If you’re seeking dead trees, join the club

Well, it’s official. We’re wood people. Over the holidays we acquired a wood-burning stove, the kind found in cozy cabins and ’70s sunken living rooms.

Why we needed it I wasn’t exactly sure. We have a fireplace, which we have used approximately 12 times in the 10 years we’ve lived in our little stucco house. Although the fireplace is impressive looking with its sturdy wood mantle and gaping mouth, it is totally nonfunctional. The large opening seems to suck up the hot air and blow in the cold, so we keep the flue shut and the fires out.

But the barren fireplace made a perfect home for a wood-burning stove, and Brian installed it secretly while I was at work (it works best that way).

I arrived home to find a toasty, warm stove in my living room.

And like that, we were wood people.

I emphasize this only because I now realize that crossing the threshold into earth-stove-dom means life now revolves around wood.

What kind do we need? Where can we find it? How do we cut it? Where do we stack it? We need more!

I should have guessed how important wood would become based on a conversation I had with a friend the day the stove made its presence in our home.

“Oh, you got a wood-burning stove! We have one, too, and I love it. It keeps the house so warm,” she said.

“Yeah, it seems really great so far,” I said.

“My husband collects wood all summer long,” she continued. “Everywhere he goes he’s looking for wood. He’s always talking to people — ‘Can I take this wood?’ When he travels for his job he’s looking for wood. He brings it back in his pickup and stacks it on the wood pile. We use it all winter long. As soon as the snow melts he starts looking for wood again.”

Hmm. I wasn’t thinking about that part of it. I was thinking about the fact that we wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on our ancient behemoth of a heater in the basement. I was thinking about boiling water in a tea kettle on the top of the stove. I was thinking about kicking back in a chair and reading a book in front of the radiating heat.

And I did all those things, don’t get me wrong.

But we also babysit the stove like it’s a child — Brian more than me. He feeds it morning, noon and night. He even gets up in the wee hours of the morning with it, poking it around and throwing in another log.

And that’s the easy part. Gathering the wood is even harder. There’s the finding of the wood; the cutting of the wood; the hauling of the wood; and the stacking of the wood. Logs now flank both sides of our front door, giving our Spanish-style house a bit of a cabin-in-the-woods look.

This week Brian’s wood-seeking escapades have landed him: a) a new chain saw; and b) in the ditch (he had to be towed out).

Today, a coworker noticing the cut logs stacked in the back of his pickup asked if he was going into the furniture-making business. Nope, it’s all going to be ash in a few days’ time.

Despite the work, there’s something completely satisfying about the wood-burning stove (easy for me to say — I’m not the one sawing wood.) It’s extremely warm. It’s comforting and homey. It smells like Christmas. It cuts down on our heating bill, and in the event of a power failure, we’d still be warm.

Like so many other things in life, you have to work to enjoy a wood-burning stove. And that makes it all the better. Just ask the other wood people.

Amy Palser

Amy Palser writes personal stories readers can relate to: tales of family and friends, of childhood and rites of passage, of fantastic people and ordinary things. Her column appears each Saturday. She is the Tribune's managing editor.

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