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Satisfying Stacks

Created: Wednesday, 03 January 2018 Written by Don Quay

I collected our firewood this week.

I’m getting much better at manoeuvering the trailer, and so to be honest it was an excuse to use it.

I could have had it delivered loose or on pallets. ‘Bois de Chauffage’ is available in many forms and from many sources. Useful words include ‘stere’ (a cubic metre) and ‘brasse’ (4 cubic metres) and prices vary. Handmade signs adorn the rural roadside, and a little French (and cash!) will introduce you to this cottage industry. ‘Buyer beware’ in terms of price and quantity. And quality. Many owner-operators are super-helpful and reliable - especially those selling from home year-on-year, rather than from a trailer in a car-park....

I forage kindling from our own trees. Shrub cuttings will smoke horribly and do not generally smell nice. They go to the local tip to be recycled into compost.

I create and season small logs from pruning our elderly fruit trees; there is something special about the smell of apple wood. And I have several huge cedar rounds left by the previous owner which, at current progress, will take several lifetimes to split and burn. No matter, they are nice to look at and an insects paradise.

But I do not have enough wood-wood.

I have a lot of poplar growing at home. It is a highly versatile tree; lovely to look at, it sounds quite amazing in a breeze, it is home to birds and squirrels, our donkeys enjoy the shelter from the summer sun and the lush winter grass underneath (and eating the bark!). It can be commercially viable as a crop for paper production and it is important as a land-drain - but it is NOT a good firewood. It burns with poor heat and much smoke......

For the bulk of our needs I visit a specialist company 20 minutes away. Cash or cheque only, two pallets (each about 1 stere) are expertly loaded by fork-lift, and I’m off. It is split and cut to length and ready to burn.

If you are not used to having a fire, then advice is freely available. Consider whether you have an open fire or a wood burner (or both). Some wood with more resin will spit badly. And what size logs will fit either fire! Commonly supplied trees are sustainable young oak (chêne) or hawthorn (aubépine) and acacia (acacia!). Mention that you want to burn it this year. There is a small price premium. And obviously you’ll need somewhere to store it with cover from the worst of the rain, but access to some air.

For me - apart from the heat - aesthetics are important. A neatly stacked woodpile is just …… nice! This extends to the stack next to the fire. Those DIY leftovers and bits of pallet can be used to get a fire going - but they are strictly not to be seen. Oh no!

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