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Homeyer: Heat

So here I am, on one of the warmest days of the year, stacking wood. But I started early, before the real heat of the day kicked in.And besides, I like stacking wood, I like splitting wood, and I like burning it in winter. Some day, I suppose, my knees or back will give out, but for now? I’m happy to stack wood. Maybe I’m part chipmunk because storing something for winter just seems right.

When I was a boy growing up in Connecticut in the ‘50’s, our winter heat came from a prehistoric oil furnace in our dark, dismal basement. Our steam radiators got too hot to touch – or lurked, stubbornly cold, waiting for my father to bleed out extra air that mysteriously interfered with their workings.

When I moved to my house in Cornish Flat in 1970 there was no heat. Or not any central heat, I should say. There was a kerosene stove in what was called the parlor and a couple of crumbling brick chimneys that the previous owner assured me would be just fine for woodstoves. There was no heat in the bathroom or kitchen.

So that first year, with the help of two masons from Windsor, we built a chimney. Or they did, really. With a hammer and chisel I cleaned mortar off one hundred old bricks each night after a day of teaching school. On Saturdays, Frank and Henry came over to lay bricks. I mixed the mortar and carried bricks. And they let me lay 2 or 3 bricks, just so I could have bragging rights.

If I remember correctly, it was the eighth of December when the chimney finally rose above the roof line. It had been a cold fall and we had no insulation or storm windows. So when the new forced hot air furnace began producing preliminary puffs of heat, I was a happy guy. And now we had a fireplace, too!

Before long, however, I realized that heating with oil left me somewhat dissatisfied. There was no work involved, and as a New Englander, I need to work for what I get. And I like the heat of a woodstove, so I bought one to cuddle up to on cold winter nights.

That means, of course, that on hot summer days like this – I stack wood.