My Beautiful Girlfriend and I bought a home here in Bear Swamp back in 1982. In those days, for the exorbitant price of $36,900 we were able to purchase a 1940 vintage home with 5 acres of land. We probably could have done a little more research before buying. For example, as I mentioned, we live in a quaint area known to the old timers as Bear Swamp. We bought the place in the summer, when the two creeks that traverse the property were flowing nicely, the grass was nice and green, and the basement was dry. “Did you ever get water in the basement?” we asked the sellers. “No, no” they replied, “no problems.” The following spring brought lots of snow melt that made the creek REALLY wide. And something strange happened: water in the basement. Just enough to let us know we live in a… um… swamp. And these folks didn’t even bother with a sump pump!! We fixed that of course… still get a little water that comes up through the cracks in the concrete, but not nearly as much as before the sump pump was installed.
Looking back I also remember asking, “heater works well?” we queried. “Oh yeah, keeps us nice and warm in the winter.”
Well that’s nice.
Winter came, and our ½ tankful of fuel oil was gone rather quickly. No biggie… didn’t really know what to expect. We filled the tank, and it was gone again in less than a month. Not so good!! Fortunately, the chimney was originally built for a coal furnace, so I knew it would be OK for firewood. Got us a cheapie wood stove and started burning wood. Lots more work, but saved us a bunch of cash.
Since I work for a living, I don’t want to spend all my free time cutting wood; so we buy most of it. Lots of folks out there who want to sell us firewood. Some are better than others. Now my Dad kept me and my brother very busy with firewood when we were kids; so I know a little bit about this wood heating stuff. One of the cardinal rules: seasoned (dry) wood works the best. Sounds like a no-brainer right? And lots of folks say they have seasoned wood for sale.
With wood suppliers, we’ve had good luck and we’ve had bad luck. Good luck is when we get nicely seasoned wood, predominantly oak; nice clean load of logs. That’s the kind of luck we’ve had for the last couple years; but this past time we got about 40 % oak and 60% beech. Oh, and we also got at least 2 cubic yards of soil that I don’t recall ordering. Apparently the front end loader they used to scoop up my wood went just a smidge too deep. I was not very happy when I literally had to use a shovel to get some of the logs out of the pile. And when I bring the logs in the house for the fireplace (actually a furnace with glass doors and fake bricks for pretty), it’s pretty dirty and leaves a nice little mess.
Really bad luck is one of those “learning the hard way” experiences. We ran out of wood a couple of winters ago, so I found a guy who said he had some nice, seasoned oak. Well the wood was green, and about 10% of the logs were full of ants. Can’t really bring logs full of ants in the house… they crawl around while wondering what the heck happened to their home (poor kids…). Well guess what? After exhausting all the logs from the dirt pile, I answered a Craig’s List ad for seasoned oak. Called the guy and he knew who I was!! Then he told me who he was, and I was apprehensive.
“So… your ad says this is seasoned oak? Ready to burn?” I asked. “Yep!” he assured me. So I went ahead and bought two cords. He delivered it after dark, so I didn’t get a good look at it. I did notice it was a bit heavy; and the following day I realized why. Green wood. And just like last time, about 10% of the logs were full of ants.
So this year our wood stove started out eating dirt logs; and when the dirt logs were gone I started roasting ants. I know it sounds cruel to burn the ants. Seriously, my spirit hurts when I embark upon the selfish journey of heating my home with ant infested logs. I keep the logs just outside the door and bring them in only when they can go straight into the fire. And I say a little prayer for the ants.
Needless to say, two of our local firewood suppliers have lost my business. I bet they don’t even know the log driver’s waltz!