Waiting for the Wood to Dry...

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When I was a kid, growing up on a farm in the Adirondacks, my father always had a huge pile of wood, piled around the side of the house. It was a dairy farm that had been in existence since the early 1800's, perhaps even earlier. As any good farm had in those days, there was a good portion of it reserved as the wood lot. Self-sufficiency has always been important to any farm, and maintaining your heating source is essential. My dad did pretty well maintaining that wood lot, as his father and grandfather did before him. Not that the house stayed any too warm in the winter, no matter how much wood you burned.

The house was built in the late 1800's, when fireplaces were being phased out, to be replaced by parlor stoves. By the time I came around, those parlor stoves had been replaced by a massive iron and sheet metal, wood-burning monstrosity in the cellar. Heating pipes wove across the cellar ceiling and angled up to meet the louvered registers opening from the first floor. On a really bitter night, the only place to get warm was standing right over the registers.

And the second floor, where the kids' bedrooms were? Well, let's just say there were no heating pipes direct to the second floor. What heat you got leaked in dribs and drabs up through more louvered registers in the bedroom floors. All the bedrooms had the old stove pipe holes covered with the old-fashioned, painted hole-covers, but the stoves had been removed. Technology marches on, and the one big wood-burner in the cellar was thought at one time to be more efficient, so out goes the old, and in comes the new. New isn't always better... There was many a winter morning when I could scrape frost off the inside of my bedroom window.

I didn't do a lot with the wood-pile when I was growing up, being the youngest, and having older siblings to do that. I do remember opening the cellar hatchway and tossing logs down against the closed cellar door below. You could stack that hatchway full, and it was always a wonder whether the logs would come tumbling down into the cellar or get stuck in a clump, when my father opened the door below. I did do some chopping, but not a lot -- rebellious teenagers usually don't look on 'chores' favorably. And yes, I was a typical teenager-- I couldn't wait to get away from the farm and all those chores.

And now, thirty years later, I'm renting an old farmhouse, with a connected shed and woodshed. I have three fireplaces, a parlor stove and a cast-iron cook stove. I'm chopping wood and thinking, "This is great exercise! My doctor'd be proud!" I'm hauling wood from the woodshed late at night, just to keep the stoves going, and lighting a fire in the bedroom when it's really cold. My wife and I are stacking wood by the barn and covering it with a tarp when it rains, and making sure it's uncovered when it's sunny. I worry about whether it will be dry enough by the time it starts snowing again, which around here could be any time now... And with the wood frenzy this year, it was a long time before it could be delivered, luckily, not at an exorbitant price.

I'm doing all things my dad did to get us through the winter. I have become my Dad, just without the rebellious teenagers around... I'm certainly getting his aching joints when the weather changes...

I'm on vacation this week (something my parents only took once in their entire life -- to go to Expo in Montreal with us kids, and drive back through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in an old station wagon) and the first thing on the list of chores I made for myself is to finish stacking the wood. Then weed the garden, and then sort the pantry to get ready for winter. And then there's those book shelves that need painting and the kitchen chairs that need staining and varnishing. Funny, when we lived in Boston, I used to take time to lay around the house, reading or painting. I think I know why my parents only got to take a vacation once...

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This page contains a single entry by JeffAdminist published on January 20, 2009 11:45 PM.

Teching It In Maine was the previous entry in this blog.

The Longest Winter is the next entry in this blog.

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