I love chopping firewood. I love stacking it. I love burning it. It’s the most economical heat around (at least here in the Pacific Northwest,) it smells good, and as the saying goes – it warms you twice: once when you cut and stack it, and again when you burn it.
To tell the truth, I often get three or four warmings out of a cord of wood. This is because I don’t plan well. First I unload the wood from the truck, then I unload the junk from the woodshed, then I stack the wood in the woodshed, then I split the wood a bit smaller and haul it to my house to burn.
Wood heat is less convenient than the kind of heat you get by turning a knob on the wall. But wood heat makes up for this by being warmer and more romantic. Any reasonable life must have romance. Compare standing beside, or lying in front of, a crackling (or roaring, take your pick) fire and crouching over the forced-air heat register in the bathroom. I’ve done both and I think any wife will agree that the former is much more romantic. I’m not saying that forced-air heat precludes romance. But it’s lacking in points. Consider also, the man in red flannel with an axe over his shoulder versus the man in sweatpants paying the electric bill.
Now let’s talk about creativity and freedom of expression as they relate to firewood. You may think of processing firewood as dreary manual labor, repetitive and mind-numbing. Oh, but you’re so wrong. It is just the opposite, especially if you are making your own.
There are only two ways to turn a thermostat, up or down, and only three ways I can think of to pay a heating bill. (Online, via postal mail, or in person when the lineman comes to shut your power off.) There are dozens of ways to stack, split, cure and burn firewood. Everyone who does it develops their own preferences and methods. No two people swing an axe, or build a fire the very same way and no two woodsheds are identical. Each stack of wood is the creative expression of the individual who put it there. It’s tangible evidence that a real person was at work. For me, it’s tangible evidence that I did something useful. Some days that’s good to know. That stack of wood is a valuable pile of fuel that will keep my kids warm in winter.
Some people live in the city where there are no wood stoves and there is no firewood to stack. So people resort to doing all sorts of strange things to fill the void. I know of one woman who began carrying buckets of rocks around in her apartment. She was lucky that she was able to find those rocks, because it could have been the gym for her.
Someday, somebody will open a firewood processing plant in a city and call it a fitness center. They will hire coaches to teach people how to swing splitting mauls, hatchets and axes. There will be digital scales and timers so that patrons can keep track of how much wood they are able to split and stack in a fifty minute workout and chart their progress. Then the fitness center will sell the resulting firewood to yuppies in the suburbs on the other side of town.
All this makes me ask the question: Is it possible to live a reasonable life in the city?