April 14, 2016
The woodshed is all but empty.
Early in the day I tidied up the last of the small-wood I'd gathered to dry over summer.
And I realised as I worked at my sawhorse, that today Elwin would have celebrated his 75th birthday. I remembered... because he made the sawhorse for one of my birthdays. He presented it with a hobby horse head, the children riding it into the bedroom dressed for chivalry with pruning saws for swords. I look back and think how his gifts like this one meant so much more to me than jewellery or lingerie or luxury holidays. A sawhorse is a perfect accessory for the forester in me!
Beechwood fires burn bright and clear
If the logs be kept a year
Oaken logs if dry and old
Keep away the winter cold
Chestnut's only good they say
If for years 'tis laid away
But ash-wood green or ash-wood brown
Are fit for a King with a golden crown.
Elm she burns like the churchyard mould
Even the very flames are cold
Birch and pine-wood burn too fast
Blaze too bright and do not last
But ash wet or dry
A queen may warm her slippers by.
My stocks of various species are collected from my garden or the churchyard. I also buy to support fundraising efforts, as well as from local firewood merchants. The rhyme above is an old English guide but here in New Zealand, I spurn poplar for its cold slow burn; I covet oak which does just as the rhyme says; I puzzle over gum, because the different varieties perform differently and I forget from year to year what burns how. I accept pine gratefully; and would love to burn kanuka if it didn't mean clearing ancient stands to get good-sized logs. To my mind it is like oak - hot and long-burning once it's dry. Plum has similar qualities, and needs to season for a couple of years. There's plenty of that here, adding it's woodland magic to the Secret Garden.
By the end of the day I had taken delivery of twelve cubic metres of split macrocarpa or 'macro' as it is often marketed. I noticed that the firewood merchant wrote it as 'mack' when he made a note for me. It is in fact from Cupressus macrocarpa, introduced to NZ farmland because of its resistance to dry conditions, as Monterey cypress. The trees have an untidy but distinctive presence in the landscape. Here it is always called 'macrocarpa' never Monterey cypress.
Maybe there will be someone else to share my hearth and my heart with one day. I would like that: for today though my thoughts are for the richness Elwin added to my life.
Macrocarpa, Monterey cypress Cupressus marcrocarpa
Pine, radiata pine, Monterey pine Pinus radiata
Oak Quercus robur, and other species
Kanuka Kunzea ericoides
Gum Eucalyptus spp
Plum Prunus cerasifera
Poplar Populus spp