A warm transaction

For more than a decade, I’ve sold firewood to pay my property taxes. This isn’t just about money, though; it’s how I stay fit and engage with 14 wooded acres, as well as with strangers who wish to keep warm.

Over the years I’ve noticed a recurring event. In January, it gets really cold (as it tends to in winter), chilly people make frantic calls to buy firewood from strangers on Craigslist, and then harshly worded posts appear to warn folks to beware of this and that scam artist. 

It’s unfortunate that some purveyors of firewood, driven by greed or dire circumstances, will stoop to selling damp unseasoned oak to cold folks in need. I’m not here to condone or explain their behavior. But as someone who heats with an ancient Jøtul wood stove and has sold hundreds of cords of firewood over the years, I urge everyone to plan ahead and understand that we foresters are people too.

If you know where you’ll be living in winter, the best time to acquire your firewood is the previous fall. In fact, my best client takes delivery around Labor Day each year, and I reward her with the best and largest load I can fit onto my truck. She greets me with a few kind words, shows me where to unload, hands me the right amount of cash (plus a tip!), and then scurries back to her work. 

Each year I’m warmed by our brief transaction, thinking, “Now here’s a smart human who’s going to be comfy when wind chills dip and the power goes out.”

Truth, lies, and insurrection. How falsehood shakes democracy.

The wood I take to her is always fully seasoned, but even if it weren’t, she’s covered her bases by building in a buffer of time.

I also have some close friends who are sort of artsy and not much for planning ahead. Now, I’m all for composing sonnets and living in the moment, but these friends often call me just before a big snowstorm to ask if I’d bring them some wood. Because I love them, I do. 

But driving home along treacherous roads, I always wish my friends had arranged for me to deliver their firewood some October afternoon when the weather was fine.

For a time, I stopped delivering wood after November, living by a fairly self-righteous motto: “Anyone who doesn’t have their firewood in by Thanksgiving doesn’t deserve to have any!” But I’ve mellowed in recent years. Even if there is truth to my saying, I continue to deliver seasoned firewood (if I have it) all winter. But I can’t promise that it will be dry.

Recently, while delivering firewood during subzero temperatures to a referral whose furnace had gone kaput, I thought back to my favorite client on that sunny September afternoon when it was so much easier and far more pleasant to haul wood, when I knew that the wood I was delivering was good and dry, and everyone involved was happy and warm. During the arctic blast, all I wanted was to be by my own fire with a cup of cocoa.

This is where we all should be in the midst of winter when the snow flows and the power goes, and we sit in a state of grace and grateful wonder, gazing out at the snowy silent world all around.


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