Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Chopping Wood

I seem to be writing about nothing but wood at the moment. I have spent a large part of last weekend chopping up wood for the stoves. I was not alone in doing this – from all over the village came the sound of axes and chainsaws as my neighbours too set about getting the winter fuel stocks into usable sizes. Throughout the summer huge piles of logs rise stacked along the walls of Czech houses, ready for the winter cold.

Most Czechs, certainly ones in rural areas such as this, use wood-fired stoves as their main form of heating. At a time when oil, gas and electricity prices are rocketing, such an approach in this highly forested country offers a relatively cheap alternative. The stoves are very efficient and can put out a great deal of heat, one stove can heat a large room even in the depth of a Czech winter. The downside of this form of heating is the work required - for starters you have to be there to feed the hungry stove, which has meant for us that we have had to also install central heating for when we are in England. And then there is the endless chopping of wood, which is where my weekend's toil comes in.

All the wood is stored in the barn. I say stored, that suggests some order, which is definitely not true. The wood is the by-product of all our building works, there are old roof beams which have been chain-sawed into usable lengths which need splitting, and there are old floor timbers and window frames, all of which need sawing and chopping, as well as off-cuts of various sizes. There are even some thin slats which the former owner used to create some rather nasty wood cladding for the stairs, these require no work on my part to make brilliant tinder. All of these have been thrown into the barn by the builders, together with old sinks, left-over plasterboard, tiles, and the detritus of the previous owners' lives. It is hard to enter the building without climbing over some pile.

And so I have decided that I will this summer make my way through all of this and sort it out. That which I can cut up I will, and I will get someone else to wield a chainsaw on the bigger pieces. I am a coward when it comes to chainsaws, especially as I am on my own at the moment. My second reason for doing all this is of course the dryrot – I want to make sure that there is nothing nasty lurking in the barn. My aim is to get everything sorted into neat(ish) piles before winter arrives, when the light in the barn will be much less than it is now. All of this takes more energy than one might realise, my arm muscles are aching badly. Who needs expensive gym subscriptions when you can come and cut my wood for free?

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