Wood

Norwegian wood coverAmongst all the best selling books of Christmas this last year was one called “Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Norwegian Way.” It’s not the first book you might anticipate hitting the bestseller charts though it does have a catchy title! I bought it for my husband for no better reason than he is interested in wood and we have two log burners in our home. He’s finding it engrossing: charmingly written, full of personal experience, showing how important timber is to different communities. Plus it is a beautifully presented book.

I don’t understand the appeal of the topic but I do know that there is something very appealing about an open Plupin
fire. Wench Anne Gracie has blogged about the romance of a fire before here. As a child growing up we never had a “proper” fire at home and I loved it when I visited my grandparents’ house where there was an open fire. In my first house after we married, a 17th century cottage, we had an enormous inglenook fireplace complete with original bread oven. It felt like the heart of the house. Now we have two modern wood burners, and one of the things I do enjoy is stacking the logs. It’s like a puzzle, getting it to stack neatly but it’s also a very mindful and relaxing activity. Here is our neighbours' cat sitting on top of the wood store!

In our village there are still certain medieval rights of common including that of gathering logs in the woods for cooking and heating, for making tools and repairing carts. This would have been an essential contribution towards the peasants’ livelihood along with the right of pannage, letting our pigs forage in the autumn woods to put on fat for the autumn. We know from the local records that as recently as 60 years ago the cottagers in the village still kept pigs in their back gardens and even now we collect good quality wood to take home to burn, an activity my grandfather used to call “progging,” a 17th century word originally meaning to prowl about looking for plunder!

Indoor pileI love trees, their beauty, their history and the folklore around them. So perhaps stacking wood is an extension of that. According to “Norwegian Wood” in the late 19th century in Maine in the US, women considering a potential husband were advised to check out his woodpile because it could tell them a lot about his character. This was also true of Scandinavia where a list was drawn up including the following:

A lot of wood: A man of foresight, loyal.

Upright and solid: As the woodpile, so is the man.

Tall pile: Big ambitions but watch out for sagging and collapse.

Unusual shape: Freethinking, open spirit, but check that the construction is sound.

Unfinished pile with some logs lying on the ground: Unstable, lazy and prone to drunkenness.

Old and new wood piled together: Be suspicious, may be a thief.

No woodpile: No husband

Once the woodpile is built and the fire made, the happy couple can settle down in front of it for a romantic evening!

If you click here you can see a short video of me reading an extract of my latest book, House of Shadows, in front of our roaring HOUSE OF SHADOWS webfire. To me there is little that is more comforting or enjoyable than curling up with a book on a winter night and listening to the rain falling or watching the snow pile up outside.

Is there a book or books that unexpectedly appealed to you? Do you enjoy open fires?  How do you stack your wood? And would you judge a man – or woman – on the style of their woodpile?

90 thoughts on “Wood”

  1. I remember being fascinated by the beautiful patterns people could make in their woodpiles when I went skiing in Switzerland. It’s a knack I never learnt; when I had a fire my woodshed was never very well-stacked. Like you, I love a real fire!

    Reply
  2. I remember being fascinated by the beautiful patterns people could make in their woodpiles when I went skiing in Switzerland. It’s a knack I never learnt; when I had a fire my woodshed was never very well-stacked. Like you, I love a real fire!

    Reply
  3. I remember being fascinated by the beautiful patterns people could make in their woodpiles when I went skiing in Switzerland. It’s a knack I never learnt; when I had a fire my woodshed was never very well-stacked. Like you, I love a real fire!

    Reply
  4. I remember being fascinated by the beautiful patterns people could make in their woodpiles when I went skiing in Switzerland. It’s a knack I never learnt; when I had a fire my woodshed was never very well-stacked. Like you, I love a real fire!

    Reply
  5. I remember being fascinated by the beautiful patterns people could make in their woodpiles when I went skiing in Switzerland. It’s a knack I never learnt; when I had a fire my woodshed was never very well-stacked. Like you, I love a real fire!

    Reply
  6. Like many people here in rural Maine, we have a woodstove for backup when the power is out and the furnace won’t work. During a bad ice storm we once went a week without power. Sometimes, though, we switch to wood just because it makes the downstairs so much warmer. As the saying goes, wood heats you four times–when you cut it, when you split it, when you stack it, and when you burn it. For those who think that’s too much work or don’t have trees to cut down, the latest trend around here is pellet stoves, which burn store-bought wood pellets and are used to replace oil-burning furnaces.
    Kathy/Kaitlyn

    Reply
  7. Like many people here in rural Maine, we have a woodstove for backup when the power is out and the furnace won’t work. During a bad ice storm we once went a week without power. Sometimes, though, we switch to wood just because it makes the downstairs so much warmer. As the saying goes, wood heats you four times–when you cut it, when you split it, when you stack it, and when you burn it. For those who think that’s too much work or don’t have trees to cut down, the latest trend around here is pellet stoves, which burn store-bought wood pellets and are used to replace oil-burning furnaces.
    Kathy/Kaitlyn

    Reply
  8. Like many people here in rural Maine, we have a woodstove for backup when the power is out and the furnace won’t work. During a bad ice storm we once went a week without power. Sometimes, though, we switch to wood just because it makes the downstairs so much warmer. As the saying goes, wood heats you four times–when you cut it, when you split it, when you stack it, and when you burn it. For those who think that’s too much work or don’t have trees to cut down, the latest trend around here is pellet stoves, which burn store-bought wood pellets and are used to replace oil-burning furnaces.
    Kathy/Kaitlyn

    Reply
  9. Like many people here in rural Maine, we have a woodstove for backup when the power is out and the furnace won’t work. During a bad ice storm we once went a week without power. Sometimes, though, we switch to wood just because it makes the downstairs so much warmer. As the saying goes, wood heats you four times–when you cut it, when you split it, when you stack it, and when you burn it. For those who think that’s too much work or don’t have trees to cut down, the latest trend around here is pellet stoves, which burn store-bought wood pellets and are used to replace oil-burning furnaces.
    Kathy/Kaitlyn

    Reply
  10. Like many people here in rural Maine, we have a woodstove for backup when the power is out and the furnace won’t work. During a bad ice storm we once went a week without power. Sometimes, though, we switch to wood just because it makes the downstairs so much warmer. As the saying goes, wood heats you four times–when you cut it, when you split it, when you stack it, and when you burn it. For those who think that’s too much work or don’t have trees to cut down, the latest trend around here is pellet stoves, which burn store-bought wood pellets and are used to replace oil-burning furnaces.
    Kathy/Kaitlyn

    Reply
  11. Thank you, Kathy – that’s a wonderful saying about the wood and so true! Rural Oxfordshire might not be quite like rural Maine but we did exactly the same thing when our heating packed in a few winters ago. The woodburner kept us very cosy.

    Reply
  12. Thank you, Kathy – that’s a wonderful saying about the wood and so true! Rural Oxfordshire might not be quite like rural Maine but we did exactly the same thing when our heating packed in a few winters ago. The woodburner kept us very cosy.

    Reply
  13. Thank you, Kathy – that’s a wonderful saying about the wood and so true! Rural Oxfordshire might not be quite like rural Maine but we did exactly the same thing when our heating packed in a few winters ago. The woodburner kept us very cosy.

    Reply
  14. Thank you, Kathy – that’s a wonderful saying about the wood and so true! Rural Oxfordshire might not be quite like rural Maine but we did exactly the same thing when our heating packed in a few winters ago. The woodburner kept us very cosy.

    Reply
  15. Thank you, Kathy – that’s a wonderful saying about the wood and so true! Rural Oxfordshire might not be quite like rural Maine but we did exactly the same thing when our heating packed in a few winters ago. The woodburner kept us very cosy.

    Reply
  16. I am endlessly intrigued by how fascinating it can be to read in real detail about a narrow topic that I would never have thought of as intrinsically interesting. The “big picture” is rarely as interesting as the miniature—at least when it comes to research.

    Reply
  17. I am endlessly intrigued by how fascinating it can be to read in real detail about a narrow topic that I would never have thought of as intrinsically interesting. The “big picture” is rarely as interesting as the miniature—at least when it comes to research.

    Reply
  18. I am endlessly intrigued by how fascinating it can be to read in real detail about a narrow topic that I would never have thought of as intrinsically interesting. The “big picture” is rarely as interesting as the miniature—at least when it comes to research.

    Reply
  19. I am endlessly intrigued by how fascinating it can be to read in real detail about a narrow topic that I would never have thought of as intrinsically interesting. The “big picture” is rarely as interesting as the miniature—at least when it comes to research.

    Reply
  20. I am endlessly intrigued by how fascinating it can be to read in real detail about a narrow topic that I would never have thought of as intrinsically interesting. The “big picture” is rarely as interesting as the miniature—at least when it comes to research.

    Reply
  21. Like Lillian Marek, I’m also intrigued by how such a narrow topic can be so fascinating! As you say, Nicola, it’s a great title. I also like an open fire–like the ocean, I think it’s a sight universally popular. But admit that often for convenience’s sake, I toss in a pressed wood log, which is less work!
    I love the clip of you reading by the fire! It’s a wonderful accompaniment to you wonderful book.

    Reply
  22. Like Lillian Marek, I’m also intrigued by how such a narrow topic can be so fascinating! As you say, Nicola, it’s a great title. I also like an open fire–like the ocean, I think it’s a sight universally popular. But admit that often for convenience’s sake, I toss in a pressed wood log, which is less work!
    I love the clip of you reading by the fire! It’s a wonderful accompaniment to you wonderful book.

    Reply
  23. Like Lillian Marek, I’m also intrigued by how such a narrow topic can be so fascinating! As you say, Nicola, it’s a great title. I also like an open fire–like the ocean, I think it’s a sight universally popular. But admit that often for convenience’s sake, I toss in a pressed wood log, which is less work!
    I love the clip of you reading by the fire! It’s a wonderful accompaniment to you wonderful book.

    Reply
  24. Like Lillian Marek, I’m also intrigued by how such a narrow topic can be so fascinating! As you say, Nicola, it’s a great title. I also like an open fire–like the ocean, I think it’s a sight universally popular. But admit that often for convenience’s sake, I toss in a pressed wood log, which is less work!
    I love the clip of you reading by the fire! It’s a wonderful accompaniment to you wonderful book.

    Reply
  25. Like Lillian Marek, I’m also intrigued by how such a narrow topic can be so fascinating! As you say, Nicola, it’s a great title. I also like an open fire–like the ocean, I think it’s a sight universally popular. But admit that often for convenience’s sake, I toss in a pressed wood log, which is less work!
    I love the clip of you reading by the fire! It’s a wonderful accompaniment to you wonderful book.

    Reply
  26. When I moved to Montana in my 20’s my aunt told me that the first thing I needed to learn was how to stack firewood. I lived in a small one-room log cabin on an 1898 homestead, and it took fourteen cords to heat it through the winter (which, granted, spanned most of the year). That first November the ambient temperature hit negative 45 F. Wind chill made it much worse. I sure was glad to have all that wood!

    Reply
  27. When I moved to Montana in my 20’s my aunt told me that the first thing I needed to learn was how to stack firewood. I lived in a small one-room log cabin on an 1898 homestead, and it took fourteen cords to heat it through the winter (which, granted, spanned most of the year). That first November the ambient temperature hit negative 45 F. Wind chill made it much worse. I sure was glad to have all that wood!

    Reply
  28. When I moved to Montana in my 20’s my aunt told me that the first thing I needed to learn was how to stack firewood. I lived in a small one-room log cabin on an 1898 homestead, and it took fourteen cords to heat it through the winter (which, granted, spanned most of the year). That first November the ambient temperature hit negative 45 F. Wind chill made it much worse. I sure was glad to have all that wood!

    Reply
  29. When I moved to Montana in my 20’s my aunt told me that the first thing I needed to learn was how to stack firewood. I lived in a small one-room log cabin on an 1898 homestead, and it took fourteen cords to heat it through the winter (which, granted, spanned most of the year). That first November the ambient temperature hit negative 45 F. Wind chill made it much worse. I sure was glad to have all that wood!

