Friday, November 7, 2008

Gonna Move Up to the Country #4

About three & a half years ago, Eberle & I moved into a new house—a modest, but nicely constructed (if not quite 100% finished) country home, tho by our standards it was palatial & luxurious after our quaint but old & decrepit farmhouse. One of the many features we love about this new house is the radiant heat that wafts up from tubes encased in the concrete floor (a floor beautifully colored & textured by local contractor & Alice in Wonder Band pal, Bob George).

Heating our old house was not so effortless. In fact, wood heat is practically a year-round venture. You have to get the wood; if you want to save money, you have to split the wood (if you really want to save money, you have to traipse around in the woods with a chain saw in between forest fires in the summer, but Eberle & I didn’t go to those lengths); you have to haul & stack the wood at various times, depending on what state the wood is in—this can include plowing thru snow pushing a wood-laden wheelbarrow—you have to clean the chimney, which often involves clambering up a steep & icy roof in fairly brutal conditions; in an old home like ours that wasn’t insulated & that was subject to significant drafts (not to say, freshening breezes), you have to get up at all hours to stoke the woodstove. This is not an exhaustive list, but it starts to give you some idea if you’re among those who haven’t had the pleasure of heating an old house with wood in a northern clime.

This takes me back almost 10 years ago, to last century. I’d moved to Idaho in January of 98 (winter’s an improbable time to move from a moderate climate like San Francisco up to these parts, but I did it anyway); now it was early December 98 & the fellow from New Meadows from whom we bought wood hadn’t delivered it yet. Of course, if one has even a modicum of prudence (we did) one has wood left over from the previous year, so when it became necessary to start making fires in later September of that year, we weren’t completely unprepared. However, we certainly didn’t have a full winter’s supply, & we were buying the wood in unsplit rounds, which meant the fun would just begin once it was delievered.

The New Meadows fellow was an “interesting” Idaho sort, actually quite exotic to me, since I still was no doubt largely in a San Francisco mind-set, loathe as I was to admit it at the time. For all the images of staunch Idaho Republicans (not false, but not the whole story) there are any number of folks up here still living a distinctly hippie ethos. The one thing I’ll always remember about this guy is he never wore shoes—never. I once watched him run barefoot on our chip rock driveway—it gave me the willies, but didn’t faze him at all.

October passed, & November, too. Sometimes winter comes early here; sometimes it doesn’t. That year it did. We were pretty well blanketed in snow, not to mention having an actual snowstorm, the day he pulled in with his truck in December to drop off however many cords of unsplit wood (I’m thinking five). To add to the snafu (in its original sense, like much of country living), his truck got stuck trying to get back on the road; I honestly don’t recall how he avoided moving in with us for the winter, but I’m kinda glad he didn’t.

I got the wood split, trudging out behind the shop thru the winter, & we had the fuel we needed. Needless to say, we found a different wood supplier the next year….

Pic by Eberle Umbach: Yours truly trying to put a brave face on things

1 comment:

  1. Good heavens. What a slacker. The guy we got ours from one year was way beyond retirement age and brought his slightly demented (in a medical sense) wife with him on the drop off because he couldn't leave her home alone. Older than dirt and tougher than any one of a number of metal fasteners.

    I remember when I moved into the Cambridge house that I felt like Daniel freakin' Boone splitting the wood, which actually wasn't too bad. In my very-East-Coast-suburban childhood I read a lot of frontier history (having been discouraged though not forbidden to pursue fiction), and always wanted to live there. The thing I hated most about wood heat was not the splitting or stacking, but the wood dust in the house. Oi--it's like living in a hollow tree if you don't stay on top of it.


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