Email from my Brother - the wood pile edition

The next mail from my brother for your delectation! However there is a theme, which means nothing to me! 


Hi again Fay,

I hope this e-mail reaches you in good sorts.  I read that you’ve started your drug trial now and there’s side effects going on.  Just try to convince yourself that you’ve got the placebo and you’ll be right as a trivet in no time.  Any further help you need with anything just let me know …

We’ve got our bathroom in working order now.  It’s not fully painted, still has some grouting to do and there’s a old sheet hanging up in front of the window in lieu of the shutters we ordered what now seems like two years ago (everything here takes months to arrive once ordered due to the fact that it’s transported in carts, drawn by Shire horses with Encephalitis lethargica and driven by hobbits that are unable to pass a tavern without imbibing the ales) but apart from that our bathroom is like the Death Star in Return of the Jedi; it’s is fully armed and operational even though there's big chunks missing.

We’ve all christened the khazi, bar Sam of course due to still being in nappies, and we’re slowly rotating through having a go in the shower and the deep French tub.  Part of me wonders if I’ve lost Man Points seeing as for the last month I was washing out of a bucket and now I’m soaking in a tub and rubbing soaps made from Hawaiian coconuts fortified with extracts from orchids on me beard.  Put some Kenny G on the stereo and I’ll put my hair up in a towel turban when I’m done.  Oh wait, hold the towel, I haven’t shaved me legs yet.

But so far the biggest hit has been the under floor heating seeing as last weekend we got down to minus three during the night.  Minus three may not sound much to you in the UK where there are building standards, but for where we are where folks labour under the misapprehension that because it’s semi-tropical during the summer you don’t need much more than some wood planks and a single pane of glass between you and Jack Frost come winter, it's a nightmare.  

Last Saturday it was like the plot to the Day After Tomorrow had become real.  Our pipes froze up solid and we didn’t get hot water working again until mid morning on the Sunday (when the ever loving Sun shone it’s warmth onto our house and defrosted the pipes).  No worse for wear we’ve now weathered the shortest day (yesterday) and are looking forward to spring time like a fat man looks forward to dinner.  I’m particularly relieved because I am Lord and Master of the Wood Pile and have found my first full winter nursing us through our major heat supply a bit of a challenge.

Go to our wood shed and look in and anyone else will see a pile of logs.  What I see is a complex strata of woods which vary in quality and usefulness.  At the back down at the bottom is the wood that was left here by the previous owners.  It was left out in the rain and had become fairly unusable.  A year in a wood shed and it’s dried out now, so it’s good to go on the fire. The back and to the left is wood I purchased in Spring last year from “Steve-up-the-road”.  “Steve-up-the-road” and his mate “Steve’s-mate” chopped a couple of large pine trees down last Spring for beer money and were running back and forth offering trailer loads of wood to anyone with eighty dollars for a load.  Bearing in mind it was unseasoned wood then, i.e. full of sap and unburnable, it was still a bargain and I got three trailer loads worth.  “Steve-up-the-road” lives a third of the way up the hill to us in a purple house with “The Fun House” stencilled in large silver sparkly letters on the side.  I reckon “Steve-up-the-road” and “Steve’s-mate” are either (a) stoners or (b) born again Christians.

We then have on top of that good wood all the skrim boards that lined our new bathroom and were ripped out to be replaced with aqua-lining.  Those boards are over a hundred years old so I kind of reckon they’re seasoned now.  One of the old guys who tiled our bathroom floor (“Jock”) reckoned the skrim boards in this house is Kauri wood.  Kauri is a tall, dead straight, hard wood native timber that used to grow for up to two thousand years.  It was plentiful about hundred years ago until everyone chopped them down to make houses and shit with it.  Now Kauri wood is worth a bob or too because everyone chopped them down a hundred years ago and they take a couple of thousand years to grow back.  So I may have burnt a tonne of it without realising.

Jock said I should have saved those boards and turned them into tiny relic boxes and crosses to be blessed by the Holy Pope in Rome.  I’m pretty sure it’s not Kauri wood though because I asked our fencing guy and he thought it was wood from Yggdrasil, the World Tree from Norse Mythology.  The branches of Yggdrasil extended far into the heavens, and was supported by three roots that extend into other locations; one to the well UrĂ°arbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well MĂ­misbrunnr.  So phew, that it’s a bit of a relief that it’s not Kauri.

On top of that wood comes the worst load of mangy, water logged, mouldy wood that came from Juliette’s parents new house.  The people who owned the house before Juliette’s parents had a wood burning fire that Juliette’s parents aren’t using and because Juliette’s parents wanted to put a new garage in and there was all this old firewood laying around exactly where the new garage is going wouldn't you credit it.  Me and Juliette’s sister’s husband Graham ended up loading into a high backed trailer, taking it down here, getting stuck in the mud, off loading the wood into the middle of the paddock to get the car out and then me on my own (bit of help from Sam, but not much) carrying each stinking bit of wood up to the wood shed over a couple of days.  Most of the stuff when we threw off the trailer was so old and rotted it exploded into a ball of damp saw dust.  I give that stuff a year to two years to dry out and be useful.

So I select the wood, carry it up to the house, stack it by the wood burning stove and set a fire.  Each fire is unique and has to be tended four or five times a night to make sure new wood is added and more or less air is allowed in.  During the cold mornings I get up early to clear the ashes and set a new fire, sometimes going out in the pre-dawn light to select new firewood for the burn.  I do this by holding a torch in my mouth and clamber over the potentially ankle snapping log pile to select the woods that are needed.  Once lit the fire can take up to half an hour to start warming the room by which time after that it’s going to just ramp that heat up to the point that you can open the doors and start warming the rest of the house.  When I set a fire it’s a big deal.

So, the other day I have to carefully and patiently explain to Eva why I’m not going to put an electric blow heater on in the living room when the wood fire is now getting to the point where it will blister the varnish off the furniture at ten paces.  But she’s nearly five years old and is stubborn.  I explain to her about the wood selection.  I explain about how long it takes to heat up.  I explain about how electric blow heaters cost money and this one is pointless because the wood burner is giving off more heat than a burning Hindenburg.  I say let's have a competition - let's set the plastic blow heater in front of the wood burner and the winner is the one that melts last.

Eventually she poutily relents and stands closer to the wood stove because she says she’s cold and now has a point to make.  I ask her to move a bit away as her pyjamas are starting to smoulder.  She says okay, but only because she chooses to move away to do something more important, like pass out from the heat, rather than because her daddy asks her to.  So it’s in this atmosphere that two minutes later Juliette sashays in, sits down in front of the electric blow heater, switches it on, catches the look on my face and says “What?”  Sometimes there are no words.  That time there were many.

Sorry this e-mail is longer than the others.  I really do hope you don’t get too unwell with this drug trial.  Remember you’ve got a bed waiting here if you want to get away for week or two as long as you don’t mind just getting a few logs for the fire now and again.

Mark xxx

P.S. Seriously though, visit if you want a break.
As always

1 comment:

  1. He's fantastic and has just made me chuckle out loud! Does he know you put his letters online? I only ask because I suspect he's amped up the humour in this one, just a tad. He sounds like my brother and his obsession with the perfect wood fire, men hey? Thanks for sharing this.