It's the first autumn since moving back to New Hampshire that I actually have a yard. I love it. I loved it in the spring. I loved it all summer long. And now I am loving it to the fullest degree this autumn.
Over the long Columbus Day weekend I received the first delivery of firewood I have ever ordered myself! Two cords. It was pretty exciting. The guys at work hooked me up with a reliable reference and - within a blink of an eye - this wonderful fellow had it delivered exactly where I wanted in my backyard! I thought the truck dump bed was slick!
When we moved into this house in the spring, the landlord had left a cord of wood stacked under the side deck which is the furthest away you can get from where it ultimately needs to end up, never mind the matter of hitting your head every time you had to go under for wood. After considerable thought, I decided the best place to stack any future wood would be in the backyard under the pine tree not too far off the back deck area. It's a straight shot down a tiny slope to the back door closest to the woodstove. In the winter we can throw the wood onto a sled and pull it right up to the house.
I started by stacking a couple of rows with crisscross end posts that look like a Jenga game. I didn't have any stakes kicking around to support the ends of the rows so I figured this would serve well enough if I stacked carefully.
I love stacking wood to the point of near neuroticism. I was 5 or 6-years-old when I stacked my first cord by myself. It had been dumped outside the bulkhead of our basement and I was left to haul it down - sometimes one log at a time owing to my little arms - to stack it meticulously against the wall. If my stacking job did not meet my mother's high standards, I had to tear it down and begin again. I didn't like stacking wood back in those days but now that my arms are longer and stronger and don't have to answer to anyone, I find it far more enjoyable - even a bit relaxing. I don't know how my stacking compares to the truly fanatical stackers in the world but it meets my criteria for stability and aesthetics. I admit I did tear down and restack half my second row. It looked a bit out of alignment to me so I fixed it - or at least made the attempt. I might have lost my mind staring at it all winter otherwise.
My son bounced around between helping me stack wood and cutting kindling from tree branches we had trimmed earlier. He also spent a considerable amount of time cutting a piece of birch wood for a project. He wants to see if he can make a perfect wood block from scratch. That's it. His sister doesn't understand why he doesn't make something "useful". I offered to look up some projects but he says first he just wants to see if he can accomplish the block by himself. We don't have very many wood working tools yet so the project is actually far more challenging than one might assume. I need to begin investing in a few things for the wood shop.
Once the two traditional rows were completed I decided to try something a bit different. I had read about the Holz Hausen stacking method online. With no one around to talk me out of it, I decided to give it a go. I began with a very small base mostly because it is best if something goes wrong, to have it go wrong in small scale.
I ran out of sunlight before I was done. By the time I began working on my second vertical layer, the sun had definitely set. I was having so much fun I couldn't bring myself to stop even though I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes and tripping over random logs I couldn't see.
The idea behind the Holz Hausen is that the wood in the center creates a chimney effect which allows the wood to dry effectively. The design saves space and is safer in comparison to the free standing rows I stacked on the hill. More importantly, they are cute and fun to build. I think I have enough wood left to build a mate.
I finally threw in the towel when I could no longer see what I was doing anymore. My son, not finding me in the house, poked his head out the back door and yelled, "Mom, are you out there?!" When I answered back he said, "What the heck are you doing out there in the dark!!" I urged him to come check out my latest creation and am pretty certain I heard him moan, "oh no" but when he saw what I had done, he exclaimed, "WHOA... this is wicked cool!" It's not everyday a mother can impress her 13-year-old son. I'll take it.
So, it isn't finished yet but if I get to bed quickly I might be able to catch some sunlight before heading to work in the morning. I can't wait! If I owned this house I would definitely invest in better lighting for the backyard.
Update: 10/15/14 in the PM
I finished it!
It was still too dark to work on it in the morning so I had to wait until I got home from work. The photo to the right above is a shot of the pile when I got home from work this afternoon.
As soon as I was done feeding the kiddos dinner I sprayed myself head-to-toe with bug spray so I wouldn't get EEE and began stacking away. I think the best decision I made in this project was to keep the beehive small. I was surprised when the end result reached a bit taller than my head. Any bigger than this size seems like it might be a bit unmanageable.
Once again, the sun set before I was able to finish stacking so I have attempted to lighten the final photos a bit. The entire structure is incredibly solid. During my research process I came across a blog documenting the tumbling of one stacker's first attempt at the Holz Hausen. He didn't have anything nice to say and never offered an explanation. I worried if I might suffer the same fate but there were enough success stories out there to give me hope. Now that I have completed my first Holz Hausen I am convinced of its soundness. It would take a moose barreling full steam ahead to topple this thing over. I stood on every side and tried to push it over. It didn't budge. If I had applied the same force to my traditional rows I would still be out there restacking.
So there it is! My first Holz Hausen. I still have some wood left over to play with but I am not sure if it is enough for another beehive. The biggest drawback for someone like me with this design is not knowing how much wood is in the structure. I will have to sit down when my math brain is engaged to figure out a formula. I will be throwing a tarp over the top before the weather changes up again.
If you want to know more about Holz Hausen stacking you can check out a few of these resources I found useful: