The past few days have been a bit of a nightmare. The gobsmacking conclusion to the long, drawn out drama to the south has left a grim cloud hanging over the world as we knew it. I have been trying to calm the “fight or flight” sensation that I woke up with the morning after the U.S. election. Thinking of something warm and cozy and closer to home seems to help fend off the sinister, dark thoughts, and this made me think of the good warmth within our island home.
In an earlier post I mentioned our heater, the old Fisher woodstove. This big black stove is situated centrally, against one wall of the kitchen/living area. It is what we use to heat our house.
I have been using the heat from the wood stove to dry some of the fruit that we harvested from our orchard this fall. The heat from the stove is also used to dry our laundry indoors when it is too wet outside to hang it on the clothesline. These days all manner of dripping rain gear hangs until dry from the nails hammered into the ceiling beams. Wet hats, gloves and boots are arranged around the stove on the stone hearth to dry out in between rainy day excursions.
Our old friends Molly and Leo, the ancient ones, dog and cat respectively, have their beds, strategically placed around the stove to maximize heat absorption.
The Fisher stove also heats water for our domestic use. On the inner floor of the stove there is a length of stainless steel pipe that is plumbed into the water system. This is a fantastic way of utilizing the excess energy produced by the burning firewood. As with every other clever thing on our homestead, it is my partner C. who is responsible for this hot water system.
Firewood is one of the most important components of island life, and the gathering of wood for burning in the stove is the most important job of all on the homestead. Life in the bush would be very dismal indeed without the fuel that keeps us cozy in our home.
C. is the master of firewood. Our daughters, who have grown up on the island, are his right hand people in this department. Visiting friends and relations are often put to the task and I pitch in sometimes, in certain areas, as well; wheeling, stacking, lunch and tea-making are my normal contributions to the effort.
The labour involved is hard and sweat-inducing, though not unpleasant. It does provide a good opportunity for the family to spend time working together on a common goal. The aim is to keep the woodshed and the space underneath the house full of wood in various stages of dryness and burnability. C. likes to be a year ahead of himself in the firewood department, which means there is plenty of time for the freshly cut wood to dry properly prior to burning.
Sometimes we might be lucky enough to notice a firewood log out in the channel as it passes by on the current. Once in a while a tree may get washed down one of the rivers that empty into the big coastal inlets not far from here. This happens when the thin forest earth is eroded during some of the long spells of heavy rain that occur in the temperate rainforest. Some of this erosion may also be attributed to certain logging practises that are known to take place in the area.
As more people have come to live in the area, the competition for floating firewood logs has also increased, so it is a lucky day when a firewood tree can be found closer to home. Not long ago C. noticed a large hemlock at the back of our place that had died, perhaps of drought over the past couple of dry summers, or perhaps of root rot due to the seasonal monsoons!
Whatever the reason, the dead hemlock needed to come down. C., who once earned his living as a faller of trees, was the man for the job. Since then this tree has been cut into stove-sized lengths, split into smaller pieces with a maul and an axe and wheeled in the barrow to the woodshed where it has been stacked neatly and where it will dry slowly over the next year.
One of our daily chores at home on the island is to bring a load or two of firewood to the back porch in the old wheelbarrow. Here the wood is stacked once more, ready to be burned inside the old woodstove.
The fire in the Fisher stove burns pretty much non-stop from the autumn to the late spring or early summer, depending of course on the weather conditions outside. This autumn the weather on the island has been mild. This means a shorter winter which makes life easier for us. The shorter the winter, the less firewood we will need to burn in order to keep warm, despite the chilling atmosphere south of the border.