Woody Fetish

Having just come inside and battened down the hatches ready for tomorrow’s storm and heavy rain (nothing desperate I must add, just the usual monthly thunderstorms) I thought it perhaps remotely interesting to tell you about my wood passion.

Even though we live in a warm country and heating costs are quite minimal, we still prefer to sit in front of the woordburner during the winter months. There is something very special and cosy about real fire, rather than the dry but warm hum of the central heating system.

Obtaining wood here is not so easy, so I collect and cut my own.

Quite a long drive from home, in the foothills of the Pyrenees near the village of Oliana, (for those google maps freaks) is a large reservoir. The reservoir is remote, surrounded by forests and changes level regularly as the dam gates are opened and closed. Consequently, in the direction of the flowing current when the gates are opened, a large amout of flotsam gathers on the shore in a particular spot. Each year the new wood is deposited along about a kilometer stretch and dries in the sun. It is presented for collection by anyone who is crazy enough to go for it. I have only once seen  another person gathering it.


For us it is a day out. A long country drive to the mountains (about 160km), swim in the reservoir (a bit chilly this week), a picnic, a three or four hour walk and finally loading up the Landrover with about a stere of wood.


I spent the last few hours cutting it down and stacking it. What a strong feeling of satisfaction it gives to look at the woodpile  ready to keep us warm this year. Is it because it was free? I don’t think so. After all, I did spend petrol, about 6 man hours of effort and a new saw to obtain it. I use the analogy to growing tomatoes. The tomatoes I grow usually work out at about one euro each if I take everything into account, but I still enjoy growing them 🙂

Author: gazoopi

After finally leaving the world of the black suit and tie, briefcase and laptop, hotel rooms and airports, and donning sandals, jeans and a flat cap, I have entered a new world of creative writing. If, through my written work, I can create a smile, cause a tear to fall or stimulate an LOL from my readers, I will be a winner!

30 thoughts on “Woody Fetish”

  1. I bet it is still cheaper than buying it, plus a free day out!
    We used to do very similar in Mississippi in the 70s, the National Forest Service allowed free thinning of their forests in return for fire watch duties and fighting forest fires, just up the street of ‘husband model 2′ They marked the trees they wanted felled and you had to cut them yourself! Some of them were a good 80-100’ tall! We used to go down in a gang of several families and several serious chainsaws. A very quick learning curve on the cutting of notches and the use of wedges to fell it in the right place!
    There is no substitute for a real fire, everyone in Wales has them that I know but then the electricity is none too reliable in the winter in the rural areas. I used to cook on wood at one place, in a big old range, slow food with a vengeance!
    The new house we have here was rebuilt after a fire in the 90s for somewhat older residents. It doesn’t have a fireplace!! Mind you, spousal unit is tottering these days so perhaps that is a blessing in disguise.
    I miss it but not the associated work and I don’t think spousal unit is up to heaving wood about anymore without a heart attack.
    I admire your woodstack and may you be able to collect them for times to come. A fond memory!

    You need to improve your tomato growing technique, I grow from seed and stop picking for myself after a couple oh hundred pounds. Spousal unit has been picking for the food bank the last seven weeks at my instruction, freezers full to bursting! They end up virtually free, as does everything else vegetational, plus good trading material. Just made mint jelly for 16 pence a jar, the price of the sugar. How else can one buy fancy goodies in the UK? can only spend it once!

  2. Gaz, I didn’t know the term ‘stere’. We buy dried, split logs for 2 woodstoves, using about 3 cu. m. a month on average.

  3. Here you buy it by the cord, a stack 8′ x 4′ x 4′. Good ancient measure! I don’t know stere either.

  4. Christina: A cord! According to my simple reckoning that is about 5 stere. It would keep me going for two winters here!
    When we were in Toulouse we got through about 3 cords (15 stere). I do love my fire 🙂

    Janus: A stere is roughly a cu. m. At three per month it would be too much for my poor old back and tennis elbow these days 😦

  5. Most people round here who heat by wood alone use 2/3 cords per winter. Generally people buy a half cord at a time because it fits conveniently in a pick up truck for delivery.
    Not often really cold here but bloody rain makes it very miserable in the winter. Bit like West Wales!

  6. We buy 7 cu m at a time.

    Good exercise, shifting it into the open-sided woodshed where we have room for about five loads if required. Then I barrow the daily quota into the house – about 75 yards.

  7. I think you get a lot colder there j, from some of the pictures you have posted. How does it compare with where you come from in the UK?

