Piling It Up

As the days get shorter, the log pile gets longer. Before much longer, the log pile will begin to get shorter also, and as the days finally begin to lengthen this winter, the log pile will shrink even more rapidly. When the sap begins to run, the pile will shrink away to almost nothing. Ideally, there will be just enough left to take the chill off the house on a cold day in the spring – and to serve as a beginning for next year’s pile.

The traditional cord of wood is four feet by four feet by eight feet. My wood pile, however, is roughly six feet high, four feet wide and as long as necessary – about 20 feet at the moment. So how many cords is that? Well, somewhere about three. It probably takes at least three cords of wood to heat the house and another cord to make maple syrup, so I’m getting to where I need to be. For the next few weeks, however, until the snow flies, building the pile up has to be a priority. Once there’s snow on the ground, it’s harder to get the tractor into the woods to bring more wood to the pile.

It’s a five stage process. One: cut down a dead tree. There are always more of those to be found. Sometimes a high wind does the job for me. Two: cut the tree into lengths and load them in the tractor cart. Three: bring the load up to the shed behind the house. Four: unload it and split it. Five: stack it. This last stage requires significant planning. I start the stack at the end nearest the house and lay the split pieces of wood in layers each layer at right angles to the layer below it. All of this is on a foundation for which I use wood pallets from the hardware store. They get the pallets on shipments to them and put them out for anyone to pick up who wants them. As the crosshatched pile rises, I can begin to pile wood moving away from the crosshatched pile and sloping down. When I come to the end of the foundation, I will build another crosshatched pile to hold the wood pile at the far end. The pieces in between are simply placed side-by-side in a double-thick stack. The so-called face cord is a single-thick stack. Somehow that looks very complicated as I tried to explain it but, as they say, it’s easy when you know how – – and that comes from years of doing it.

Along the way you also learn the various merits of ash and maple and hickory and red oak and birch. But that’s for another time. Right now I’ve got to go and pile some more wood.

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