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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Architects in wood

I confess to woodstack envy. A lot of people take a lot of care, or have a lot of talent, when it comes to constructing a mass of split logs for drying. One guy on Ash Point has an amazing one behind his house, three rows of logs close together, 6 feet high, 6 feet wide, and easily 100 feet long (I calculate this to be 25-30 cords and at nearly $200 a cord...). It's immense and gorgeous, perfectly stacked. The end of a row is built in a cross-hatch pattern, to prevent collapse, the body of the beast is tightly packed. He must have used a splitter, to achieve logs of such stackability.

Then there are the guys who have built little cozies for their wood, a roofed alcove along a garage or deck, or a free-standing, open-sided shed. They tend to be the summer people.

Clearly woodstacking is a guy thing.

My own piles are somewhat less artistic. The one along the garage was once rather impressive, the unsplit logs piled neatly and tidily. As I work it down, it looks bedraggled and bumpy. The other pile, near the leaching field, is the fresh one from this fall's tree work, the chunked-up logs stacked like soup cans, the longer ones still lying helter-skelter. (I tell myself it's not really my pile - the tree guys haven't finished their work.) Then there's the one in the garage, composed of split wood and definitely untidy, due to a wide variety of sizes and shapes and and an inconsistency of manual splitting ability, not to mention a certain lack of patience for esthetic achievement when your back hurts.

I play more serious architect inside the house. The log rack next to the stove has pretensions to glory, and the art of loading the stove makes me feel better about my northwoodsmanship. I claim there's a technique to placing the logs, not only to start the fire but to continue it. Place pieces athwart, not parallel. Allow room to breathe. Angle a big piece, with space underneath. Vary the pieces, large and small, spruce and birch. Celebrate in the artistic placement of each log your scorn for the merchant cartels of liquid and gaseous carbon.

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