Right now I have one main chore every week (and when I get behind, every day): cut, collect, split and stack firewood.
Admittedly, I did not do a great job of stocking up this year. That is to say, we do have plenty of cured wood around, just that it’s ALL around. Often I have to drive the truck, cut and haul wood back to the house, split and stack it. Then burn it, obviously, because I’m behind. Rinse and repeat.
To be honest, though, It’s not a bad job. Talk to me in ten years of living solely off wood, but for the moment, for this first year entirely cooking––even through the summer––and heating on wood, I’m rather enjoying it. I like having this relationship to timber. The complex personalities and characters of the different species are fascinating to me––the fresh lime aroma of Poplar; the meaty look, rubbery texture and gamey smell of Elm (locally pronounced: EL-um); the lactic acid bouquet of Cedar accompanied by its lively pink interior; Sassafras, the root beer soda of firewood (ahem, SASS-friss).
Watching each wood burn I like observing, however modest, their individual control over the fire. Cedar, for instance, burns hot and furious, whereas hard woods like Oak and Dogwood loiter and burn lazily (though admittedly cast a great ember when they’re gone). There is a lot of information to be found in a fire, and the type of heat the wood gives off. It’s a heat that seems to wrap itself around your shoulders, rubbing cold from your bones, and tending to your frozen limbs with the efficiency of a loving mother––much different than the impassive steam or electric heats. Wood creates a complex heat, the heat that invented cozy, and a well-flavored heat. Bake a sweet potato in a gas oven and compare it to a wood-oven-baked sweet potato and there is no contest. It may be more moody, but wood is often the best ingredient in about any dish.
I’ve still got a great deal to learn about wood, and a great deal more I would like to know. Eventually, I would like to start woodworking. I would like to learn more about all the different uses of all the different woods. But until then, I’m getting a pretty good education just hauling the stuff around and burning it. Emersion, as they say.