When I moved to the cottage I fancied I’d collect my own firewood, driftwood from the beach and fallen branches from the woods, to keep me toasty through the winter. Ha! Not a chance. As the nights drew in and the air sharpened, I was burning what seemed like half a small forest a day. So, first lesson learnt, I ordered a load of logs. Now they’re sitting outside soaking up the rain because my wood store’s a shoogly thrown-together thing, nothing more than a discarded door resting on my compost heap. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t keep the wood dry in this drenched place. So my next job (when it stops raining) is to build a proper wood store – one that lets the air in and keeps the water out and can store a tonne of logs. Any tips welcome.
I’m learning though. I’ve become pretty nifty at slicing logs into satisfying piles of kindling with my trusty axe. And I’m finding out about different woods – how they season, the heat they give off and the smell of their smoke. My neighbour felled a few birch trees last spring. It burns longer and brighter than the lemony spruce and the smell is on the edge of sweet, like a smoked oyster. Throw in a few bits of driftwood and you get a whisper of the sea. The oak that I dragged up from the beach in the summer has a fierce, unstoppable heat and the old telephone pole burns like a demon (what was it treated with?). Every now and then my auntie brings a bag of off-cuts from my uncle’s days as a joiner; the little bits of plywood and pine are as dry as a bone and never fail to stoke a damp squib of a fire.
Once the fire gets to a certain state – its heart roaring and red – nothing can resist it, not even damp logs. I can’t resist it either, this gentle warmth that holds me in its purring glow. I unwind, sink deeper into my chair, maybe have a little snooze. Now, what was I saying about building a wood store?