Wood: The Truth. You Decide.


You know the ‘plans for the weekend’ question?

I asked it.


I always ask it, especially when surrounded by strangers, and yesterday, sitting with a group of virtual unknown entities in a workshop in Central London, my tendency to blurt was at its zenith.

“So: have you got any plans for the weekend?” I asked.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

One lady was bringing her family into London to see a show. Another was using the weekend to prepare for her travels to a rather nice sunny clime the following week.

And because they were really very nice, polite people, when they had finished telling me, they asked after my weekend.

Where to start?

With the energy-bills- rocketing headlines that had been on that morning’s BBC News? With Windsor Forest?

No: I chose the chainsaw.

“We haven’t much planned,” I began mildly. Everyone smiled encouragingly. “So I expect we shall be off into the forest picking up large trees and bringing them back to chainsaw up in my back garden.”

Some considerable silence.

Oh, the romance of the chainsaw. It has been a whirlwind infatuation between my husband, myself and the wood burner which was installed in July. We insisted in lighting fires all the way through a balmy September and sweltered contentedly with the patio doors flung wide open.

And not a paid piece of wood has gone into that burner.

But collecting wood is not best done picking up small bits the dog would like to fetch.


No: we favour small trees. You can pick them up and carry them home, provided you find that all-important fulcrum and avoid getting told off by the local constabulary for carrying trees Laurel and Hardy style across busy main roads.

And once home, we had an uneasy arrangement with a circular saw. It would cut half way through the log, and then I’d have to turn it round while Phil did the other half.

Now, as an early Christmas present from my mother in law, the chainsaw has arrived and our self-obsesed threesome – the log burner, Phil and I – have a fourth member. Today we shall spend hours locked in combat with small (though well seasoned) trees,  a black and decker workmate and a bellowing chainsaw, The Secret Inner Quaternity of the Black Stove.

I have yet to learn not to blurt. Everyone at the course knows I am an odd person who carries trees miles across forests and main roads  to save £1.43 an hour.

But the woodpile outside the front of my house is growing ever larger and untidier. We are cultivating a Tom-And-Barbara shabby chic. I half expected someone to put a Guy on top on November 5.

So today: it’s the log pile, the chainsaw, and my love and I.

And that’s my plans for the weekend.


57 thoughts on “Wood: The Truth. You Decide.

  1. Kate, I always delight in reading your writings. I have not visited in a bit. My loss, which I intend to make up for. I am with you on the chainsaws. We had one that lived in our living room for a while. Enjoy the felicity of a Black & Decker! Gorgeous photos. Best ~ HuntMode

    1. Thanks Huntmode! Lovely to hear from you: I, too, have been scarce, spending more time with Phil and the family and less writing. Which is hard. Can’t stop writing in my head….the Black and Decker should help 😀

  2. Sounds a fun enough way to spend a weekend, to me. Is it a petrol chainsaw? How do the neighbours feel about the noise pollution? They get a trifle snippy when I use mine for too long.
    Do treat it with enormous respect. I came very close to entering a rib-cage with mine, once, when my assistant moved his forward into the arc of my lopping swing.

    1. Nononono, we’re not chopping them down, Lou, we’re just picking up well-seasoned stuff from the forest floor! According to Phil’s instructions we are not to take anything which shows the smallest signs of civilisation, so no-one loses their home over our log fires….

  3. Ah, Kate, you bring so many memories back to me! I was young, we were going to “live off the land”, we tore out the furnace and put in the wood stove. And it was wonderful, until we wanted to travel in winter. No one wants to stoke a stove in the wee hours of the morning unless they have a personal connection. My brother eventually taught me to split logs, now that is hard work, and advised to look out for knots when sawing as it will cause kick-back, a very dangerous thing. Oh the glorious happiness when a giant oak would fall in the forest (you bet I heard it!) and we could drag it home using the van and service roads. For 6 years we did this, until my daughter was 5. Enjoy it. I did and still keep one at our log cabin. When living rural, it is a wonderful thing during a storm, I always had heat and a way to boil water. What frozen water pipes? Well, that is what melting snow is for!

    1. Sharon, what great experiences! We have not gone into the business of running the whole house on solid fuel. Though the way fuel prices are going I wouldn’t discount it. But even one small fire is making such a difference: we’re a concrete-construction house and it acts like a giant storage heater….
      I wonder how long we will manage to keep it up?

  4. Kate,

    I’m sorry to inform you that only a redneck would be able to sit in Central London and talk about a chainsaw and gathering firewood. Now all you need is a Landy to haul your wood home. BTW…I too have a chainsaw.

    Your Fellow Redneck,

  5. Ah, the endless pursuit of wood for the fire.. I am with you on that one, and I live on the prairies, no woods around here.. hate the chainsaw, love the warm fire.. c

  6. I’ve missed your writing. It’s good to see your smiling blog again. I love the way wood crackles in a roaring fire. I’m glad you’re enjoying the foraging and the reward.

    1. Gale, you made me smile with your comment. Thank you. I am beginning to work towards audio; and perhaps recording all the posts I have written and putting them on mp3. Just for a bit of reading out loud practice 🙂
      But I miss the detective bit. The research is such a buzz.

  7. The ONLY good thing about winter is our wood burning stove. 🙂 We also have chainsaws…and they’re mighty dangerous, but are needed to fell a tree. 🙂 I miss your posts, but understand where you’re coming from and not to pressure you but to just let you know that you are missed. 🙂

  8. Is there a pollution factor with the wood burner or has Phil also accounted for that? He seems like a guy who has this all figured out and you’re just doing the dragging, sawing and reporting.

    1. There is a pollution factor with any fuel, I guess, Lame. Woodfires produce particulate matter air pollution (PM) in very small concentrations. In a village where everyone has a wood stove that has – rarely – reached the level one would get with passive smoking. But I live in a new town, where few opt for solid fuel, and I know of only one other stove on my housing estate of 200 dwellings. It’s something we would always keep our eyes on; but at the moment we are just viewed as very eccentric crackpots.

    1. Right back at you, MM 🙂 I do find the shorter days difficult – so much less time to walk and air children, isn’t it? – but this stove is a fabulous consolation. Do the authorities where you are allow fires? I can just imagine some of those lovely residences with a toasty hearth and a dancing, crackling fire….

  9. I am so proud of myself that I understood your “Tom and Barbara” reference. That show was my very first introduction to the BBC when it was aired on Public Broadcasting in the 1970s. You gave me a smile. But no more a smile than picturing you hoisting tree limbs on your shoulders and dragging them home for the burner! Frankly, I’m proud to know you, Kate! I have been raising eyebrows for many years with just a slightly different view of what makes me feel “right” with myself, but I have learned how not to open up the discussion. 🙂 I am gigging just picturing the way this conversation either went forward, or perhaps quietly shut down! Now just stay nice and warm!

  10. I’m remembering a phrase; something about once chopped (or chain-sawed), twice warmed. A weekend like many of ours are, Kate; and we had a big bonfire weekend last, which was a nice memory this past week among the hospital and horrible storms.

  11. My dad heads off into the forest with an ATV-plus-trailer, a chainsaw, a maul, and two dogs and comes back with deadfall and tree limbs and enough logs to keep them in splitting and heat for months. I am firmly in favor of your burner. Enjoy!

  12. There’s something grand about man or woman pitting themselves against nature in this way. Just you, the saw and the log. I can just see you now dragging your victim’s lifeless body home in victory and burning it ritualistically in the hearth fire. Magnificent 🙂

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