C’mon baby light my fire.

Let’s talk about WOOD.

That’s right; Wood!  You know, the stuff that grows on (and is) trees!  Back in Philly, I didn’t think much about wood.  We lived in a brick house heated by gas.  Our fireplace didn’t even work.  But now that I’ve moved to Maine, I think about wood all the time.  Here we are back in October.

Even though it is beautiful and green, early October in Maine is WINTERTIME.  Well – not the actual season (as you can see we aren’t wearing coats); rather, it’s preparation-for-winter time.  And for us, that meant one thing.  Although our house has radiators and can be heated exclusively by oil, we wanted to use wood.  Wood is a renewable resource.  It burns clean.  It is physically and psychologically warming.  Wood is good.  And our house has NINE fireplaces!!  But for all their appeal, fireplaces aren’t efficient.  Maine-uhs use stoves.  So we did our research and bought the granddaddy of all wood stoves.  The Hearthstone Equinox.

Now that we had a stove, we were going to need WOOD.  Lots of it.  My husband negotiated a deal though a friend at work.  5 cords, cut and delivered, for $750.  Nowadays I truly appreciate the sweetness of this deal.  Back in October I suspected it was pretty freaking fantastic, but before moving to Maine, I didn’t even know what a cord of wood was.  Hint: it’s a big pile.

When these big piles started showing up months ago, we started stacking them.  But there is a big difference between stacking wood the RIGHT way and stacking it the dingus way.  Being city folk, you can guess which way we stacked.  Going on cord number three, our wood guy warned us we’d stacked the wood too close.  Stack too close and you risk the wood molding.  So we re-stacked it.  But we must have stacked it too loose, b/c the new stacks collapsed.  So we re-stacked again.  In between stacking, it rained several times.  So we covered our wood piles w/ tarps.  Unfortunately these tarps were the wrong size (too big and/or too short).  Some of the wood stuck out at each end and got wet.  The rest of the wood was covered completely, but the big tarps pooled water, which sagged between the stacks, weighing them down and collapsing them.  So we had to re-stack again.  Finally, we wised up and cut the tarps to fit each of wood stacks individually.  We tied each of these tarps down, leaving room for the wood to breathe, and keep it covered from the rain & snow, but not enough GIVE for it to go cascading across the yard.

Here is our yard mid-October.  Green & lush.  Neat & tidy.

Here is our yard today.

Brown.  Not looking so hot.  The wood at the top is all new; we just got it and have begun stacking it the RIGHT way.  The lower collapsed wood pile is all that remains of the old stuff.  The tarp had been tied down protecting it, but flew off during the last hurricane-force wind storm.  This storm also hurled our (heavy for 2 people to lift) canoe 20 feet across the yard.  We’re moving all of the wood to the top left, to season for next year.  “Seasoning” is a special wood term.  Seasoned firewood is good firewood; it’s dry, it burns well.  In order to season firewood. you have to leave it out uncovered for a year.  Exposed to the elements, the sun, snow, wind and rain.  Seasoning literally means “leaving your wood out in all seasons” rather than “adding flavor to your wood.”  Though I guess you could say seasoning does that too.  You can see the turkeys like our wood.  This might explain why the last bundle we brought in smelled like a combination of turkey poop and vomit.  We have no idea what happened, but we are blaming it ALL on the turkeys.  And yes, that would be the last wood we brought in.  After dealing w/ the stench for about a week, we decided the winter has become mild enough to switch exclusively over to oil.

20 thoughts on “C’mon baby light my fire.

  1. Until you explained it, the whole “seasoning” of firewood never made much sense… “why not just sprinkle some Mrs. Dash on it?”
    Though, I have also learned that vomit is not proper seasoning.
    No wonder people don’t like my pepper-and-vomit-steak. I thought it was the peppers.

    Your neighbors must be having a great time, looking out of their windows, sipping coffee, watching The City Folk Learn to Live in the Country.

    Now I know who to call when I need my wood stacked in a proper and efficient manner.
    Are ya’ll planning on foresting on your land or outsourcing your wood?

    Hey House,
    You stopped calling.
    Is this because of the bump? I swear it’s yours. Really. I haven’t been with anyone else.
    Oh, and I could have sworn I told you about that itchy rash… well, yeah, it was from wool…
    Plus, I still need that lock of flooring to put onto the shrine.
    Oh, I’ve said too much.

