uch to my dismay another calendar year has come and gone. A farm calendar is quite different though from the wall calendar that I use to plot and plan the year in food and farm with. It’s more like the year ends in October not December, but I exist in two worlds and have to keep time in both. It’s nice to keep the farm life pretty low tech, using a pencil on a piece of paper. A bit archaic in the modern world, I guess, but I find it comforting to look at that wall calendar. I can see where I’ve been and I can see where I am going.
It’s comforting too for me to look at this wood and see the possibilities, it’s not just a jag of firewood brought from the woodshed on a dry afternoon, the wood has a memory. If they say water has a memory, surely the wood does too. It’s not just warmth, I see, but that gnarly chestnut that was the downfall of my finger when we were wrestling the wood to the woodsplitter a year ago this June. I complain to the wood as I’m loading , as if it would listen to me. “You bugger!” I say. “It wasn’t my big idea to be firewood, you know.” The tree retorts. I have to silently agree, lesson learned. (For inquiring minds, no, the wood splitter wasn’t running at the time, but the blade wasn’t retracted all the way.) That wood is finally seasoned and will hold a good fire overnight if we get a cold spell. There are no hard feelings, just a more storied fire, which is part and parcel of rural living. Or can be.
We stock our woodshed with raw ingredients for cooking and heating, just like our pantry which is stocked for cooking and eating. I can split the seasoned wood to suit the type of fire I need, or I can make the raspberries into jam if I want. If the wood is split too small or the raspberries are jam already, I am limited in the kitchen. Our main objective is to get the wood to the wood shed for curing. We don’t spend much time breaking the wood into stove size pieces, rather we want it in manageable form for the trip from the woods to the shed. Splitting wood daily in the winter isn’t a bad pastime.
I see that wood, and I think of days like this, if I think hard, I can smell the woods on that day, the smell of the chainsaw mix, the pitch and the acrid scent of a Devils club stalk that was crushed under the deadfall fir. Or even better how my DH’s clothes smell, sawdust, gas, oil and pitch. Reminds me of last summer and all my summers really, whether it was my brother’s clothes or my Dad’s, who both have been gone 23 and 46 years respectively from this woodcutting and woodburning life. I’ve been here though, chopping wood and burning wood, all that time. In the same way, and in the same place. Learning the memory of the wood for myself, what it smells like when it’s burning, or when it was fresh, and where it lived until it died either quickly in a storm, or slowly sacrificing it’s place in the woods to it’s stronger comrades.
I woke up this morning and it was cold. Funny how it is when you heat with wood, if you don’t have fire, you’re not too warm The dogs wake me up with a wet nose, and hard beep. I pretend that I didn’t feel it and snuggle deeper under the quilts. More beeping and then the potty whine…okay, here we go, no one hears the clatter of two dogs and a dog mom going downstairs. Or the sound of the fire being kindled. It’s dark despite the moon and the snow. I know Jane is sleeping in her straw nest and I had spied the other cows from the bedroom window, in a group, steam rising off of them like whale spouts. No one here but me, the stove and the wood. No one really wants to stir on these dark winter mornings. The sky is clear though, so the fire will draw fast.
It takes about as long to boil water for coffee on the cookstove as our electric stove, so on brisk mornings like this, the cookstove is called into service. Wood does warm you twice, or even three times. Once the kettle is boiling I can open the oven and let the heat disperse through the room, we won’t eat until after milking and a some chores, so the heat feels good. All those little limbs that our ice storms are so kind to leave us make great firewood, I learned that wood story long ago. This morning leaning on the stove sipping my coffee in the morning quiet, I could be 6 or the seasoned almost 56, although I now like my coffee black, not with cream and sugar The fire feels the same.
I’m looking forward to the new year, of imprinting new memories right on top of my old ones and my wishes are for you to do the same. Happy New Year!