Friday 5 April 2024

Always On The Lookout For Birch

    When we moved to McBride and then became dependent upon our wood stove to heat our house during the winter, it didn’t take me long to recognize that even though there were many types of trees in the Robson Valley, birch made the best firewood.  It was easily split, and it was easy to light (even “green” Birch would burn, although it gave off a lot of creosote).  Birch firewood burned slowly and hot.  

    When I began working for the Forest Service and often had to drive out into the bush on logging roads, if I came upon a birch tree that had blown down or had been logged and left, I always made a mental note of where it was, so that when I began to collect firewood, I would return to it.  Of course, I wasn’t the only one in the valley that was doing that, and often when I returned to cut it up, someone had beaten me too it.

    Valuing birch firewood has stayed with me, and a month or so ago, when I noticed that a BC Hydro (our electricity provider) crew had cut down trees that could interfere with their power lines, they cut down a birch tree, and knowing its value as firewood, bucked it up into pieces, for whoever came to get it.  I watched those pieces of birch sitting there for months, and no one came to get them, so I decided to.

    When got to the site the other day, I realized why;  it was a lot of work.  The pieces were about 60 (20m) feet from the road, which meant that they had to carry each of the heavy chunks of wood all that way, including up a very short, but steep bank.   Not many people would do that much work for firewood, however it’s not the first time I have done it.  I lugged the pieces up to my truck, working up a sweat in the drizzle, then throwing them into the truck to bring home for unloading.

    I stacked the pieces in front of my shop, and then, next day after the snow melted, I split them, carted them to the woodpile, and stacked them so they could dry over the summer.   I probably already had enough firewood for the winter, but I never like to pass up a chance to get some more, and this firewood was easier because it was already cut up. 

    Henry David Thoreau once said that firewood warms you twice, once when you split (or get) it, and then again when you burn it.


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