6 May 2022

We don't want this to turn into a blazing row but, seriously, must we call the Heater Police?

| Sally Hopman
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Dog at wood heap

Mickey the combination firewood protector and wonderdog. In truth, it’s a wonder he knows the firewood’s there because he’s blind and selectively deaf so the only thing he can hear from miles away is not thieves approaching, but the sound of the fridge door opening. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Canberra folk have a thing about turning on the heating before Anzac Day. Like you’ll go to jail if the Heater Police break into your home and ignore the piles of money, illicit drugs and endangered wildlife on your kitchen table to check your heater settings for recent movement.

Meanwhile, us wimps in the bush have already got neat piles of wood propping up our houses, ready to fuel combustion stoves. Yes, we set fires early and often, smoke comes out of our chimneys and chokes everything and we are proud, yet slightly polluted, people.

But we are not totally without principle. We have our rules, too. Well, mostly.

We know the difference between timber and wood. The former you use to make stuff. Helpful stuff especially if you like sitting down or eating at a table. The latter you can burn the life out of because it’s clearly not mahogany, teak or something that you can tune a piano into.

READ ALSO By gum, yet another tree’s hit the dust … or was it just hearsay?

Also, just because a tree crashes down into your yard, conveniently close to where you keep your chainsaw or axe collection, that doesn’t mean you can turn it into firewood. In fact you can’t – and we’ll set the Heater Police onto you if you do.

If a tree drops, it’s at least a year before it gets seasoned enough for you to even think about cutting it up for firewood. And when/if you do, first check inside the hollow bits for things that might have made it their new home whilst it was lying about.

And yes, size does matter. It’s always good measure to ensure the wood fits in your stove or heater, ideally before you cut it. It’s one time when small is better.

Once I thought I’d “plan” something. A novel concept for me to get in first before I get behind with whatever it was I was trying to do in the first place. Never again. Who knew there might be a problem with buying firewood, saying to the firewood guy, “any size will do”, when you haven’t measured the size of the fireplace, or even, come to think of it, check with the landlord if it’s gas or electric or even a fireplace at all. Could just be an arty/drafty hole in the wall.

Stack of firewood

The first load of firewood for 2022, a grainy mix of seasoned yellow and redbox. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Then there’s the splinterish issue of kindling. I’ve heard about “friends” who go out on to farms, on the pretext of debating the benefits of microns over macarons, only to sneakily stuff their cars with kindling as tightly as a fat person’s sock. They no longer receive a warm welcome – as if they now need one.

I’m one of the lucky ones: I have the best firewood guy. He knows the property as well as its owners do. He cares for the trees as he does the land and his stock.

He knows where trees have fallen and how long ago, so he knows what can be cut next and what can’t because of the strong likelihood of wildlife living in the dropped trunks. It’s like he has put invisible numbers on trees across these hundreds of hectares, working out the order of their life and death.

Now that’s a skill worth getting fired up about.

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