The fire­wood gar­den

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's 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.

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