The firewood garden
Ilove frosts and the accompanying sparkly days. I’m not so keen on the driving, stinging, freezing winter rains and subsequent mud. Thank goodness for a home warmed by a constant fire.
From late May onwards our fire burns steadily until sometime in September. It may slumber for a while in a deep bed of glowing embers at times, but it will only go out completely if we leave the house for more than two days.
You might wonder what firewood has to do with gardening for food and beauty. Where does the garden stop and the firewood begin? Nowhere, in my mind. When we humans clear land, fence, sow pastures, plant trees, gardens, orchards and run stock we are gardening in the sense of providing and producing and creating. It’s all about integrating the various aspects of our lives into a seamless whole.
We’re not far from the shortest day and as the group of stars known as matariki (the Pleiades or The Seven Sisters) rise above the horizon, we can begin celebrating the start of the new growing year. While the earth turns and the days start lengthening, it still gets cold and dark early so the haze above the chimney makes the house look all the more inviting as I finish feeding animals and gathering food each evening.
Recently we felled about a dozen big trees around the northern perimeter of the inner garden. A quarter of a century ago we were not envisaging such growth. I agonised to see them go after enjoying their beauty but, as always, it’s about working towards a balance. While I loved the trees, winter light and sunshine is a must, and now the wood will give us pleasure and sustenance of a different sort as we burn it over the next few years, creating warmth and winter meals.
Firewood is a labour intensive resource. Think how many times it is handled: chainsawed, split, tossed into a trailer, taken out of the trailer and thrown or stacked into a shed, loaded into a cart, wheelbarrow or basket and taken inside. Once burnt, the ashes can be scattered around garden plots to increase the potash quotient.
Brett’s latest idea minimises handling and labour; we just throw it straight into a storage trailer. In our case we have two old forage harvester baskets (below) and we’ve added corrugated iron roofs to shed the rain. They each hold more than four cubic metres and there is plenty of air movement for good drying. Brett is rigging up a slow release catch so the load can be slowly dropped and the wood taken inside so there’s hardly any handling. It’s a mobile woodshed in essence, made beautiful by being useful.