(B)logs to keep warm by

Firewood takes a fair bit of work, starting with some advance planning. You need to cut it at least a year before you want to burn it. In the meantime it has to be felled, cut into rounds and stacked for a season or more – depending on where you live – to dry out. Eventually it’ll be ready for splitting; you’ll know when because the rounds develop natural splits as they dry. Log splitting itself is easy if you have a good aim with an axe, but a splitting wedge and a club hammer are surprisingly effective too.

Trouble was, I only returned back here at the end of December, so the initial stages above didn’t get done. The only wood available was a few dead plum trees I’d cut back in the summer and logged up. These lasted us a month or so but with January ending the store was running seriously low. So having decided to buy some firewood (see the last blog) we phoned the yard a few days ago and today they turned up with a thousand kilos of cut logs.

140203-1I love the Goldoni tractor. Having lived in a Ligurian village I know they are one of only two vehicles that can navigate the carruggi (narrow streets) with their tight bends. The other is the ubiquitous Ape, that three-wheeled micro-truck with its buzzing 50cc engine and a maximum load of 150kg. By comparison the Goldoni is the Incredible Hulk, a muscle-bound big brother that’s the favourite of local farmers, being able to go almost anywhere carrying far greater loads. It’s basically a small cab atop a large engine with two wheels underneath, then an articulated connection to whatever is being towed or pushed. So you get 4-wheel drive, a tight turning circle and tyres that will climb the side of a house.

This one carried its load down from Bajardo, about 8km further up into the mountains, then carefully reversed into our garden, round the first tight bend and onto the first terrace where it could unload.

140203-2140203-3From there the load divided into about 15 wheelbarrow journeys (I lost count) to the log store at the end of the terrace. A few days earlier I’d cleared out an unholy mess of rubbish left by the previous occupant of the house, and the logs fit in nicely. It’s surprising how small a pile a tonne makes, at least when you’ve just spent an hour shifting and stacking it. There was plenty of room left over for the remainder of the plum logs, cut a few months back but left since to soak in the recent never-ending rain. Together they take up about half the covered space, leaving room for the first of the olive logs that should have been cut, dried and split by the end of this year if we get a half-decent summer.

140203-4I asked the log man what type of wood he was delivering. He replied “Quercia e leccio”, which translates as “oak and oak”. Come again? It turns out there are a bewildering number of varieties of oak, thanks to extensive hybridisation. In Italy there appear to be three common names, the third of which is “rovere”. I believe the last of these is the “sessile oak” and that “leccio” is the “holm oak” which has a fruit, resembling a fungus, that is much loved by wild boar. I suspect there’s a lifetime’s worth of study lurking beyond these basic facts.

We tried out the new stuff this evening and found a noticeable difference between the new oak and the old plum, bay and birch we’d been burning up till now. Oak logs are harder to get started but they burn hotter and a lot slower so you don’t get through anything like as much. I’d gotten used most evenings to be continually shovelling the stuff in but now it goes for half an hour or more before needing replenishing.

You’d think that wood, growing in abundance in the local area, would be a local product, but no. Apparently it all comes from somewhere over in Provence. The economics of supply and demand apply here as much as with any other product, so the wood pellets we burn in our boiler come from Austria. I aim to bring things home by cutting my own olive trees and heating the house next winter as self-sufficiently as possible. We’ll see how far intentions translate into actions.

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