Stacking Wood

Posted on: March 8, 2010

Where next? heating? cooking? one in the same. Sort of… ..or should I say it depends.

There was a wood burning furnace in the basement with ductwork to the master bedroom, the spare bedroom, the bathroom, and into the basement itself. But not into the kitchen, living room, dining area, which were one room but 2/5 of the main floor. I turned the vents off to the bedrooms, left it on in the bath for the plumbing, directing most of the heat to the basement… ‘his’ workshop. My companion (Pete) did stain-glass and had 1/4 of the basement as his work area.

The main living area was heated by the cook stove. A Savoy Enterprise King I purchased new in ’94 for $2k. A wonderful stove. All the updates of technology: Warming oven; porcelain clad oven w/thermostat; air-tight for efficiency; brand new … while looking ‘old fashion’. I loved it. It took a bit to learn how to cook on it, but I did (I LOVE to cook). I even wrote an article on it for a magazine. [There was a mild skirmish over the cook stove when we split, but since I paid for it, there was NO way I was going to leave it behind! It is now installed in my new addition, heating my home. It’s a remarkable feeling to know that when TSHTF and my propane runs out, I can still heat and cook with wood. The particulars on woodstove cooking I will leave for another time. Another thing that I have learned and is imbedded in my brain. The stove was in storage for almost five years before installation here, yet how to regulate the heat, moving pots around from boil to simmer…. it never left my heart. ]

Of course one needs wood to burn in the stove or the furnace. Cutting wood was a summer long job. A little here, a lot there, until 12 cord was in on both sides of the woodshed. The 12 cord for the furnace was used up during the winter months, but the 12 cord for the stove lasted a full year. The wood was separated, since the two wood-burners took different sizes. My cook stove will take a good size piece, 4″ diameter by 20″ long, max., the bigger the piece the longer it lasts, but of course a furnace takes a MUCH bigger piece. Since the property was 160 acres of woods, the supply was unlimited. Standing dead or blow-down was all that was harvested, still… unlimited. I had a wood box next to the woodstove that held 3-4 days of wood, made from the crate the stove was shipped in, a nice touch I thought.

As soon as the snow melted, we started preparing for the next winter. Wandering the woods was a wonderful time, and I felt it was a companionable, bonding time. Pete and I worked well together doing this. We parked the truck along the drive, trailer attached. We would go into the woods, but never further that 200 feet in… that was about my max for dragging logs out to the trailer. Pete would cut, I would drag. If we were doing the smaller trees for ‘my’ wood, I would loop a rope around 3-4 of them and drag them out together, still heavy as most were 20-30 feet long. Bigger wood, for the furnace, would be bolted on the spot, and I would load them into a sled and drag them out that way. When we were done for the day, or just had a trailer full, we’d take it all back to the house and the next step. The larger bolts were stacked off to the side until we had enough to warrant setting up the gas fired log splitter. Usually, I would lift the bolts up, and Pete would split. Then we both would stack. With the ‘smaller’ wood, for the cook stove, we used an interesting method. It was a saw horse, that I drove a large nail into, upright at one end. Since it was an on going problem for me to keep the wood steady as Pete would cut with the chainsaw, the nail would keep the long tree from slipping as I fed it toward Pete and he cut the lengths. I just kept feeding the trees to him and when the pile got too deep, we would stop cutting and I would toss the pile into ‘my’ side of the wood shed, to be stacked later. Then we would cut until the stack of harvested trees was done. Sometimes there was still time for me to stack my wood the same day, sometimes I waited until the next. I always preferred to get it done though, to start fresh again the following day. This was a process we would do a couple of times a week, weather permitting, work permitting, until both sheds were full. But that’s not how we started.. That first year we found some trees ‘over there’ that were spaced right, and stacked wood between them, and then another and another. We had wood everywhere! Come the snow, we had to shovel paths to all that wood. I insisted on starting with the wood further out, so when that pile was depleted, it was less distance to shovel for the next one, and shovel we did. Those same paths kept filling in. The following year, my cook stove wood was right behind the house, in tight rows called ‘ricks’.. free standing stacks. I still had to shovel, though, and by mid winter, I was “mining” for wood, the snow was as deep as the piles! It was the third year we settled on the two sided wood shed. Took awhile, but we learned.

The next issue was kindling. Now, I really don’t know how I knew, but I just knew… right from the beginning, that I needed to deal with this. Even though I had no concept how deep the snow got there, I knew it would be tough to find kindling under the snow. That was such understatement! (Note: I grew up in Detroit, the kid of a cop, I was NOT exposed to this type of living.) So I gathered kindling in the fall. I got it down to a large bundle per winter week, plus. (did someone recently say it’s better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it? … I use to say that 10 years ago!) It really was a pleasure gathering kindling. I had 36 nylon ropes for bundles. I would take four of them with me and wander the immediate woods, gathering different sizes of sticks/branches until I had a bundle 3-4 feet long by 18″, then I would leave it by the side of the drive. My time in the woods alone doing this is one of my best memories, a peaceful time and still accomplishing something useful. I would start in late summer as the temps began to cool, when everything was green and lush and the air was heady. The chore would continue into the Fall until I was done, only I didn’t consider it a chore. When I filled all the ropes, I would rotate out any bundles from the previous year (stored under the back porch), then use a wheel-barrow to collect all those bundles, and restack, where it would be easily accessible to us in the deep of winter.

Now it’s just me cutting, splitting, stacking. Takes more time, but….. it’s worth it.

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