Monday, March 24, 2008

The End of Wood

The end of wood is rather like the end of days, except colder. This winter has been long and cold and we are down to the nubs in our wood pile. Our neighbor, Dave, calls the old Alder wood we are burning now "punky" because it is rotted and pretty darn useless in terms of generating much heat. I hope the warm weather hurries up because the animals are low on hay too.

If we were in Arizona, it would be spring training for the San Franscico Giants and the Chicago Cubs and all the other folks who know where to find the warm, sunny weather. But, no, we are caught between the greenest grass that will need to be mowed soon, and the greyest, dismal skies you ever saw. For me, this is colder than snow, especially when I don't light the woodstove downstairs, partly because I don't feel like hiking up and down the stairs all day to make sure it is stoked and partly I am saving it for Greg's return in the evening.

Last spring when Greg was cutting down windfall and making large piles for Dave's teenage son to split in the summer, it seemed we had enough wood for many seasons. Looking at the time and energy it takes to turn wood into heat, however, makes you stop and question the efficiency of it all. There is the labor to cut a downed tree into lengths to fit a wood stove, to chop each length at least into quarters, haul the wood back to a pile you are stacking, stack the rest farther from the house because you have used up all your space, collect wood for kindling and stack this too, make sure the roof covering the wood doesn't leak. Come the cold season, the wood has to be hauled inside a little at a time, dropped into the wood stove with enough newspaper and kindling to get a fire started, prodded and pushed around, replenished, and the next morning, the ashes in the ash pan need to be dumped into an ash be scattered on the garden.

Or would you rather just flip a switch? Of course, when we are at the end of days, we will have a way to heat our house and those that flip a switch will do so to no avail. However, like the end of wood... which is only temporary because there are more downed trees from the winter and I can hear Greg out with his chain saw already, and the Dave's son is still in school, so he will be needing to make money to pay for gas and car insurance and all the things teenage boys need...the end of days may not come for several life times. All this human energy, expended into the universe, to harness energy from the natural world. Where does this leave us? I guess you could say warmer for swinging the axe and hauling in the wood, than if we were just sitting on our behind writing blogs into a computer!

Photo: Radio Flyers have many uses on a farm, like hauling wood into the house. The wood pile is that skimpy thing about two rows high in the background!

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