Tuesday, September 27, 2016


When Charles M. Schultz popularised the idea that happiness is a warm puppy, and John Lennon supplanted it with the parodic notion that Happiness is a Warm Gun, they were both wide of the mark. What the Peanuts cartoon strip and The Beatles' White Album shied away from is the universal truth that, in autumn, happiness is a full log store.

I have been filling my own wood store throughout the summer, just in case that dubious coldest-winter-ever story one mid-market tabloid newspaper has been running annually for the past four years, finally comes true. I have mostly stocked up with sweet chestnut, which spits a bit but that doesn't matter in a wood burning stove, and beech from a local sustainably managed woodland. Like ash and hawthorn, beech is one of the best firewoods: slow-burning with a steady flame and gives out a good amount of heat.

I had hoped to get some apple but the wood that has been seasoning for a year at the fruit farm where I rent my allotment has still not been cut up for sale; with the apple picking now in full flow, I am not sure the farmer will get around to it just yet. Although he mixes his loads with some alder - a poor wood that burns too quickly - it is a small price to pay for the fragrance of smouldering applewood throughout the house.

As our wood burner has a back boiler that heats our water and radiators, we burn a lot of wood during the winter. I did at one time try to reduce our wood consumption by buying a contraption that makes briquettes from old newspapers; but the process was such a faff it made more sense to simply recycle the newspapers. And, of course, burning wood does not release any more carbon dioxide than if it were to biodegrade naturally on a forest floor; this makes it a carbon-neutral fuel, provided it is obtained from a sustainable source.

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