A farewell to Autumn - Preparing your firewood for the winter

By Martin L. Klein

Farewell to Autumn-Part One By Martin L. Klein

It’s late autumn and growing colder by the week. This past two days brought a doozy of a windstorm, and as I write, it’s still blowing quite briskly out there. October came in like a lamb with idyllically pleasant days for the better part of the month. Some of those cool moonlit nights made it difficult to turn in until at least 12 AM, as one could sit out on the porch and just take in the beauty of it all. And after a month like that, we don’t deserve Indian summer, do we? Probably not. Illinois weather rarely comes with any bonuses like that. Canadian high pressure is presently settling in and it’s downright chilly today. So October is going out like a lion this year, and if you’re like me, you’re getting the firewood up close and handy.

I use a sheltered area of the back porch where it’s easily accessible to a weary grump on a frosty morning. But after two cups of good coffee by a hot crackling woodstove, I’m not nearly so weary or grumpy. And to reach that level of well being, it takes tinder... That’s right, good dry tinder in ample supply. I keep mine in an old coal bucket near the woodstove. It’s made up of the various little scraps and shavings acquired while using the log splitter in the early spring. Even hand splitting produces these nice slivers of wood. Instead of letting all of that go to waste, I gather it up and store it in steel waste cans or some other large container out of the weather. By the time I need it, it’s high and dry, and plentiful.

But the next step upwards to a good fire is, of course, the kindling-wood. And for that, I make use of the various softwoods available locally, such as Silver Maple, Cottonwood, or the various Poplars. A stand of dead cottonwoods with the bark gone may be familiar sight to some of you who venture into the low woods frequently. These are often mistaken for dead elms, as they are quite similar in appearance when in this standing-seasoned condition. The wood is light-weight and very easy to work with. Good straight-grained sections get split into pieces of 2 to 3 inches in thickness and 12 to 16 inches in length. Whatever your choice, It’s a good practice to keep a large supply of kindling handy in a dry place. Mine is stored in a large wooden box, and near the stove as well. So come morning, the least amount of effort is needed to get the hardwoods cooking nicely.

Next week, I will tell you a handy way to bring some humidity into the air during the dry days of wood-heating, and, possibly relieve some fears over an unwelcome guest in the woodpile (no, not your brother in law). Happy Wood Burning!

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