    1. LOL – ” pepper & vomit steak ‘ hahhahahahahhh!!

      ahhh. shucks you make me laugh steph..

      glad to help out w/ the seasoning. NOW< House needs to know – are you really up the duff??!

    1. Well, fireplaces for all their beauty are super inefficient. Half the heat (or more) escapes right back up the chimney. Stoves are are constructed to burn as efficiently as possible, to maximize heat. If you use a stove the heat STAYS PUT – b.c it’s maintained in the structure itself. Our stove is soapstone. Once you get the fire blazing, the stone heats up and acts as a massive radiator. All winter long, just before bed, John would stoke the fire, the stove would simmer all night long. We’d come down in the morning to find the coals are almost out but the stone is still warm-hot. And all that heat rises, keeping our 2nd floor warm too.

  2. Yeah, fireplaces suck, literally. They suck the warm air right out of the house. We got a fireplace insert (aka stove) this year as well and can take advantage of a $2500 Federal tax credit. Thankfully we only have 2 fireplaces. We’ve never experienced smelly wood but have brought in wood full of insects! ‘course we just burnt them alive! Ha!

  3. Each winter I say I am going to do something about our little pre-fab fireplace insert. That stove looks perfect… if you have some place to put it.

    Your “seasoning” term must be the Yankee definition. Seasoning just means letting a green tree sit through a few seasons before you burn it.

    What do you use to light your fires? We use news papers crumpled up under a piece of fat-lighter with the logs on top of that.

    My wood rack consists of six ten foot (recycled) railroad crossties sunk in the ground two feet. It has a metal roof over it. I stack the wood up about six feet and put a plywood bottom on the “attic” portion of the wood rack. The attic is where we keep all the split up fat-lighter. There are four racks that can hold 6’X5′ stacks of wood. And you are so right about stacking properly. Especially when wood is stacked that high. One of the benefits of have a roof on my little wood palace is that I usually have a dove build a nest on top of the wood each year. I like to watch the wood dry/shrink. The green wood I jamed into one section of the rack has already shrunk down almost six inches.

    Also, our five year old son gets all the house wood rejects for his own back yard fires. He has his own (uncovered) rack out back too. 🙂


    If you have a chainsaw make sure you either burn premium gas or a gas that does NOT have ethenal in it. I burned up my Stihl using regular gas with ethenal in it.

  5. for the love of everything holy…NOT A WOOD PILE!!! just the sight of wood stacked up like that gives me the vapors!

    as children (read: indentured servants), my sister and i were FORCED to fill the wood ring in our basement on what seemed like a daily basis. we had a wood burning stove that supplemented the($$$) oil burning furnace.

    my dad built some crazy-ass heating system–a huge hood over the stove that trapped the heat and sent it up through a network of galvanized pipes and into the living room, hall, dining room, and bedrooms through vents he cut into the floors.

    this chore involved a wheelbarrow and several trips to the ‘wood pile’ in our backyard. jess and i would often attempt to fill the huge wood ring in two trips, overloading the barrow, stacking wood on the handles and overflowing the bucket part. i’m tellin’ ya, we rocked it little house on the prairie style!!!

    more often than not the barrow would tip over because we didn’t have the strength to keep it steady and a chore that should have taken, at most, 20 minutes, took upwards of an hour.

    please, please, please, do NOT make your daughters bring in the wood. that is what DADS are for. seriously.

    i have the shivers just looking at the piles. and my dad took it up a notch. he’d have wood delivered by a giant truck–UNSPLIT. then he would spend entire weekends with a hydraulic splitter and a giant, jack nicholson-in-the-shining- ax. then he would build the outdoor holders and stack it so neatly. scary stuff, i tell ya.


  6. And I was thinking something totally different when you said let’s talk about wood…

    when I stayed with my aunt or oma we had to pile fire wood into a stove to heat bath water…bummer. In the South we so rarely need a fireplace…we have gas logs LOL I know we are philistines.

