Nov 2, 2008
We're currently getting in our firewood for the winter. Yes, I know, we left it late this year. We always buy ten cords of logs, and this year because of various economic factors in the local forestry sector, a supplier proved difficult to find.
The logs have to be cut to stove-length with a chain-saw, split, trucked to the various buildings and then neatly stacked in the sheds. It's big job, but mostly a pleasant one. It's good healthy exercise, and keeps a body out-of-doors in the brisk fall weather.
We heat with wood primarily for practical reasons, but it's good to know that that according to George Monbiot, Guardian columnist,environmentalist and author of "HEAT," it's at least potentially carbon-neutral. That is, provided that the wood cut in a locality is no more than is regrown in the same year. The energy from fossil fuel and from wood comes from the same ultimate source; photosynthesis capture of solar energy. A plant, like a tree, is mostly built up of carbon-dioxide and water vapour; the energy of the sun allowing more complex hydro-carbons to be built up. When burnt, the vegetable matter releases the energy of its molecular bonds and returns to water vapour and carbon dioxide. The CO2 in oil or gas is millions of years old, and is for practical purposes a new addition to the atmosphere. The CO2 from trees is only a few years old and is just recycled back and forth.
It's amazing when you add it up, how many times each piece of firewood is handled in its lifetime. First, the tree makes it, as said above, out of mist and vapour, a small miracle. Then the tree is cut down, limbed, skidded to the landing and loaded onto a truck. It is delivered to us, and the logs are piled by the logger using a crane on his truck. Then I cut the logs, which might have to involve moving some of them around a bit by man-handling. After being cut, the round pieces are tossed aside to keep the work area clear. Later, each one is split, which may take several strokes of the ax for larger pieces. Then they are loaded in the pick-up truck, taken to one of the wood-sheds and piled.
In the winter, part of the daily routine is getting the day's wood ready. The pieces are taken from the shed, perhaps split again, carried to the cabin and stacked in a wood-box. Each is added individually to the fire as needed. Last of all, every two weeks or so it becomes necessary to clean out the ashes. That is the mineral residue the tree originally took from the soil, rather than from air and water.
This is a cold climate, often reaching minus twenty and occasionally minus thirty celsius in the winter. Firewood is important. A common item of conversation among country people here in the fall is; "how is your firewood coming along?"
It's good earthy kind of work. Remember the old Zen line; "Before enlightenment, carrying wood and hauling water, after enlightenment, carrying wood and hauling water." Something to look forward to!