Burning wood keeps you in shape

"I have to remember to stack so I have easy access to the driest wood first."

With the arrival of snow, gardeners may dress in leotards and drive to a gym to work out.

I, however, don hard hat, goalie pads, and steel-toed boots and descend into the basement to stack winter firewood.

Stacking firewood gives me plenty of stretching as I heave the blocks higher than my head, and bending as I  grapple one block at a time from the floor.

Most blocks are too wide and heavy for me to safely grip and lift with one hand.

Stressing my bones helps to ward off osteoporosis and thus the risk of fractures, provided I don’t crush a toe or finger as I work.

With the exception of the occasional length of limb, two or so inches in diameter, every block is tri-sided tripling the sharp planes that must be avoided.

Experience has taught me never to place one hand over the lead end of a block. I did that once and needed several stitches to repair the damage.

Stacking wood in the basement keeps it dry, handy to the woodstove, and out of sight of neighbours who might criticize my stacking.

I openly admire one neighbour’s woodshed with every block lined up as precisely as kernels on a prizewinning cob of corn.

Since the 7.7 magnitude earthquake October 27 I now check the stability of my stacks not only from end to end of each row, but also from side to side, particularly the stabilizing ends if no concrete wall is available to be a bookend.

Over the years I’ve been startled awake or had my reading interrupted by the heart-stopping thud of blocks bouncing down and sprawling out on to the concrete floor.

For that reason I always aim to leave plenty of “delta” space between my stacks and the woodstove, gas furnace and hot water tank, just in case.

Besides the block-by-block considerations of length, shape, and uniform depth, I have to remember to stack so I have easy access to the driest wood first.

That’s one thing I forgot as I began stacking the second cord this summer.

Now my only access to the driest first rows is from one end, putting me at risk of a thump on the head, hand, or foot should I dislodge pieces higher up while I gather a piece or two from the floor.

I’ve learned to hold one block upright in front of my ankles while I pitch a heavy block toward the top of the pile to purposely trigger a slide.

Until I adopted this pup I could cover the pile with a plastic tarp when it was delivered and keep it dry from rain or snow until I could throw the wood into the basement a little each day.

But this pup chews anything. She would tear the tarp into strips before the first dawn.

Also, she hauls wood blocks to use as chew toys. The longer she has access to the off-loaded pile, the more wood I have to retrieve from the far corners of the yard.

After one delivery, I wheeled 31 pieces back to the basement opening. As though I needed the extra exertion.

Before the delivery truck leaves my yard she can have five pieces arrayed at her favourite play area. There she strips the bark and gnaws off bumps.

Any skinny sliver, bark curl, or branch nub is all her pincer grip needs to haul a heavy block, head high, rear end waggling to balance the weight, like a bitch removing a misbehaving eight-week-old pup from danger.

Gardeners enjoy a sense of satisfaction viewing their pantries with row upon row of canned fruits and freezers filled with their summer produce. I don’t garden.

But I share similar satisfaction from a basement stacked with enough firewood to keep me comfortable through weeks of stormy, cold weather.