Firewood! <Sheesh, people>
Stephen spent the weekend stacking it. We were going to make it a family project, but he just up and did it all. My hero. I didn't have to pick up so much as a stick of kindling.
That's is our new, classy, cheap and fully patented wood stacking system--2 cinder blocks, 2 beams, 4 2x4s. Boom. Done. Pretty smart, huh? I put the kibosh on spending $200 on a fancy iron frame, but we needed something. Previous years our stacks have been very haphazard and a disastrous frozen mess by January. That's only one cord of wood, with only half of it visible--there's another identical stack behind that one under the tarp. We mainly use our stove for ambiance, but it also keeps the propane cost down and it's a necessity for those nights when the electricity goes out during a big winter storm and we need a secondary heat source.
Our first winter up here we lived in an old farm house built around 1900 that was horribly insulated and heated almost entirely by a wood stove. We stacked in 3 cords of wood that fall.
I wasn't grinning like such a fool once the actual stacking began.
Aside from being as drafty as a rotting barn that house was really interesting. It was owned by a Swiss world antiques collector (we didn't have kids back then). It contained a huge Chinese Puppet theatre (complete with spooky puppets) that had been hidden away and then smuggled out of China during the cultural revolution, lots of African jewelry, textiles, masks and spears, and a wooden sculpture of a sacred bull that served as our Christmas tree that year.
Here's the sacred Hindu deity adored with wanton commercialism in celebration of Christmas. Blasphemy or refreshing acceptance of world cultures? You be the judge.
Our second fall in the mountains we were building our house and in an effort to save money as our construction loan payments were steadily rising, we moved out of the funky farm house and into a Yurt for 3 months (mid-August to mid-November). Don't know from yurt? This is a yurt.
It's a round, hide tent used historically by Mongolian nomads. The place was so dirty when we moved in, I just sat down on the floor and cried. Stephen gently told me I needed to cowboy up and reminded me that the owner's wife had lived in it through 3 winters. To which I screamed, "She's tougher than I am! She has a mustache for fuck's sake!" Not one of my finer moments.
It really wasn't all that bad. It was just the initial shock. It was strangely peaceful to live in a round structure in the middle of the woods with fresh air constantly blowing through. The center of the roof was a plexiglass dome so we literally slept under the stars with the sounds of nature all around us. And we had every modern convenience exactly 4 modern conveniences--running water in the sink (cold only), a toaster oven, a mini fridge, and high speed internet! The bathhouse was outside, down a short path. A round structure made of cordwood that had a toilet, hot water and a sauna. Not too shabby. Of course you had to make lots of noise before you headed out there at night because there were also bears.
I actually came to enjoy yurt living...until October.
A modern yurt isn't made of yak hide, you know. It has canvas walls. Ours was 100% "heated" by an old wood stove up cinder blocks. It got cold. If you let the fire die out in the night, you'd wake up to ice in your nostrils and your boots frozen to the floor planks. In early November that year Stephen (our nightly fire stoker) had to take a week long trip to New York for business. I just don't wake up on my own in the middle of the night usually, so the fire almost always went out and had to be completely relit in the morning. Coldest I've ever been in my life I think. And I'll admit, one morning I did resort to peeing in a saucepan while I worked on getting the fire going.
We ran out of wood the last week in the yurt. We mooched off friends like a couple of beggars. We even went back to the farm house under cover of darkness and "stole" a little of the wood we hadn't used from the previous winter.
All this to say, wood is important up here. Having enough firewood, the right kind, having it dry and well stacked--these things matter. It makes me feel very comforted to have this chore done, and done so well, in mid-October.
Let it snow.