  8. We have an island climate here in the south, so usually the winter temps don’t fall below minus 5 C. Otherwise the climate is much the same as the English Midlands. Occasionally we get continental heat or cold spells from Russia but they rarely last long.

  9. It is not uncommon to see people collecting driftwood even on the Riviera. If the wind is right the currents can bring stuff brought down the river Var and it then ends up in the bays round Antibes. Great fun, log fires.

  10. We just heard from our neighbour that they measured 4.5 centimeter, which happens about twice a year, but it was much worse a bit futher up the coast, there was a tornado coming down as well and the neighbour had to spend one hour waiting in his car.

  11. Christina: We had 2 inches yesterday. Hence the covers over my lovely dry logs 🙂

    Sheona: There are a number of reasons why I love a log fire. Firstly is because of the arsonist in me, I have always loved burning things. Secondly they are very cosy and capture the mood. I could look at them for ages, even better than the TV. Thirdly, and probably the most important reason is that they encourage FOE to put her ice cold feet in front of the warm fire rather than using me for warming them. 🙂

  12. What a miserable little tornado/wtrer spout! Try the deep South, a mile wide at the base and as black as your hat. This weekend 18 hit in one day in Alabama, totally flattened a whole school, fortunately not populated at the time, nothing left at all! Just firewood. I spent 6 years in Tennessee/Georgia. We used to lay in the downstairs bath covered with pillows and a piece of plywood cut to cover the bath when the boy was an infant. Needless to say the bath was cast iron!

    Got caught in a water spout just ashore in Mobile once, it rained fish and about 4″ of water in 20 minutes flat, we were in the car, never heard a noise like it in my life. More like the blitz, being bombed. More than somewhat frightening, but what are you going to do? Better than being caught outside when the only choice is throwing yourself into a ditch as cows fly past!
    We were once chased up the road by dust devils in Texas, talk about heavy right foot! only just managed to keep ahead of them fortunately it was a straight road on the flat! Then they wandered off to somewhere a bit lower and we stopped and watched them drunkenly weave off across the prairielands. Truly bizarre little creatures, just like drunks!

  13. G’day Gazoopi. Top man you for having a chainsaw, a neat log pile com gato, a wood burner, a Land Rover and a proper barbie rather than some gawdawful gas jobbie. I really must dig out some photos of my collection of same for your critical perusal including my new pride and joy, a 45 gallon oil drum clamshell barbie. Not having suitable trees for felling any more I now have to buy my lenha, 12 centimos per kilo this year, which I usually have delivered by the tonne. We get through between two and three tonnes per winter and there is nothing better than a log fire when the rain is lashing against the windows on a dark winter afternoon.

    We do not have Bonfire Night here, obviously, but we do have the feast of São Martinho on 11th November when every street corner has an old bloke roasting chestnuts for sale from a little charcoal brazier. Even in the towns most people still have log burners and it is wonderful to take an evening stroll with the scent of wood smoke in your nostrils, your hands warmed by a paper cone full of hot castanhas.

    Can hardly wait!


  14. OZ: We sound like kindred spirits. I love the season changes and enjoy the winter as much as the other seasons. Nothing like a log fire on a winter’s day to toast your bits on.

  15. We use woodstoves as our main method of heating, by far the least cost option even if it means physical effort. It’s just another daily routine along with beer and skittles. 😱

  16. Janus: The wood stoves are great and I agree that normally the best option. A back-up system is useful though for when one is ill with something like flu or galloping gutrot.

  17. I’ve only once used a wood-fire – never, ever, ever again!

    Bearsy and I rented a town house in Canberra for six-months: the kitchen/family room was on the lower floor, the living room (with the said wood-burner) was half-a flight of stairs up, two bedrooms were another half a flight further up, and the main bedroom and parents retreat were a further half a flight up. One needed a fur coat to keep sufficiently warm to cook and eat a meal on the lowest level, and then one had strip off and put on a sarong so as not to be fried on the top floor – and that was with every window up there open!

    I haven’t got a clue about lighting or keeping fires alive all day – and if I was left in charge the monstrosity consistently went out. The dust the damn thing generated was a nightmare. And as for getting deliveries – both Bearsy and I ended up with masses of splinters moving the wood from the back gate into a neat pile in the wood-shed. And yes, we did wear gloves!

    Great to look at – but give me a button to press for instant heating … and cooling. 🙂

  18. Wood fires are fine as long as you remember to put dinner in by 10am for 8pm!
    Hint, you keep in the fire by using a bit of coal/coke/anthracite if you are going to be out for any length of time.
    Christmas cakes do fine so do meringues, but forget the sponge fancies, flatter than a pancake!!

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