    Reply
  30. When I moved to Montana in my 20’s my aunt told me that the first thing I needed to learn was how to stack firewood. I lived in a small one-room log cabin on an 1898 homestead, and it took fourteen cords to heat it through the winter (which, granted, spanned most of the year). That first November the ambient temperature hit negative 45 F. Wind chill made it much worse. I sure was glad to have all that wood!

    Reply
  31. Mmn, yes both the ocean and an open fire are hugely appealing, aren’t they, Mary Jo. I wonder if there are any other universally popular sights?
    Thank you for your kind words about the video clip – and the book!

    Reply
  32. Mmn, yes both the ocean and an open fire are hugely appealing, aren’t they, Mary Jo. I wonder if there are any other universally popular sights?
    Thank you for your kind words about the video clip – and the book!

    Reply
  33. Mmn, yes both the ocean and an open fire are hugely appealing, aren’t they, Mary Jo. I wonder if there are any other universally popular sights?
    Thank you for your kind words about the video clip – and the book!

    Reply
  34. Mmn, yes both the ocean and an open fire are hugely appealing, aren’t they, Mary Jo. I wonder if there are any other universally popular sights?
    Thank you for your kind words about the video clip – and the book!

    Reply
  35. Mmn, yes both the ocean and an open fire are hugely appealing, aren’t they, Mary Jo. I wonder if there are any other universally popular sights?
    Thank you for your kind words about the video clip – and the book!

    Reply
  36. That is fascinating, Sylvia. In some communities it’s obviously essential for survival that you understand how to build a log store and use wood for the fire. It feels like a great way to connect back with our ancestors too, before artificial heating made life so much easier.

    Reply
  37. That is fascinating, Sylvia. In some communities it’s obviously essential for survival that you understand how to build a log store and use wood for the fire. It feels like a great way to connect back with our ancestors too, before artificial heating made life so much easier.

    Reply
  38. That is fascinating, Sylvia. In some communities it’s obviously essential for survival that you understand how to build a log store and use wood for the fire. It feels like a great way to connect back with our ancestors too, before artificial heating made life so much easier.

    Reply
  39. That is fascinating, Sylvia. In some communities it’s obviously essential for survival that you understand how to build a log store and use wood for the fire. It feels like a great way to connect back with our ancestors too, before artificial heating made life so much easier.

    Reply
  40. That is fascinating, Sylvia. In some communities it’s obviously essential for survival that you understand how to build a log store and use wood for the fire. It feels like a great way to connect back with our ancestors too, before artificial heating made life so much easier.

    Reply
  41. Like Nicola, I missed having a true fire as I was growing up. And I did not get to enjoy one at my grandparents either! The Nineteenth century house in Indiana had been modernized to furnace heat before I ever saw it. The Artisan house my mother grew up in had always had a furnace, so the grandparents’ houses were just like ours.Since I have turned out to be sensitive to so many things, it is probably a good thing that I did not and do not have wood burning fires, but I Do yearn for them.

    Reply
  42. Like Nicola, I missed having a true fire as I was growing up. And I did not get to enjoy one at my grandparents either! The Nineteenth century house in Indiana had been modernized to furnace heat before I ever saw it. The Artisan house my mother grew up in had always had a furnace, so the grandparents’ houses were just like ours.Since I have turned out to be sensitive to so many things, it is probably a good thing that I did not and do not have wood burning fires, but I Do yearn for them.

    Reply
  43. Like Nicola, I missed having a true fire as I was growing up. And I did not get to enjoy one at my grandparents either! The Nineteenth century house in Indiana had been modernized to furnace heat before I ever saw it. The Artisan house my mother grew up in had always had a furnace, so the grandparents’ houses were just like ours.Since I have turned out to be sensitive to so many things, it is probably a good thing that I did not and do not have wood burning fires, but I Do yearn for them.

