04 January 2009

Satisfaction is ...

... a full wood ring.

It occurred to me, as I was loading heavy, stove-length splits of firewood into the wheeled cart I use to bring them into the house, that this is one chore I never mind. There I stood in the 28-degree, early morning, just out of bed. I was wearing rubber-grip gardening gloves on my hands, thick socks with wool slippers on my feet, and a fleece jacket over my thin cotton pajamas, enjoying myself.

Bringing in wood is far more satisfying than, say, scrubbing the bathroom or unloading dishes from the dishwasher. It beats vacuuming and mopping the floor by miles. I’d much rather fill the wood-ring than do laundry, though I do like the smell and feel of clothes, towels and sheets fresh out of the dryer, still warm. But there’s something special about bringing in wood.

For one thing, there’s a price. My hands are getting worse and worse with rheumatoid arthritis, so there’s a certain amount of pain involved in bringing in firewood. I used to be able to grasp each split one-handed; now I need to lift each one with both hands, carefully. It slows me down, but now that we keep a couple of racks of wood under the carport, protected from the weather, I don’t really mind. When I finish the chore, and the ring is full, I’m always rather proud of myself. I did it in spite of the RA. I took care of myself. I’m a tough little bird.

Then, there’s the simple, physical labor of the chore. We buy almond-wood each season. It’s a good hardwood, dense and nice-smelling. It’s very heavy. Each split weighs at least three pounds. It doesn’t sound like much until you need to lift and stack 50 pieces of it. Now, this isn’t exhausting work, by any means, but it’s truly what I regard as a chore. It takes some strength. Some determination. By the time I’ve moved those 50 or so pieces of split wood from the woodpile outside to the ring inside, I feel like I’ve done something.

Then there’s the security of a full wood ring. As most of my readers know by now, Mr. Wren and I heat our house through the winter only with the woodstove. Our house, built in the early 1970s, is equipped with electric baseboard heaters. To our dismay, we discovered upon moving into the house in November of 1997 that keeping the place warm was going to cost us about $100 per week. There was no way we could afford that then, and we still can’t. So buying wood, stacking it, and burning it in the woodstove became not only necessary, but vital. Today, that full wood ring symbolizes at least three days of day and night warmth. It means old man Winter has to be content with howling outside the windows, not freezing us inside, too.

And finally, there’s the reward. That’s the delicious, comforting warmth of a wood fire. There is just nothing better than backing up to the blazing stove and feeling that heat penetrate my cold, stiff joints and muscles. When my hands are aching, holding them in front of the radiating wood stove is sublime. It feels so very good. Without the work I did, this warmth would not exist. And that gives me a deep and abiding feeling of accomplishment.

It doesn’t hurt, either, to know that the three cords of wood we buy each summer for the winter ahead costs us about the same as one winter month of electric heat.

Now that’s satisfaction.

3 comments:

Bill Stankus said...

I notice your stove window is reasonably clear. Often when our stove is with dying coals, the glass sometimes is blackened.

I've found it very easy to clean - when the window is cool - by using dilute ammonia and a paper towel,

If I had a few pieces of almond wood I probably would carve something or use the wood for decorative touches in furniture. Fruitwoods generally have good color and interesting grain patterns.

samcandide said...

I always have had woodstoves until I moved to town a couple of years ago. I loved working with wood. Here I have an insert not too unlike yours and not other heat on the place except for an assortment of antique 220v electric space heaters: $100 a week. At least. And no choice--this year, anyway. Someone stole all my wedges and sledges and splitting mauls last year, and no way could I buy firewood when it was prudent to do so. But I will count on you for advice next year, if we're still here, on the fine points of woodstove inserts.

Yup, firewood heats three times. At least.

Larry Jones said...

Here in SoCal we hardly use any heat at all, but I'll be thinking of you as the recession deepens and I start burning my furniture on chilly evenings.