Wood is important on this farm – it keeps us all warm (and clean) and provides free building materials. We look after the trees and they look after us. The wood stores are not ornamental (note to brides) but part of a complex system of sorting and seasoning. Wood management takes time and hard graft.
Paul worked with steel prior to moving to the farm and now much prefers working with wood – having said that if you make a mistake you can’t weld it back together. He got quite romantic about wood when we first moved here. On finding a lovely old piece of wood which is now a shelf in one of the dairy bathrooms he asked the farmer what the carved initials meant and was informed that F = front and B = back. Farmers are ever practical.
He has tried to recycle all the wood he finds – in the B&B main bathroom the wooden furniture used to be the floor! The wood in my own bathroom used to be the remains of an old railway embankment fence that had toppled over many years ago. Mary and Kaye’s wardrobes and kitchen cupboards are still probably wardrobe and kitchen doors but maybe not in the same bedrooms and kitchen.
… and if he can’t ‘upcycle’ the wood it is used as fuel but burning wood is not as straightforward as you might think
- Only Ash can be burned pretty much as soon as it is cut as the moisture content is extremely low
- All other wood has to be seasoned for varying lengths of time.
- Beech is slow as it has a high moisture content but then burns brilliantly
- Sycamore seasons fairly quickly
If your wood is not properly seasoned it produces tar and creosote which will clog up your chimney. You will see signs on the wood stores saying do not use this wood – we aren’t being mean it just won’t burn yet. You can tell if wood is properly seasoned as your fire will burn well.
As well as chopping and seasoning the wood it has to be sorted – I am also getting my head round all this and nothing irritates Paul as much as putting indoor wood on an outdoor fire so listen carefully:
- Large stoves – kindling from a local timber yard and logs from trees around the farm that have been felled, chopped to size and stored – not good strong trees just the ones that might topple over or are about to lose a branch
- Fire pits – generally waste wood gathered after a windy day from around the farm.
- Small cabin stoves – the logs you get in the cabins are dry lumber – Paul’s offcuts and joiners’ offcuts from the timber yard as they are extremely dry and burn easily so as Paul says ‘any numpty’ can start a fire with them (no offence)
Some people turn up with their own logs and even axes! But be warned the stoves are tiny and Paul cuts all the lumber to size so it fits. (Also we sell massive bags for a fiver so why bother)
One thing I do know – lighting a fire splits the genders right down the middle – a man will never admit he is unable to light a stove (one young couple from Manchester spent a cold weekend in a cabin because he wouldn’t ask for help) and young men and boys love playing with fire. Women, however, see fire as a way to get warm and have no problem asking for fire lighters or whatever will get it lit really. We argue about the summerhouse fire – I say we should light it so it is nice and warm when people arrive – Paul says leave it as lighting the fire is part of the fun experience!
One other thing – maybe it’s because I hail from an industrial mining town in West Yorkshire and my Granddad was a Durham miner but in my opinion – nothing beats a coal fire!