    Reply
  44. Like Nicola, I missed having a true fire as I was growing up. And I did not get to enjoy one at my grandparents either! The Nineteenth century house in Indiana had been modernized to furnace heat before I ever saw it. The Artisan house my mother grew up in had always had a furnace, so the grandparents’ houses were just like ours.Since I have turned out to be sensitive to so many things, it is probably a good thing that I did not and do not have wood burning fires, but I Do yearn for them.

    Reply
  45. Like Nicola, I missed having a true fire as I was growing up. And I did not get to enjoy one at my grandparents either! The Nineteenth century house in Indiana had been modernized to furnace heat before I ever saw it. The Artisan house my mother grew up in had always had a furnace, so the grandparents’ houses were just like ours.Since I have turned out to be sensitive to so many things, it is probably a good thing that I did not and do not have wood burning fires, but I Do yearn for them.

    Reply
  46. Well, my ex-husband had a very neat woodpile, but he was prone to laziness and drunkenness, so it doesn’t follow!
    I do miss having a wood stove though, it makes lovely heat.

    Reply
  47. Well, my ex-husband had a very neat woodpile, but he was prone to laziness and drunkenness, so it doesn’t follow!
    I do miss having a wood stove though, it makes lovely heat.

    Reply
  48. Well, my ex-husband had a very neat woodpile, but he was prone to laziness and drunkenness, so it doesn’t follow!
    I do miss having a wood stove though, it makes lovely heat.

    Reply
  49. Well, my ex-husband had a very neat woodpile, but he was prone to laziness and drunkenness, so it doesn’t follow!
    I do miss having a wood stove though, it makes lovely heat.

    Reply
  50. Well, my ex-husband had a very neat woodpile, but he was prone to laziness and drunkenness, so it doesn’t follow!
    I do miss having a wood stove though, it makes lovely heat.

    Reply
  51. An open fire was the only source of heating in our house when I was growing up and also my own home when I was first married. Even though we have oil heating now the fire is lit every evening in the winter. There’s nothing quite like an open fire, a glass of wine and a favourite book. That’s how I read House of Shadows over the hols. It’s amazing how it cheers you up when you have grey rain laden clouds all day long which we have had here in Southern Ireland since about last November.
    Pity cleaning it out wasn’t as enjoyable!!!

    Reply
  52. An open fire was the only source of heating in our house when I was growing up and also my own home when I was first married. Even though we have oil heating now the fire is lit every evening in the winter. There’s nothing quite like an open fire, a glass of wine and a favourite book. That’s how I read House of Shadows over the hols. It’s amazing how it cheers you up when you have grey rain laden clouds all day long which we have had here in Southern Ireland since about last November.
    Pity cleaning it out wasn’t as enjoyable!!!

    Reply
  53. An open fire was the only source of heating in our house when I was growing up and also my own home when I was first married. Even though we have oil heating now the fire is lit every evening in the winter. There’s nothing quite like an open fire, a glass of wine and a favourite book. That’s how I read House of Shadows over the hols. It’s amazing how it cheers you up when you have grey rain laden clouds all day long which we have had here in Southern Ireland since about last November.
    Pity cleaning it out wasn’t as enjoyable!!!

    Reply
  54. An open fire was the only source of heating in our house when I was growing up and also my own home when I was first married. Even though we have oil heating now the fire is lit every evening in the winter. There’s nothing quite like an open fire, a glass of wine and a favourite book. That’s how I read House of Shadows over the hols. It’s amazing how it cheers you up when you have grey rain laden clouds all day long which we have had here in Southern Ireland since about last November.
    Pity cleaning it out wasn’t as enjoyable!!!

    Reply
  55. An open fire was the only source of heating in our house when I was growing up and also my own home when I was first married. Even though we have oil heating now the fire is lit every evening in the winter. There’s nothing quite like an open fire, a glass of wine and a favourite book. That’s how I read House of Shadows over the hols. It’s amazing how it cheers you up when you have grey rain laden clouds all day long which we have had here in Southern Ireland since about last November.
    Pity cleaning it out wasn’t as enjoyable!!!

    Reply

Leave a Comment