One of my favorite winter memories is coming in from skiing or shoeing in the back woods and lighting the kitchen stove, leaving the heavy cast iron doors opened as we placed the protective screen to cover the opening as the fire burned bright. When we purchased the farm last Summer there was about a quarter of a cord of wood neatly stacked in the garage. We hadn’t intended using the kitchen stove to heat the house and didn’t order any wood for the Winter. After about the millionth Nor’Easter, I bundled up and made my way out to the garage. The house was costing a fortune to heat and we had kept the thermostat at a minimum to keep the oil and electric heat bills down. By the time Kyle arrived home from work, the stove had been burning for a couple of hours and the downstairs and hallway on the second floor was toasty warm and cozy. Just as we learned to manage the stove, the wood pile dwindled in the garage and we were left with only warm memories of being all a glow.
Kyle and I agreed to order a couple cords of wood as soon as all the snow melted. I told him I would gladly stack the wood and looked forward to it. He called me crazy and said of course. True to my word I called Scott down the road in mid March and reserved two cords to be delivered as soon as his truck wouldn’t sink into the mud pit we once knew as our yard. Last night my phone rang in the kitchen, I was surprised to see it was Scott. He asked if it was okay to deliver the wood. I asked when. He replied, “in five minutes.” Kyle’s face seemed overwhelmed as I excitedly remembered being in the kitchen during the long winter storms feeling warm and content to sit and stay awhile. I jumped up and down and threw my arms around Kyle. He squeezed me tight and whispered in my ear, “you’re crazy!”
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect! Just two days into Spring vacation I was able to devote the entire day to getting the pile stacked. I poured over Youtube watching videos of every day folk offering their stacking expertise and advise. Kyle watched over my shoulder and simply smiled. I learned a lot. A cord should be stacked in a 4 X 4 X 8 pile, the towers anchored the pile, and if you layered your piles two or more deep it was important to leave space between the stacks so the wood could season itself. I watched an older gentleman with a long white beard share that it would take five hours per cord to stack it. I felt determined to get it done the next day, so I asked Kyle to help me map out where we should put it and if he wanted it to look a certain way.
Libby and I quickly discovered that the logs that were cut into halves were the best “tower pieces” and that everything else filled in between them. We had dragged over our deep mud planks to serve as foundations for the piles. Excitement abound, we made quick work of the first layer aware that rain had been forecasted for later in the day. Anna came out and asked us if we had let the baby goats out. Libby and I looked up and saw that they were playing behind us in the tree face garden. The little stinkers had escaped again. As the sun rose above our heads and kept the sky clear we grew hot and tired. We unzipped our sweatshirts and took a water break. Anna went in to do the dishes and change over the laundry. Libby came back with two plastic cups filled with ice water and began playing with the goats. I surveyed the pile of wood, it seemed to be a third of the way down. My mind calculated what was left and I begin thinking that I would be able to finish stacking before Kyle came home from work. I wanted to surprise him and have it finished.
Aaron pulled up to the house. He was surprised at how much I had finished. He was getting ready for his new job and brought out some lunch that he had heated from left overs and offered me some. Libby disappeared inside as Aaron and talked about whether or not I should continue around the fence or stack the wood two piles deep. Tower pieces were thinning out in the pile and as all the kids made their way outside, I had instructed them to look through the pile for me and toss them aside so they would be ready when we needed them. My body began to ache but I was more than half way through the pile and even more determined to finish the job in one day. I envisioned taking the girls and their cousin downtown Portsmouth for a fro yo or ice cream from Annabelles. The goats had made the wood pile their new play land and watching them have so much fun passed the time away quickly. Soon enough, I was left alone with the animals to stack wood as the kids complained of the heat and being hungry. The bigs were instructed that they were in charge of making lunch.
What seemed like hours later, Libby came out to check my progress and squealed as she found me placing the last of the pile between the towers. She ran in to tell Anna, who questioned why I had more than six pieces left. Libby raised her hands to the sky and explained, “so I may have exaggerated a little.” The girls helped me place the twenty or so remaining logs and gather the kindling for the large rubber maid bucket. They both said how proud they were of me, and I was feeling kind of accomplished. It reminded me that everything in life is a process with its own unique stages, challenges, struggles, and rewards. I have grown to love this farm of ours and everything it brings each day to enrich our lives and grow our spirits.