Wood is dirty this time of year. Dirty and necessary. It starts with a load dropped in your driveway. It’s frosted in snow and ice, the frosting protects a layer of dirt and soil since you are now getting the stuff that was downed and split in the fall or perhaps early summer then covered with leaves and the detritus of many loads of wood dropped on top of it since. You stack it in the garage hoping the layers you knocked off while stacking along with the air-flow method you employed mean dry wood when you actually need it.
But the temperature of the wood itself keeps the garage cold and the logs are lightly fused together from the moisture left during stacking.
You carry armloads from the garage to the “tack room/mud room” which is relatively warmer. Silt sifts down through the pile as it warms, settling on the lower pieces and blanketing the floor.
It sits for a day or so there as you deplete the log holder piece-by-piece.
From there it moves to the living room and the warmth of the basket next to the fireplace. Here it will have a short life of intense drying which releases further particles of dirt and debris. Finally, it goes into the fire where amazingly, you see spiders and bugs come alive and scurry to escape the flames. The wood then is reduced to ashes which require frequent trips to the backyard in the ash-bucket so the fireplace will draw properly.
Wood is dirty work that requires way too much hands-on. But the work is beautifully summed up in one of my favorite poems. Cilla Congrave wrote the following in 1930:
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for logs ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within you house will be;
But Ash new or Ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.
Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
e’en the very flames are cold
But Ash green or Ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
But Ash wet or Ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.