Home and Hearth

The typical (since 2000) end of winter woodpile

Replenish as you deplete: that has been the Rule of the Woodpile since we moved to Goose Creek in 1999 and spent our first winter in Y2K.

Until maybe eight years ago, this meant extraordinary measures involving me (and oftentimes also Ann) getting down and dead wood to the stacks by cutting and tossing downslope, cross creek, upslope and carry or end-over-end to the truck for way longer a distance than efficiency or good sense would dictate.

Then the time came I realized I could buy a year’s worth of wood for a couple of days work in the PT clinic, and replenishing as depleted only required finding a reliable source of responsibly-cut wood a year or two in advance of need.

My 10 foot runners stacked two stove-lengths deep and five feet high hold 125 cubic feet of wood. A cord is 128. So I knew how much wood I needed to fill the available space; I knew how much wood the dump truck load would leave in Yucca Flats below the house.

And so while there were brief gaps in the wood stacks, by the time wood burning season was passed, the stacks were filled in, drying, and waiting on the inevitable return to the duty of feeding the open maw of a voracious and insatiable wife-heating wood stove for another year.

Today’s withering, vanishing, unreplenished, final wood pile for the Firsts

That was then. This is now. I’ve taken up the empty runners (mostly locust) and stored them near the propane tanks, in case the next folks want to burn wood. And why would they not? We are leaving at least one of the QuadriFire stoves in place and the hills continue to offer windfall oaks, cherries, poplars and hickories–many of which lay where they fell this past winter, since I am out of the wood-cutting biz on Goose Creek.

I can’t tell you the extent to which this wood-centered seasonal ritual has driven my days for six months or more for the past two decades. And looking out on the bare runners; seeing out my office window what might be the last firewood I ever burn grow less and less: this is a kind of trauma of change typical of so many disturbances to our usual ordinary that are the cost of doing business when relocating.

At The Other Place, there is not currently an option for burning wood. But there are seven acres of hardwoods that are reasonably accessible for that purpose. We plan to live there through the first winter with the existing heat pump and gas logs and see if we can live contentedly without wood heat.

I have my doubts.

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fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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