People around here use the following expression when they talk about fire wood: it keeps you warm three times; the first time whilst chopping it, the second time whilst stacking it, and the third time whilst burning it. And although we only have been in the woods once to to chop up trees (and that was never to be repeated!), our fire wood manages to keep us warm three times as well.
Quite some time ago now we have found a guy who delivers wood neatly chopped up in bits of 1’-2” long, and his stères are quite generous as well. The disadvantage of his wood is, that it is rather wet, hence not ready for burning when you buy it.
For those not familiar with continental units of measure I will explain what a stère is. A stère is the amount of wood you can store in a box of 1 m by 1 m x 1 m (a box with all 3 sides of 3’-4”). Since the quantity heavily depends on how one stacks the wood, the effective volume of wood in a stère can very widely. Think of a matchbox; the box can contain a lot more matchsticks before you drop it on the floor than after you have been trying to put them back into the box haphazardly. A stère varies effectively between 0.8 and 0.6 of a cubic meter. Also, one wood merchant can be quite different from another, as we have found out.
Our first order, in 2005 was for 6 stère. On D-day a truck appeared, the man dumped what we thought looked like a respectable stack of wood, and we started stacking it. The wood was dry enough to be burnt straight away, which was a good thing, because we needed it there and then. Spring 2006 we took part in the affouage of Cormatin, and that was our first and last experience with cutting down trees in a forest. A year later we found a different and cheaper wood merchant; his wood however was rather wet, and had to be kept to dry for about another year.
We then found out the difference between one merchant and another, and consequently between one stère and another. This guy also turned up in his truck, and dumped what looked roughly like the 6 stère of the year before. Since this time we had ordered 12 stère, we were expecting the man to return once. But no; he made it quite clear, that his truck contained “only” 4 stère, and hence that he would return twice. The stères of the first merchant were about 30 % smaller than those of the second!
The disadvantage however is, that we always have two stacks of wood by the house. Normally the first 12 stère are dumped early in the year at the toilet block for the campsite. We stack the wood under the shed there, which is open on three sides. Hence the wind has got free play there, and the wood does not get rained on. After a year this wood is ready for “consumption”. At the end of the year another wood displacement takes place. The dry wood is then brought into the vide, a covered area between the house and the old kiln, and then re-stacked there. The advantage of having the wood here is that we do not have to plod through the snow in winter when we need wood, we just descend the staircase, fill a basket, and ascend again. And the next spring this whole cycle is repeated.
How much work is involved in stacking 12 stères of wood? I started clearing the way for the guy, opening gates, getting garden furniture out of the way etc. from about 9h00 until I heard the truck approach. The man who brought the wood arrived at 9h40, and dumped the first load. We stacked for about between one and a half and two hours, and just when we wanted to sit down for a coffee, the guy turned up again at 12h00. After a quick lunch we stacked again until 14h00. At 14h15 the last load turned up, and at approx. 16h00 we were finally ready to sit down. Who would complain about a 6.5 hours working day?
Anyway, our wood certainly keeps us warm 3 times: the first time whilst stacking it, the second while moving and re-stacking it, and the third time whilst burning it!
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