Saturday, October 25, 2008

Autumn Days

It’s raining right now and fog is nearly covering the bay, so I decided to look away, cozy up, and search out some of the pictures I’ve taken that show the glory of the Autumnal north woods. What an unbelievable color season this was. It came late this year, but when it did come those trees seemed to fancy up almost overnight.

Every year we try to take a color tour, timing it when the colors are peak. We’re not famous for riotously colorful hardwoods here in our area. We’re nearly surrounded with wetlands, which means cedar swamp and a few lovely, welcome birches. So usually we wander off for a night or two, heading for the hardwood forests to the west. This year we couldn’t do it, but it didn’t matter in the least. We found plenty of it right close by. Then, when we headed downstate out of necessity (we NEVER head toward the cities unless we absolutely have to), we found the most gorgeous color in a roadside REST AREA.

Michigan is a beautiful state, but largely unsung for some reason. So I challenge anyone to come here in the fall and still maintain they’ve seen better color elsewhere. NOT SO!

After waiting for quite a while, our winter stash of firewood finally arrived. We ordered six cords, and it’s always a crap shoot whether we get what we paid for. I don’t mean to say those woodsmen deliberately cheat us. . .no, I would never say that. . . but how is it that they always under-measure and never over-measure? This year, after some minor “adjusting”, we think we’re as close as we’re going to get to an honest six cords. But it’s all hard wood, which is a pleasant surprise for a change. Usually we pay for all hardwood and get at least a cord or more of birch, which is pulp wood at best and burns like paper. Our stove doesn’t like it, either. It creates soot and creosote and doesn’t maintain a steady heat like good old hardwoods do.

Most wood sellers claim to sell “seasoned” hardwood. That’s a laugh, too. My idea of “seasoned” and theirs are two different things. Yes, the wood is lovely looking, and a whole lot of it is Beech, which is just the very best for long, smooth burning—but when it’s green and when it’s heavy it’s NOT seasoned! Seasoned means it’s had a chance to dry for a season or so. Seasoned is DRY wood. Dry. That means dry. That means light in weight, with lateral cracks. Not green, not oozing. Our fussy stove doesn’t like that, either.

Now, six cords won’t heat our cabin for the entire winter. Not even close. But it will keep us going with as little help as possible from our propane-eating behemoth of a furnace. We close off the back half of our cabin in winter and it becomes an unheated storage room. We keep potatoes and apples and extra water close to the inside door, where it gets some heat, and they do just fine there.

Just before Christmas, we’ll close up our beloved cabin—shut it down entirely, draining water and removing all the canned goods and perishables—and head south for the winter. Then we’ll be back in early April, in time for the spring migration and the break-up of the bay ice. There will still be plenty of snow on the ground, but we’ll be excited to shovel away the snow and open up again. And hopefully we’ll have enough wood left for some needed cozy fires.

(Yep, we’re migratory, too!) Mona