Friday, September 07, 2007

Stacking Firewood

A cord of wood is a volume which measures 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet. Typically one makes a stack of firewood with split logs about 16" long, so a 6 foot high cord of that would be 16 feet long.

Last night I had our first firewood delivered here for burning. A few calls found someone who would deliver the amount we need. Since it's getting late in the wood season, we want wood that is dry and not green. Dry wood you can burn. They dumped it in the driveway and the pile smells like ... wood. This is more like lifestyle firewood, since we do not have a wood burning stove - we have pellet stoves (more on that another time). We do have a fireplace in which to burn the wood, but it's supposed to be woefully inefficient way of burning wood and actually rumored to draw heat out of a house because of the draft up the chimney. This is rather like the factoid that a person actually uses more calories chewing celery than one gets out of eating the celery. In the case of wood we're talking major Calories, which if you did not know is just energy like heat. I suspect we will indeed get some heat out of it, but mainly we will get warmth - the warm feeling, smell, sound, and light of a winter fire.

I just stacked 3/4 of the wood nice and neatly this morning. I feel like the president on vacation or something... clearing brush, stacking wood. There are a great many ways in which to stack firewood and rules to govern location of a wood pile. Rule of thumb is to stack it far away from your home, off the ground, with a small amount of shelter over it. This sounds like a pain, particularly when one is going for cozy on a cold snowy February day. I chose to put it to one side of our house under our deck. The deck will give it some shelter, thus keep it dry and let it continue to dry out. That side of the house is made of cinderblocks, so there shouldn't be a termite problem. I also made sure that the pile was elevated to keep the bottom from getting damp and rotting or attracting insects. The entire pile makes no contact with the deck or the house. On the cinderblock base I laid two old fallen limbs which made for a sturdy base. The ends are each stacks of criss-crossed relatively square logs which add stability. Having done this, I feel like the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy who uses natural material like stone, ice, leaves, petals and wood to create order - or sculpture. I actually have two of his books which I received as gifts from my good friend Dave. Goldsworthy's appreciation of nature in his works, I'm sure, added some inspiration for my move from New York City to this place.

I've been told stories of people being cheated on wood deliveries. You order 3 cords, get 2. The only way to tell is to actually stack the wood and measure the volume. My stack is about 9 feet long, 6 feet high, and 16 inches wide. This is just over 71 cubic feet, plus I have about a quarter extra wood. This means that my 1/2 a cord was actually a little more than 1/2 a cord. Not bad at all.

One last note, in a crate next to the pile is a tiny pile of petrified wood which I have been dragging around for years. My family got it 30 years ago outside The Petrified Forest in Arizona. Petrified wood is actually fossilized wood. It is rock. It is millions of years old and will never burn. I gave a small log to the carpenters who last worked on our house, perhaps I should have given a log of it to the guys who own the firewood service.


  1. I think I find this as fascinating as you do!

    It does sound ideal to stack the wood away from the house, but I understand the convenience factor. Perhaps one of your projects can be the construction of a Rube Goldberg device that would enable you to have the wood delivered to the house from a more remote location via some kind of line, rail, or wagon, or a combination of such.

    Also, I think the petrified wood should be stacked closest to the house, because it won't burn.

  2. I actually thought briefly about building a dumb waiter in my garage for the wood.

  3. Some sort of thick dry wall might act as a fire shield. Rocks might help too. Or an outdoor fire alarm?

  4. Yay! I drag rocks around too! I have no petrified wood, but I have faux petrified food rocks, such as petrified peanut butter sandwich, petrified beef stew meat, and petrified apple core. I have one other that is undetermined; I call it petrified masticated...something.

  5. Anonymous11.5.09

    I love stacking wood. It's very satisfying work, preparing for winter. I blog about it on 'Moon Over Martinborough'

  6. Full disclosure: that very wood pile pictured above has fallen down twice.