It was a pleasure to burn wood.
There’s something homey about wood heat, whether it comes from an old New Yorker or a fireplace.
For one, I love the smell of smoke on a fall morning. It’s comforting. Tiers of wood in a basement or shed have an earthy fragrance that takes you right into the middle of a forest. Bits of bark scattered over the floor makes the inside seem like the outside (of course, so do the mice, snakes, and wood spiders.)
When you have wood heat, it’s tradition to have a firewood party. It’s like a barn raising or quilting bee (not that I’ve ever been to one of those.)
See, doing firewood can be a thankless job for one or two people. It works best when you have a large group working toward the goal of filling a basement for winter.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of working with wood again for the first time in years. These days I have oil heat (mmmm, how I love the smell of burning fossil fuels in my basement) which is not much fun, and certainly no physical effort.
I remember wood heat fondly, as I had it growing up. It’s a potent heat. I used to wear shorts in winter. To sleep, I had to open my windows so I could catch a bit of cool air.
Oil heat? Well, let’s just say in conjunction with forced air, it’s not particularly fantastic. And my bedroom is the coldest room in the house, necessitating thick woolly sheets in winter.
Seeing as it’s been years since I participated in a firewood party, I was excited to help fellow human beings do their annual filling of the basement.
We didn’t get all the firewood moved and brought in for the whole winter, but we sure did sock away a lot of it.
I’d forgotten how dirty you get when you’re working with firewood. Wood itself is clean. Firewood is not. Each piece you move starts off a shower of bark and dirt. Heaven help you if there’s a ginormous spider or brown snake in the mix.
Wood is solid. This seems obvious, but when a hunk of firewood collides with any part of your body, solid takes on a whole new meaning. Dang it hurts. And this time around, I didn’t hurt myself, I let a piece of wood fall on someone else. Firewood fail.
My favourite part of the whole experience? Like all physical labour, I love cleaning up afterwards, smelling of soap, putting on fresh clothes… and eating.
Physical labour makes any food the best food you’ve ever eaten. It could be hot dogs and they taste like top sirloin.
Though firewood is hard work, it’s a joy to get the job done in one or two days and look back at the fruits of your labour. Don’t get me wrong: by the end of a firewood party or weekend, Advil will become your bestest buddy. That and Polysporin.
Thankfully, I only maimed myself once, by trying to move an iron pole that had metal teeth hungry for my finger. Some Polysporin and I was good to eat.
For the best firewood parties, all you need is a good crowd and lots of food. Mix with labour and enjoy. You’ll have a basement full of wood and spiders in no time.