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Wood Pantry

December 31, 2012

Much 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.

Calais flint
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.

fir, chesnut, prune, hemlock

fir, chesnut, prune, hemlock

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!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2012 1:09 am

    And Happy New Year to you all too. And thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us.

  2. December 31, 2012 2:25 am

    The happiest of a New Year to you too!

  3. December 31, 2012 2:59 am

    Such a timeless post for the end of the year, how appropriate 🙂 Have a good new year yourself and may you continue to go from strength to strength

  4. jenj permalink
    December 31, 2012 5:53 am

    Beautiful, poetic post. Lovely first thing in the morning!

    And all dogs must be the same everywhere – first the cold, wet nose applied to any exposed skin, then the, “Moooom, I gotta goooo!” whine. Too funny!

  5. akaangrywhiteman permalink
    December 31, 2012 6:02 am

    Natures way of storing sunshine, wood heat.

  6. December 31, 2012 6:13 am

    Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to learning more from your blog in the coming year.

  7. Craig permalink
    December 31, 2012 6:22 am

    What a beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing so much of you life with us! Praying 2013 is an incredible year filled with love, joy and health for you and your family!

  8. John permalink
    December 31, 2012 6:38 am

    I really miss having wood heat and you’re making it worse. Thanks… 😉

    What is the story behind the chestnut? It is native around here but long destroyed by the blight except tiny isolated populations, but I don’t think it is native in Oregon? Did you plant it? Is it American? Or Euro/Asian of some kind?

    Your nice straight grained conifer wood makes me jealous too. It probably isn’t all like that, but its a long way from a twisted, knotty, little osage orange!

    • December 31, 2012 7:13 am

      John, wood heat is pretty nice, as long as you have wood 😉 The chestnuts here were planted in the late 1800’s and the tree in question split in half, it was the grandma of them all, and quite large and gnarly. I believe them to be Chinese, really nice trees to have on a homestead. They grow fast, provide nuts and fodder and coppice to beat the band.

      I like the straight grain fir the best, lots of heat, almost no ash and our prominent tree so it’s plentiful. Fun to split too:)

      • Kristin permalink
        January 1, 2013 6:32 am

        John – The last time Nita posted about Chestnuts, I did some research. The blight hit the east 100 year ago but has slowly made its way west. It isn’t to Nita’s yet, thankfully. Nita – I do not think they are Chinese. They are American and brought, as you note, by your grandparents & other settlers, from here to there in the mid-to-late 1800s. I pray the blight never gets that far.

        • January 1, 2013 7:25 am

          Kristin, it’s always hard to tell when old stories are passed down orally, but I do know that a neighbor (horticulturist) sent several gunny sacks of seeds from our trees to Raintree Nursery in the 80’s. They were looking to find Chestnuts from pioneer orchards that were either resistant to blight or were Chinese in origin. Ours came back labeled as Chinese and not quite productive enough to grow on for their nursery.

          At this point, I don’t really care what type they are, they are more productive than we need for home use, and nice trees to have around, in our dark green, year round setting 🙂

        • Kristin permalink
          January 1, 2013 9:23 am

          I don’t really care the variety, either, Nita. I have read that the blight doesn’t survive out there by you…..a temp/humidity thing. It means that one day, if the blight can be conquered, or a resistant American tree found, that the American Chestnut might return here. It was a huge industry whose demise certainly lead to much of the poverty in this area. I’ve never had good, fresh, roasted chestnuts. Perhaps my great grandchildren might.

  9. December 31, 2012 7:49 am

    What a beautiful end of the calendar year post, thank you. This reminds me of one of my favorite bits from Aldo Leopoldo, “Good Oak.”
    Happy and healthy new year to you and yours!

  10. December 31, 2012 8:26 am

    Beautiful post and hoping Matron and company a wonderful 2013 from the Hickery Holler Farm gang!


  11. December 31, 2012 8:51 am

    That was a wonderfully well written post. Informative as usual, but just had an extra touch to it:) All the best to you and yours in the New Year.

  12. Lindyjane permalink
    December 31, 2012 9:09 am

    Happy New Year! Thanks for your your thoughtful writing and inspiration.

  13. Bev permalink
    December 31, 2012 9:41 am

    Our morning chores start with the fire in the wood stove. Gathering and splitting the wood goes on in the summer with DH and I the crew. To us a full wood shed is the best. This a.m. we have the “Freezing Fog.” Temps in the 20’s and it looks like it snowed. Ice crystals on everything. With the dog, cat and horse fed, we enjoy the smell of bacon, eggs and hot coffee. Looking at a beautiful world. Love the corn hanging above your stove. A Happy New Year. Thank you for all the wonderful inspiration you share with us. Blessings!

    • Mom24boys permalink
      January 2, 2013 1:30 am

      Just an incidental tidbit…. I read in an old book about Oregon (1905-1915? I can’t find it right now to check) that back in the day, the natives called that freezing fog a “pogonip”
      Isn’t that interesting? I love to learn new words and try to keep them alive.

  14. December 31, 2012 10:02 am

    That was lovely. Our woodpile is made of of odds and ends of other people’s trees–there’s the madrona that came from Mary’s backyard; this is that old sequoia tree that blew down in the windstorm two falls ago. Thanks for your blog! I find it inspirational.

  15. Ben permalink
    December 31, 2012 10:55 am

    A beautiful conclusion to the year. Now when is that book of yours coming out…?

  16. December 31, 2012 12:13 pm

    The smell of burning wood sends me back in time to a warm, peaceful place. Some day I will again have a wood stove in the house. Until then, I must satisfy myself with burning wood outside. Thanks for the memory trip. Wood. It holds many memories.

  17. December 31, 2012 4:48 pm

    Happy New to you and your family. I look forward to the new year and watching for your wonderful tales of life on the homestead!

  18. December 31, 2012 11:20 pm

    A great post for year’s end, thanks. May 2013 be peaceful and prosperous for you, your family, and all of your readers.

  19. Marilyn permalink
    January 1, 2013 11:34 am

    Thank you for stirring up the memories. For me, my strongest memories come from hay season. For many generations my family has “put up hay”. As a small child I loved riding atop the hay wagon on the way to the barn. The first time I got to drive the truck – slowly, slowly, slowly through the field as my father and sisters threw bales on the trailer was such a thrill. I like to think I was about 11 but I was probably older.

    The aroma of fresh cut hay, the bumpy ride through the field, taking a turn driving the truck, the dust filled barn… I’ve tried to pass the enjoyable parts of haying on to my kids. Alas, they seem to just view it as work but I think there was a time I did too. Maybe when they are reminiscing at 50 they will have fond memories of hay time too.

  20. January 1, 2013 2:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing your musings on wood! Who “wood” have imagined so much depth in a log? 🙂 You have written a thought-provoking essay. I hope your family knows how lucky they are when you wake up early and get the fire going! Happy New Year and warm thoughts for 2013!

  21. michelle v. permalink
    January 6, 2013 7:00 am

    This post is my absolute favorite. It filled my soul the way only really good.writing can. Thank you.

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