"One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet."

Turning the Heat on Firewood

By —— Bio and Archives--January 22, 2018

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Turning the Heat on Firewood
There is something about a wood fire that appeals deep down inside most of us. As Jerry Smith has observed, “Playing with fire is bad for those who burn themselves. For the rest of us, it is a very great pleasure.”

First though there is the fuel for the fire. This comes down to two considerations: which wood and how is it supplied?

Book after book, website after website instruct as to the heat value of various species of trees. Best of luck if you insist on which tree supplied your order. What will be assured is that the wood is seasoned hardwood as opposed to softwoods and for good reason. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees. They burn ‘clean’ as opposed to softwoods—pine, spruce and other conifers—that leave dangerous deposits of inflammable creosotes in the chimney. Left uncleaned, these can and will ignite at some point with certainly disastrous and possible fatal results.

Not all hardwoods are equal when it comes to heat provided, however. Common candidates such as ash, maple and oak are superior to poplar and willow, which go to the bottom of the pile. ‘Seasoned’ means just that—the wood has been stacked under cover in a dry location for six months to a year, allowing it to dry thoroughly.

Today, suppliers continue the centuries-old tradition of measuring firewood by the cord. But again, not all cords are equal. A full cord is a stack of wood four feet high, four feet in width, and eight feet long, equaling 128 cubic feet. Commercially this has been reduced to something called a face cord. This at the most contains half the wood of a full cord since it is just one to two feet wide.

Again, all may not be quite what it seems. Split logs, tightly stacked, will supply more wood than round logs. A face cord of the latter will container more air holes, so provide less heat.

So there you have it. You are ready to order. But wait—do you want to arrive home tired from a day’s work to find a pile of firewood dumped in the driveway? Ask if your order will be stacked. Likely it will not unless you pay an additional fee. If possible, have it piled out of sight in the garage, both to keep it dry and deter any larcenous thoughts from neighbours.

Now sit back, relax and contemplate the wisdom of Odell Shepherd observation: “One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet.”

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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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