This past week, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to take a break from life at the farm and visit my godmother, Renate and her companion Eberhard in Germany. We often visit with her and then take a few days to tour the country side. Visiting the two of them is such a pleasure for me and for Shawn but most importantly, Shawn is so happy to have her German cooking. Eberhard is also a very cook cook and they prepared one of Shawn’s favourite meals together. It wouldn’t be a visit without schnitzel and no matter how hard I try to make it at home (not on that many occasions sadly for Shawn), it is best prepared in her kitchen. Eberhard makes his own bread and he says the secret in this dish is in the breadcrumbs. He combines a variety of his stale bread slices and makes up a delicious topping for the schnitzel. Renate uses his breadcrumb mixture for her vegetable specialty of boiled cauliflower with toasted brown butter bread crumbs. This is such a great way to enjoy cauliflower - even for those who do not like it. While this should be a story about great Germany recipes, it is actually a story about wood. More on recipes later...
Shawn and I have been having some new “conversations” about wood recently, although these conversations have been part of time spent around the cookstove in the winters since we met. Years ago, you may recall that I wrote one of my first blog posts about stacking wood in a holzhausen, a round wood pile shaped like a bee hive.
Using this type of wood piling was my idea of stacking a large amount of wood in a beautiful way. We use over eight chords of wood and each holzhausen takes about four chords. During the summer months it would be an aesthetic feature on the property and then turn into our fuel during the winter. Shawn gave pause and one of his looks when I set my sights on this type of stacking mode leaving the girls and I to do nearly all the work together with Jamyang Tenzin. Jamyang is an expert wood stacker and also in the summer tended all the fires for our pizza oven and barbecues. He appreciated my stacking idea.
The downfall in the holzhausen’s were realized when it was time to keep them covered and protected from rain and snow. I purchased giant tarps, and held all the corners down by tying bricks to edges with rope looped through the tarps holes so that the bricks hung down around the wood stacks. I also put re-enforcing tent pegs into the ground and looped some of the tarps edges through the pegs. We were ready for the winter. Until the first major winter storm with hurricane force winds picked up the edge of the tarp and off it flew across the field leaving our wood exposed to the elements. It was almost impossible to keep the wood dry that winter and was a cause of quite a lot of conversations between Shawn and me as we sat beside the wood stove glass of wine in hand and analyzing different ways to hold the tarps down. Next year would be different I said. I would use heavier bricks, different ropes and tie some of the edges to the fence posts and trees.
Next year was no different. I bought new tarps, I doubly secured them. the wind caught an edge and it was game over. Tarps flying up over the wood - the edges secured by the fence or tree staying in place but the end result was wet wood. The conversations by the wood stove between Shawn and I continued. I decided that the following year, I would stack the wood normally like everyone else does, in rows and he would use a large rubber sheet he had to cover the stacks. This didn’t work either. One large cover was prone to being lifted off the edge and it was so heavy, we could hardly get a wet rubber mat back on top of the wood. We talked about this situation over wine and by the wood stove. Shawn said it was just a fluke and we tried it another year with the rubber mat. February’s storms blew it off last year again and we battled with trying to keep our wood dry. I suggested a wood shed large enough to hold all our wood. But this type of structure would need a fair amount of square footage near the house and Shawn wrestled with the number of structures we have all over the property.
this past week during our visit to Renate and Eberhard’s, I went out for a number of walks in the country side by their house which is located at the base of the Bavarian Alps. These people seem to use wood and many houses in fact have special wood stoves. I noticed how they stacked their wood. Tidy piles all neatly covered and ready for the big snows of their winters.
I also remember on another one of our day trips from their home, how the Swiss stacked their wood. They use a lot of wood and their stacks were beautiful and purposeful and each one protected by metal or rubber but the difference is that each stack had it’s own cover. I hurried back to the house - eager to show a potential new plan for covering our wood with photographs that I had taken. We talked about it with Eberhard and my Godmother and decided what we really needed was therapy, a mediator, an advisor on wood and more wine. We will see how this year works out. Shawn has half the wood stacked and covered with the large piece of rubber and I’m going to cover the other half with different smaller pieces like those I just saw on my trip. Stay tuned to the spring for more conversations about one of our favourite topics. Wood stacking.