying the big one at the front). And while it was undoubtedly a carbon-neutral operation, clearly we were going to have to come up with something a little more scalabe if we were actually going to accumulate wood faster than we could burn it.
So much easier – if you’ve the contacts – to ring up and order a couple of these, which arrived yesterday morning. We spent a happy few hours sorting and stacking the wood – an elaborate classification system has evolved with the wood that wasn’t too misshapen but could do with a bit more seasoning now neatly walling the wood shed, the wood from the top of the bag (which is always a little dryer, funnily enough) handy for the stove now, and other piles in various states of readiness to burn in various caches around the other half’s shed empire. This was more than enough to have us peeling off a few of the winter layers, especially when the sun decided to emerge as well. Truly there’s nothing like shelling out for a mega order of wood to make the weather gods relent and give us a glimpse of spring.
Still, there’s something very satisfying about a well stacked wood pile, although we are just amateurs at it. As long as the winter doesn’t linger too much longer, we’ll have really well-seasoned stuff to burn next year, all the while, of course, hunting round for the wood for the year after that, and beyond. In fact, if we were really serious and had the land we’d be planting the trees for the coppice that would be supplying our stove for decades to come…
Oh and the (possible) badger poo? Very difficult to take a decent photograph of, as it happens. If anyone can identify anything positively from this, I take my hat off to them:
In fact, I may just take my hat off anyway. It’s almost warm enough, at last…
The other half came back from Notso Bigtown today with our week’s shopping, some ‘eco logs’*, two doughnuts and my keys. When I asked Twitter where my keys were, Twitter replied: where you left them and Twitter was absolutely right. As the other half walked into the builders’ merchant where we’d bought the eco logs last week the woman behind the counter produced my keys which had been sitting there waiting for us to return. Hurrah. Now, does anyone know where my phone is?
* actually a bit more like ‘eco pellets’ but they’re a by-product from a local joiners so cheaper than the traditional bigger heat logs and, crucially, something that you can just go into a shop and buy. Unlike seasoned hardwood which, it seems, you either have to have been born here and your father and grandfather before you, or know some magic word, or possibly both, before anyone will actually sell it to you. Apart from the £6 bags from the garage which are almost as ruinous as oil…
Last winter they clear felled a piece of woodland near us. While all the big logs have long gone, the men with the machines left the rest – the stumps, branches, logs and other bits not deemed worth taking away. Eventually, if the last piece of clear-felled land is anything to go by, they’ll bulldoze it into a big pile and (about three years later) take it up to the local wood-burning power station. But meanwhile it sits there looking tempting. Mostly it’s softwood, but there were some birches, hazels and other hardwood trees in there mixed in with the spruce and larch. The problem is, it’s not ours to take. We’ve gone in and scavenged out some sticks for my beanpoles and to hold up the butterfly netting over my cabbages and, I have to admit, that occasionally when we’ve seen a nice handy sized piece of birch just sitting about doing nothing we’ve picked it up and, attemtping nonchalance, carried it the few hundred yards back to our woodshed.
This, we now realise, is WRONG. For what we should be doing is what I spotted one of our nearish neighbours doing this morning as I headed out for a hard day helping underprivileged children*: driving up there with a van and taking away a whole load. Because if you’re going to pilfer, pilfer properly and don’t muck about.
*Helping underprivileged children build dens in the woods, as the other half (who’d spent the morning hoovering instead) was jealous to discover. It’s hard work bringing light to the little kiddies’ eyes, but somebody’s got to do it.
This is one of the reasons why I love living in the country. We were out on a walk this afternoon, it being glorious weather*, and we stopped to pass the time of day with a chap chopping up wood in the bit of land near us which had been recently felled. I asked if he was planning to take it all – because there was a mountainous pile of rooted up tree stumps and other brash behind him, and he only had a small trailer – and he replied, ‘why, would you like some?’
Well, of course I said yes, and he very kindly left us a pile of smallish birch logs to come and collect later when he had finished. So once he had gone we set out to go and pick up our stash. Now here’s where the Londoner in me comes out. The other half suggested taking the car, but I was a bit reluctant because while casually going and picking up a few bits of wood felt okay, loading up a car boot full did not. And even though a man with a chainsaw had said it was okay – and who’s going to argue with a man with a chainsaw? – that was going to sound a bit lame if anyone came along and demanded to know what we were doing, seeing as how the man with the chainsaw had gone.
Of course in the end it was fine because nobody saw us because nobody was about. Nobody ever is. But even knowing that, I can’t get past that paranoid London feeling that somebody, somewhere, is watching what you’re doing. In London, of course, they are, although they probably don’t care. But out here, what are they going to use, squirrel-cam?
And besides, seeing as I then go and blog about it, why would they bother?
Keep your guesses coming in the great bucket mystery. I’m off to start a fire and go sit as close as possible to it as I can
Ooh ouch, the light on our oil meter was flashing yesterday – time to refill the tank for the winter. Five hundred quid for a thousand litres of oil; running the rayburn does not come cheap. Heating the house won’t either, with an oil-fired boiler and single glazed windows, even if the walls themselves are a foot thick. Time to get out the Antarctic parkas, I think.
Still, I was out today chopping things down in the name of conservation and by the end of the day a largeish pile of wood – all in nice fireplace sized chunks – has happened to come my way. Normally I volunteer for the nice warm metaphorical glow it gives me, but on this occasion, I was more than grateful for a literal one as well.