Never having to say you're sorry for burning (stored solar) wood

January 04. 2014 7:37PM

THE ONLY SERIOUS New Year's resolution I ever made was to make no more New Year's resolutions. They are so tiresome, like promising yourself to shop early (i.e., at the beginning of the New Year, 12 months ahead of time, for Pete's sake) to get meaningful gifts for your loved ones. That particular resolution goes out with the fireplace ashes.

First on my non-resolution list is to never apologize for burning wood. The wood I'm burning just now grew on the property and represents 30-year-old stored solar power. And it keeps local dollars home for loggers (both neighbors) and truckers and foresters instead of flying off over the horizon in those little money bags with wings.


"Carbon footprint"? My furnace belches smoke when it fires up, but mostly emits little wisps of smoke blowing off into northwestern Maine, maybe even the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, does anyone care about what the developing world is doing - or about flooding vast areas of Quebec's far north for hydropower, drowning billions of carbon sequestering, oxygen-producing trees?Much of what's fueling the outdoor furnace this winter came from removing unwanted trees in the home pasture - mainly ash, maple, black cherry, alder, poplar and white birch (killing this last species, some people out there are convinced, is a crime that could send me to the slammer).

This gives the apple trees plenty of room to grow to provide the essential for our annual late-September cider pressing, which featues a boisterous crowd, a leftover keg from the Dixville races, teenagers anxious to flex their muscles at turning the two-barrel cider press crank, and sometimes an entire animal roasted on the fire-pit spit. The last one was a young goat, delicious and gone in a heartbeat.


The subject of white birch comes up because in early December I visited my daughter Kathryn, who had a display table at a huge Christmas bazaar at Nashua's Crown Plaza hotel. Her display featured decorated pieces of white birch adorned with Christmas lights and foofaraw. I asked her if anyone had taken her to task for using white birch, an urban-legend protected species. "Yup, two people said something about it," she said. News Flash: Her entire setup was based on Endangered White Birches. Film at 11.

"Tell the next one that white birches are essentially weed trees," I said to all who were listening. "We cut them down to make room for the real trees." OK, Frost wrote about swinging on birches, and they're pretty. I've actually done that and then cut them down to get a clear road into the woodlot. In the wilds, I've shinnied up birches to swing myself and others across swollen streams. It was a Rudy Shatney lesson.

My conclusion is that this white birch endangered species urban legend thing comes from when earnest state and local officials put signs up to prevent people from carving their initials into or removing entire sections of bark from the Shelburne Birches along a stretch of Route 2, just east of Gorham, a time-honored tourist magnet.

These pasture species, especially the pruned apple tree branches, are eye-candy to wood-burners. They burn fast and furiously, and are gone on the wind toward the great falls of the Androscoggin in Rumford, Maine, where the sheer volume of water must have impressed the daylights out of the first Europeans, almost indisputably including Jesuits, and where my cherished ancestors reside.


Wood is renewable, and hardwood has always been part of the mix in my woodlot given what the last glacier bestowed, which in my case is not very good soil for maple, birch, beech and ash. No matter - I sell softwood to pay for the hardwood species that, thanks to the glacier, are abundant on my up-the-hill neighbor Dan Beloin's land.


Second Resolution: I want to get into camp more often. It's of little matter that this entails an uphill hike of a mile and a half or so with stuff on my back.

The first load in after we got the camp built in 2004, in my case, was a reading chair, a handsome rocker. Like the rendezvous trappers of the early 1800s and not much beyond, we are a camp of readers and music makers.

There is a little library there on the corner shelf next to the wood stove. Its titles are always changing, but the music on the porch endures.

This brings to mind the line that one visitor to the farm house on South Hill Road once uttered, which was, and is, "Why do you need to go to camp? Your whole damned house is a camp." Right she was, snowshoes and ice-fishing traps and guns and fishing stuff and outdoor art hanging all around.


John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576 or

FishingJohn HarriganGeneral NewsColebrookDixvilleManchesterGorhamShelburne

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