Saturday, March 05, 2011
In late autumn and through the winter I maintain a big stack of firewood (about half a cord) out on the deck by the door nearest the woodstove. Fire demand from mid-December to mid-February is pretty much full flame ahead.
As winter fades, though, the maintained pile dwindles, and by this time of year there are days when we need no fire at all, the sun does a fine job, especially with no leaves on the trees, so there's little woodstack replenishment going on (there are lots of other things to do like soil prep! pruning! raingutters! lettuce! potatoes!), with just enough wood at stoveside for maybe an evening.
But the other morning before dawn, after a few warm days I found myself plunging out into a sudden blizzard to get some firewood for the day; I'd be in the office, but Echo would be teaching yoga so there had to be a fast but long-burning fire that would quickly get hot and then stay hot. For kindling we have a big tin-lined hibachi box next to the stove that we stock with pine cones, autumnal cedar branch windfall and chopped up woodscrap, so starting was no problem, but for a fast first burn I'd need a mix of various woods and sizes, some small split cherry would do, plus a bit of narrow locust and cluster of beech limbs, this thin bit of oak would give it some heart, plus a good piece of camphor to put atop the stove, nice yoga spice...
Out there in the snowy silence I found myself doing the same sort of thing I do when planning to cook: I was gathering a bit of this and that of flame and heat, of this duration and that intensity, to fit the duration/heat/frequency needs of morning, afternoon and evening, and was doing it without thinking about it, it was perfectly natural to be out there among all those kinds of wood, selecting for certain qualities-- nice ring they give off in the snowsilence too, as you stack them on your arm...
So I wandered around the various firewood stacks for a few minutes gathering the right mix for a fast-hot, room-warming morning fire that with a nice piece of ironwood as the long-lasting firecore would segue smoothly into a deep, warm and steady yoga fire that needed no stoking, then some cherry logs to add for the afternoon fire, plus some large chunks of gold-- i.e., hard dry oak, to carry the fire into dinner and on through the night. Took about 15 minutes to carefully select those armfuls of only the finest ingredients to meet the precise requirements of my Endless Flame Recipe for a certain day in March.
Guide Michelin, eat your heart out.