  7. If I recall, we retreived wood stacked under the arch in the cellar. Usually Dad got the wood for the keeping room fireplace, rather than us girls getting it. I remember many an evening sitting on the brick hearth with my back warmed by a huge fire that also heated the huge iron plate leaning against the fireplace’s back wall. That iron really threw heat out into the room, & heated the kitchen, too. The door to your dining room & the door to the hallway were closed. Whenever we left the room. we froze to use the bathroom or go up to bed. Winter evenings were cozy when that fireplace was ablaze. We felt like pioneers heating that room so well, using the fireplace. Dad stayed up until the fire died, so that he could close the damper; OR the folks would go to bed & close the damper 1st thing in the morning. Hopping out of bed in the morning meant hitting the freezing floor but the cold gave us incentive to dress quickly, eat, & get off to school where we got warm. We had old oriental rugs in the bedrooms, halls, & living room; linoleum, in the kitchen. Oil was used most of the time to heat the house. Expensive, especially since so much heat escaped through the attic. Dad placed insulation & boards up most of the chimneys, preventing use of those fireplaces. But the fireplaces were all pretty with their andirons & wood. I’m glad you folks did what you did to insulate & heat your house. Dad also had a heavy, insulated door in the attic floor that we pushed up carefully & propped against a railing in the attic to gain access to the attic. The attic was always a refrigerator we could use to keep things frozen if we didn’t have room in the refrigerator. The stor-bought turkeys were always stored up there before roasting. We had our adventure; now you, are. Kate

  8. It is nice to see someone else who “does firewood”. I think of it as the Zen of Firewood. It is a meditative time for me which is why I continue to split with an ax rather than accept neighbours’ offers of the use of a hydraulic splitter.

    I see by some of the comments some of your admirer’s don’t understand that a fireplace is a heat loss source. When I was doing heat loss calculations for electric heat we added 1500 watts more of heat capacity for a room with a fireplace.

    I have neighbours who grew up with wood as their piling of wood is an artform. My wood piles invariable fall over. I repile a coupe of times while curing the wood outdoors before I move it into my basement.

    If you heat with wood here ,it is almost impossible to get insurance. Twenty years ago, the government paid people to switch to wood off oil. How attitudes change. I do without insurnace.

  9. The turkeys vomited on the wood???
    Stacking wood is such a wonderful pastime. I really hate it when I have it all nice & level & my wife gets it off the pile all over the place & makes it look uneven. You have lots & lots of wood there. We usually get it 2 cubic metres at a time as we don’t have a lot of room to stack it & order more when the shed gets down to about half full.

  10. Happy April Fools Day. These are true stories, however. Today Obama will be at the Expo to speak on the healthcare bill. Before the part of Westbrook Street was blocked off to get to the Jetport, the presidents, or all famous people would have to travel down Waldo Street, and then out Congress Street to intown. I think I have mentioned this before, but one time the Tompsons’ geese casually walked across Waldo Street from the landing by the Fore River. The presidental campaign motorcade had to come to a complete stop, and the secret service men had to get out to hussle the geese along. These are the same geese that Kath told you about capturing and taking to the Cumberland fair. They have been known to nip if pervoked.
    Another time, we got a ride in a stagecoach with horses down to that same landing area by the Fore River. That was a bus stop at the time. One of the Sylvesters, who lived in the Partridge house from you across the street, was very good with horses, so she was asked to take care of the horses for the night. To say thank you, she and others got to get a ride in the stage coach they had for the presidental campaign. This was back in the 60s. Another story was one time a president was in town and it was raining cats and dogs. It was rumored that the Secret Service men had to run into the Surplus Store that was located on Congress Street in downtown Portland to quickly purchase rain jackets. Their mission was to stand on some of downtown buildings with rifles as sharpshooters.
    Thought you might like to hear a little more of the goings on of your village. Abbie

  11. Christy, I’ve just finished the book “A View from the Corner” by Lew-Ellyn Hughes. It is a collection of her non-fiction essays about rural living; she, having gone to HS in Charleston, S.C., now lives in Stratton, ME. Her exploits remind me of you. I think you would enjoy her work & she might give you inroads for publishing your writing, too. Taken from the back cover of her book: You can purchase copies of A VIEW FROM THE CORNER from Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or from the publisher at rockpublishing.com. An autographed copy can be purchased by contacting the author at PO Box 176, Stratton, ME o4982. I plan to send my copy to my sister for her b’day this month. She’ll giggle her way through the stories; I did. I couldn’t put down the essay collection. Kate

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