I will have to keep this post short, as I have three cord of firewood arriving this morning. The cost will be $540.00, which in my past was more than I could afford, so for years I cut my own. This year I decided I’m getting old and ought to splurge.
Eighteen months ago I splurged by getting a new propane heater to replace the giant, broken, rusty “spider” in my cellar. I decided I was getting old then, as well, and after nearly a quarter century of putting off fixing the old heater, (because I couldn’t afford it,) I advanced, in one fell swoop, from the stone age of a roaring device that worked at 50% efficiency to a purring modern object a third as large that worked at nearly 90% efficiency. It didn’t even require a chimney, and simply had a small vent.
I thought my wife and I would be happy. No more ashes, no more bugs, no more worry about whether the house would be warm if we were gone for longer than twelve hours. We weren’t happy. In fact we turned out to be stuck in our ways. Not that it wasn’t fun to get away for more than twelve hours, however something was definitely missing.
I missed being outside and cutting and splitting, so I went right back to doing it, enjoying the briskness of fall and winter, and the pauses to study the sky. I missed the tiny heating bill, and went right back to that as well. But what my wife missed was the radiance.
There is something about a heating register in the floor that simply lacks romance. We have four wood stoves in our small, drafty, 250-year-old house, and I’ve always noticed how they attracted humans like moths are attracted to a light. With the new heater, I usually only use one stove now, but even if the house is warm the stove still attracts visitors. My wife and I decided what attracted was the invisible radiance. She even decided she didn’t mind the bugs and ashes as much as she thought she did; she wanted that woodstove warm in her favorite room, rather than standing as a cold and very clean object.
I liked burning wood because it, in a sense, thumbs my nose towards Big Oil and Arab nations. One reason I was able to raise five kids with very little money was that I often paid zero, I repeat zero, to heat my home in New Hampshire, where below zero temperatures occur nearly every winter, and the weather can stay below freezing for weeks on end, during a hard winter.
When we were first looking at our house I took one look at the nails sticking through the un-insulated attic roof, knew they’d be white with frost in the winter, and moved on to look at other houses. My wife would not accompany me. She had been charmed, and knew what she wanted. Therefore we lived in a house that stayed cool even with four stoves roaring, when it got down to twenty-seven below zero, and we raised children who developed, like cats, the uncanny ability to find the warmest spot. Until I put the fourth stove in the cellar my kids avoided the floor during cold waves, and one of my favorite pictures is of a toddler sitting atop our upright piano.
It was a battle, to stay warm for free. I was able to do it because I worked as a handyman and landscaper, and this involved clearing dead trees from back yards. My chainsaw was actually a business expense and deduction. My favorite job was when a lady moved up from Massachusetts and wanted an ugly pile of firewood removed from her yard. That time I got well over a cord of cut and split hardwood, and rather than paying for it I made a hundred dollars removing it.
Back around 1987 the economy went sour, and the “Massachusetts Miracle” turned into the Massachusetts Mess, and this area, where many men worked construction, suffered not “an economic downturn” but a true depression. By 1991 three of the four houses I could see from my front porch had “For Sale” signs, and the population of the town was shrinking. The woods became surprisingly clean and tidy, as those who stayed turned to burning wood.
Regarding the question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, does it make a sound?” The answer was, “Yes, ‘Ka-ching.’” Also it was a silly question, because if a tree fell in the woods, everyone heard it, and it vanished in a twinkling.
Now a quarter century has passed, and I sometimes wonder if people are losing that self-reliance. Rather than hustling to get wood, people sit around and complain more, it seems to me. (However I am an old grouch, now.)
What really gets to me is when people call the smell of a wood fire, “pollution,” and want to ban it. But that is a subject for another post. (I’ve gone on too long, and the wood will be arriving soon.)
What I most enjoy is the attitude of the following post, which was on a site largely devoted to fashion, of all things. (What I know about fashion you could fit in a thimble.) It holds humor’s ability to take a situation that might make others growl, and instead to break the dawn of laughter. (Next to love, humor is the most redeeming quality of mankind.) (And singing in the rain ought not be the exclusive property of young lovers.)