firewood pile

I used to be a man with a devil may care attitude towards my firewood pile, which in Norway would make me last resort husband material and possibly a bit of a scoundrel into the bargain. At times I’ve had no woodpile to speak of and a man with a small woodpile is thought to live from hand to mouth.

Like a lot of people it seems, I’m currently reading Lars Mytting’s great meditation on the art of preparing an impressive firewood pile, Norwegian Wood. The passage I’ve just finished goes like this:

“In all of Scandinvia it is also common wisdom that you can tell a lot about a person from his woodpile. For those looking to marry, the following can be used as a rule of thumb.

Upright and solid pile: Upright and solid man

Low pile: Cautious man, could be shy or weak

Tall pile: Big ambitions, but watch out for sagging and collapse

Unusual shape: Freethinking, open spirit, again, the construction may be weak

Flamboyant pile, widely visible: Extroverted, but possibly a bluffer

A lot of wood: A man of foresight, loyal

Not much wood: A life lived from hand to mouth

Logs from big trees: Has a big appetite for life, but can be rash and extravagant

Pedantic pile: Perfectionist; may be introverted

Collapsed pile: Weak will, poor judge of priorities

Unfinished pile, some logs lying on the ground: Unstable, lazy, prone to drunkenness

Everything in a pile on the ground: Ignorance, decadence, laziness, drunkenness, possibly all of these

Old and new wood piled together: Be suspicious, might be stolen wood added to his own

Large and small logs piled together: Frugal. Kindling sneaked in among the logs suggests a considerate man

Rough, gnarled logs, hard to chop: Persistent and strong willed, or else bowed down by his burdens

No woodpile: No husband”

A good few years ago, I installed a large wood burning stove in the dining room of our old rented farmhouse, a really big one that has a built in boiler to heat the water and even operate further radiators in all of the other rooms around the house; a fully wood fired central heating system if you will.

Now, if you plan to do something similar (and I recommend it), just stop for a minute or two before you jump into the idea with both feet. It’s only now, a good ten years on from the installation of the wood burner that I have come to realise that I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. For the first 5 years or so of using the system we regularly ran out of logs and/or were ill prepared for the onset of winter most years.

Burning wood to heat your home, of course, requires that you have a stockpile of wood to burn…simple so far. However, there’s a lot more to burning logs than meets the eye. First up there is the type and quantity of wood you will need. Different tree species have different calorific values; some burn hotter then others, some provide more energy than others. Then there is the subject of seasoning the wood. It must have a enough time to dry out or it wont burn efficiently enough to keep you warm and minimise the likelihood of pollution of the atmosphere.

If you want to get a grip of the full range of skills and preparations you need to make for such a heating system, then you should read Lars Mytting’s book.

The Norwegian tale at the top of this piece is only partly tongue in cheek. If you think about it the woodpile/character trait comparison holds true. I am a bit scatty and last minute, ill prepared, always have been, but I recognised that this wasn’t an option for my current life style the hard way. In literal terms, I sometimes didn’t have any suitably dry firewood and we spent some cold evenings watching recently acquired logs smoulder and smoke without giving off any heat. This same trait is the one that saw me run out of money frequently too, to the point where we were really struggling with basics like fuel for the car and the paying of bills.

The point of all of this today is not to convince you to convert to burning wood, although that is a noble art to get into once you’ve freed yourself from the hamster wheel, but rather to try to focus on the preparations you must make in order to give yourself a reasonable chance of staying out of servitude after you make the break for freedom.

The woodpile analogy can tell you a lot about who you are and what kind of enterprise you might be best suited to. For example if you’re a everything lying on the ground  or unfinished pile person, then you probably won’t relish having to sit at a desk taking care of details, whereas a pedantic pile might indicate that details are for you. We go through life sometimes, not really knowing what makes us tick, probably due to the fact that we’ve never had the luxury of spare time to sit around and find out. Go check your woodpile or something analogous with that (like your ironing pile, car interior or DVD collection) and find out what makes you tick. It will be a great help in identifying what’s going to fit you in terms of a self driven enterprise.

It might even show you that you need to make some changes and encourage you to make them. This is a very positive thing and not at all like squeezing a square peg into a round hole as you might first think. I feel so much more positive now that I’ve sorted my woodpile, literally and metaphorically. Dry wood in the shed is like money in the bank, it helps you to feel secure and confident that you are following the right path…for now anyway.

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 Photo Credit: nationalrural via Compfight cc

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